What the World Happiness Report is telling us

Since 2012, the United Nations has been commissioning academics to compile the World Happiness Report on a yearly basis, with each report being given a main theme.

And this year’s main theme for the report is “the condition of happiness among new immigrants” in different countries around the world.

According to the recently published World Happiness Report 2018, the degree of happiness among new immigrants varies quite significantly among different countries.

For example, in Singapore and Australia, both of which have been witnessing an influx of new immigrants from China in recent years, the degree of happiness among the new immigrants is pretty much the same as the local population.

I believe the results indicate that the vetting systems for new immigrants in these two countries are rigorous, and the two governments are also able to deliver a relatively high level of governance.

In the case of the United States and Luxembourg, the report shows that the new immigrants are only slightly less happy than the locals.

In Japan, the report says new immigrants are substantially happier than their local counterparts.

I think the findings make a lot of sense because, as we all know, Japan has conservative policies on immigration. And to become a naturalized Japanese citizen is definitely no cakewalk.

In fact, one would probably not subject themselves to such a long-drawn-out and troublesome immigrant vetting procedure unless they really admire the Japanese culture and very much want to become a Japanese citizen.

That probably explains why new immigrants in Japan are generally very happy: they have succeeded, against all the odds, in getting what they wanted.

As for Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, the report indicates that their new immigrants are considerably less happy than the locals.

For the UAE and Qatar, it is perhaps not difficult to imagine why because the vast majority of their immigrants mainly come from Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Thailand, etc., countries which are often ranked far lower than the UAE and Qatar in the World Happiness Report over the years.

However, what really puzzles me is, why would new immigrants in Hong Kong, who are predominantly mainland Chinese, and who would be eligible for a whole bunch of social welfare benefits after they have settled in our city for several years, be still less happy than the locals?

Even more mind-boggling, why haven’t they left if they feel unhappy to live in Hong Kong?

Perhaps these new mainland immigrants would become happier if they started regarding Hong Kong as their permanent home and contributing more towards upholding the interests and core values of our city.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on April 11

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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