India – An Unhappy Country!


Prime Minister Modi of India

A recent issue of the Economist magazine (March 27, 2019) has an interesting article titled, Economic Growth Does Not Guarantee Happiness. In this article the results of a self-reported Happiness Index are reported over the last ten years. The index goes from 1 to 10 with 10 being the happiest and 1 the unhappiest. The median of 80 countries with populations over 5 million is about 5.6. There are only 10 countries below an index of 4.0

It turns out that the general rule is that as a country prospers economically (as measured by the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita) it tends to get happier. But there are many exceptions: The US for instance has done economically well over the past ten years but its Happiness Index has declined from 7.4 to 6.8.

The country that shocked me the most in this survey was India. Its GDP per capita has gone up 80% in the last 10 years, but its Happiness Index has plummeted sharply! It has gone from a 5.1 to a dismal 3.7. In fact there are only 6 countries out of 80 that are unhappier than India, countries like Rwanda, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Haiti and Burundi. Here is a chart that shows the relative movement of the Happiness Index in the last 10 years for India and China vs the Rest of the World:

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China which was less happy than India in 2008 has increased its Happiness Index to above 5.0, while India has declined precipitously.

India’s decline has been the sharpest in the last five years – the period of Modi’s leadership as Prime Minister. Modi came in with much fanfare, and in fact India saw a brief uptick in perceived happiness because of high expectations. But he has less than delivered. Slogans and hype have replaced concrete actions. His nationalistic fervor and vows to strengthen India in a tough neighborhood have been hollow.

India has been unable gain relevance in a world where China is unabashedly circling it with footholds in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and the Maldives. One even wonders whether the much touted 7% growth in GDP is smoke and mirrors as many economists have contended.

Here are the Happiness Indexes of the countries neighboring India.

Pakistan —- 5.7. (Higher than China)
Bangladesh — 4.4
Nepal —— 4.9
Sri Lanka —- 5.1
India —   3.7

Do go this link and read the full article.


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2 Responses to India – An Unhappy Country!

  1. Akhil says:

    Thanks, Ashok, very interesting perspective. My guess is that income inequality is easily and by far the worst in India among the group, and it could be a factor. As the country loses its secular character the minorities (Muslims, Christians, etc.) are also becoming increasingly disaffected and their numbers add up.

  2. Sahil says:

    I wonder if this could also be impacted by the growth in the number of Indians online from 10% in 2011 to 40% in 2018. The inequality in India is bad but the perceived inequality of from being online is worse

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