Pakistan had fared better in the ninth World Happiness Report 2021 than many South Asian countries but it was falling prey to poverty, lack of security, socioeconomic injustice, and increasing political polarization, experts said on the eve of the International Day of Happiness observed on Saturday, Anadolu Agency reported.
Talking to Anadolu Agency, Karachi-based sociology professor Rana Saba blamed the “mediocre” economic policies of almost all regional countries, including Pakistan, for poverty, unemployment, and social injustice. She also highlighted the large gap between the rich and the poor which the regional leaders quite often raise in their speeches.
According to the UN World Happiness Index 2020, Pakistan is the happiest country in South Asia and 66th in the world. India was ranked 144th after slipping from 140th in 2019. The Maldives is placed 87th, Nepal is 92nd, and Bangladesh is listed 107th.
Pakistan plunged to 105th out of 149 countries in the ninth World Happiness Report 2021, whereas India made its way back up to 139th.
“If you randomly ask people strolling in the streets, especially in big cities, 80 out of 100 will choose to migrate to Europe or the US if they find an opportunity,” says Saba, who heads the University of Karachi’s Sociology Department.
However, she also hinted at the silver lining in such a scenario with a statement that a certain number of people have improved their living standards to some extent during the last few decades.
“In urban areas, literacy, especially higher education, and an inclination towards civil services have played a role in uplifting a segment of society ... lower and middle class ... over the past two decades,” the professor said, adding that the living standard in rural areas has improved because of overseas Pakistanis.
The news service reported to this scribe that around nine million Pakistanis living across the globe, particularly in the wealthy Gulf states, Europe, and the US, remitted nearly $30 billion last year, boosting the country’s foreign reserves.
In contrast to India, Pakistan has jumped a spot in the UN index compared to 2019. But, Saba was not satisfied with the statistics and contended that the people here were “unhappy” with the prevailing situation as people in other regional countries.
The professor was of the view that “religion” might be a factor that propelled Pakistanis to stay happy or express happiness.
“Pakistan is a relatively more religious country in the region. To be grateful to Allah, in any circumstances, is one of the basic teachings of Islam,” she said.
“Alhamdulillah (by the grace of God), everything is fine, is the patent answer in replying to the inquiry about his or her condition,” Saba added and accused the successive governments of not doing enough to “make people happy in terms of economy, security, and justice.”
Covid impact on happiness
Indian state Chandigarh’s psychiatrist Adarsh Kohli was of the view that the novel coronavirus pandemic has also contributed to the unhappiness in South Asian countries.
“During Covid-19, many developments took place. There was an economic downturn, people suffered, died, and a lot of them are still struggling to make ends meet,” Kohli told Anadolu Agency.
According to the psychiatrist, the economy was a key parameter to measure happiness in a country.
“When you don’t have income, don’t have food, how can one be happy?” she said, adding that the pandemic restrictions like social isolation and ban on meetings also added to the woes.
‘Misperception’ about happiness
Indian author Jaswinder Pal Singh claimed that happiness was often perceived ‘incorrectly’ in societies and stressed the need for changing perspectives.
“Each segment of society is unhappy today because, in general, people perceive happiness incorrectly. It’s important to shift our perspective from living an outside-in life to living an inside-out existence,” he posits.
“Society is nothing but a set of individuals, and if each individual in the society makes this important shift in perception, they will be happier, and hence, society will be happier.”
According to the author, increasing desires was another factor in unhappiness. He expressed concerns over the growing material options.