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The Netherlands ranked fifth happiest country in the world

The Netherlands regularly ranks among the world’s happiest countries. In a recently released top ten list of the happiest countries in the world, the Netherlands ranked fifth happiest country in the world.

24/7 Wall St. analyzed the new Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Better Life Index to objectively determine the happiest countries in the world.

The Index is based on 11 measurements of quality of life including housing, income, jobs, community, education, the environment, health, work-life balance, and life satisfaction. We made “life satisfaction” the cornerstone of our index because it is as good a proxy for “happiness” as the survey provides. We then compared “life satisfaction” scores to the other measurements to find those economic and socio-political realities that had the highest and lowest correlation to happiness.

The happiest people in the developed world get loads of social services without having to work too hard. Having abundant natural resources, a thriving services sector and a fairly homogeneous population helps as well. The OECD study no doubt would have had different results had it included politically unstable countries in the Middle East or large emerging economies where political unrest threatens to bubble over such as China.

24/7 Wall St. also looked at one critical factor that the OECD study overlooked — economic stability. Our measure of this was total national debt as a percent of GDP. The figure helps determine a country’s ability to maintain present tax levels and social services. Odds are that countries with high debt-to-GDP ratios are more likely to need austerity policies to reign-in their government spending. Otherwise, their debt costs will soar.

Nations with long-term economic strength can also afford to support employment, education, and make health care widely available. Happiness viewed in this way means that people are more likely to feel better about themselves in Norway, which has almost no debt and great social services, than in Greece, which must slash entitlement spending or risk defaulting on its debt.

Old, stable nations of northern Europe took five of the top 10 spots on our list. These include Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Norway, and Denmark.

Ninety one percent of Dutch residents report being satisfied with their lives, more than any other country in the OECD. This is likely due in part to high scores for personal life and a good balance between work and leisure. In some countries, such as Turkey and Estonia, that figure is more than 10%. Dutch citizens also spend 70% of their day on personal care, leisure, eating and sleeping, the third-most of any country. This amount of leisure time reflects the national policy of work equality that comes from sharing of labor. In the 1980’s, less than 40% of the country’s working-age women were employed. That number is now more than 70% as a result of aggressive gender equality laws called the “emancipation plan.”

The top ten list as compiled by 24/7 Wall Street, in reverse order, is:

10. Austria
9. Israel
8. Finland
7. Switzerland
6. Sweden
5. The Netherlands
4. Australia
3. Norway
2. Canada
1. Denmark