The Netherlands is eighth happiest country in the world.
For the third year in a row, Australia has taken the top prize for being the happiest place to live in the advanced world, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Better Life Index.
The annual index ranks the world’s 34 industrialized economies based on key criteria such as jobs, health, environment, education and income and Australia was the only Asia-Pacific country to find a place in the top 10.
The Netherlands performs very well in overall well-being, as shown by the fact that it ranks among the top countries in a large number of topics in the Better Life Index.
Money, while it cannot buy happiness, is an important means to achieving higher living standards. In the Netherlands, the average household net-adjusted disposable income is 25 493 USD a year, more than the OECD average of 23 047 USD a year. But there is a considerable gap between the richest and poorest – the top 20% of the population earn nearly five times as much as the bottom 20%.
In terms of employment, nearly 75% of people aged 15 to 64 in the Netherlands have a paid job, above the OECD employment average of 66%. Some 80% of men are in paid work, compared with 70% of women. People in the Netherlands work 1 379 hours a year, less than the OECD average of 1 776 hours. Very few employees work very long hours, compared with 9% on average across the OECD.
Having a good education is an important requisite for finding a job. In the Netherlands, 73% of adults aged 25-64 have earned the equivalent of a high-school degree, close to the OECD average of 74%. This is slightly truer of men than women, as 75% of men have successfully completed high-school compared with 71% of women. In terms of the quality of the education system, the average student scored 519 in reading literacy, maths and science in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). This score is higher than the OECD average of 497, making the Netherlands one of the strongest OECD countries in students’ skills. There is hardly any difference between the performances of boys and girls, compared with an average OECD gap of 9 points in favour of girls.
In terms of health, life expectancy at birth in the Netherlands is 81 years, one year higher than the OECD average of 80 years. Life expectancy for women is 83 years, compared with 79 for men. The level of atmospheric PM10 – tiny air pollutant particles small enough to enter and cause damage to the lungs – is 30 micrograms per cubic meter, considerably higher than the OECD average of 21 micrograms per cubic meter. The Netherlands perform better in terms of water quality, as 90% of people say they are satisfied with the quality of their water, higher than the 84% OECD average.
Concerning the public sphere, there is a strong sense of community and high levels of civic participation in the Netherlands, where 94% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in time of need, higher than the OECD average of 90%. Voter turnout, a measure of public trust in government and of citizens’ participation in the political process, was 75% during recent elections; this figure is higher than the OECD average of 72%. Social and economic status can affect voting rates; voter turnout for the top 20% of the population is 85% and for the bottom 20% it is 65%. This 20 percentage point difference is much larger than the OECD average difference of 12 percentage points, and points to shortcomings in the political mobilisation of those of lower socio-economic status.
In general, 86% of people in the Netherlands say they have more positive experiences in an average day (feelings of rest, pride in accomplishment, enjoyment, etc) than negative ones (pain, worry, sadness, boredom, etc), more than the OECD average of 80%.
The survey ranked more than 30 countries on criteria such as income levels, health, safety and housing.
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