After easing pandemic restrictions last year despite two deadly COVID waves, the Philippines improved by a notch in the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network’s latest World Happiness Report.
The ranking is not based on happiness and the ease with which people find happiness, but on quality of life indicators using three-year data from the Gallup World Poll: gross domestic product, life expectancy, generosity, social support, freedom and corruption.
As the pandemic plunged the country into its worst recession, the Philippines fell from 52nd in the 2020 report to 61st in the 2021 rankings and improved slightly this year to 60th out of 146 countries.
Not surprisingly, advanced economies consistently lead the World Happiness Report. This year Finland maintained its top spot, followed by Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Rounding out the top 10 are Luxembourg, Sweden, Norway, Israel and New Zealand.
At the bottom of the list is Afghanistan. The remaining 10 least fortunate countries are Lebanon, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Botswana, Lesotho, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia.
In Southeast Asia, the Philippines still ranks second behind Singapore, which came in 27th. Just behind the Philippines is Thailand in 61st place, ahead of Malaysia (70th), Vietnam (77th), Indonesia (87th), Laos (95th), Cambodia (114th) and Myanmar in 126th. Brunei was not among them .
Given the hardships caused by the pandemic, 60th place isn’t too bad. The Philippines has a strong social support network that has helped people deal with the pandemic. However, Filipinos also face serious and long-rooted problems such as corruption and human rights issues, including the killing of thousands of drug suspects and the — many unsolved — killings of militants, journalists, legal experts, indigenous groups and environmentalists. The COVID pandemic has exposed the weaknesses of public healthcare. The country cannot rest at number 60; it can get even better.