Europe is one of the happiest places on Earth. Half of the top 10 happiest countries in the world (and just over half of the top 20) are EU Member States, according to the latest World Happiness Report, published in 2022 by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

The report ranks countries according to a series of indicators, including income per capita, healthy life expectancy, freedom, and perceptions of corruption. Finland comes out on top as the happiest place on Earth, with Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Austria also ranking in the top ten.

There is, however, a great deal of variety between Member States; the “happiest” countries tend to be in Northern and Western Europe, whilst Southern and Eastern European countries generally score lower. Bulgaria, for example, is the least-happy EU Member State, placing 85th out of 146 in the rankings, while Finland is the happiest, placing 1st in the world.

So, quelle surprise, the richer EU Member States also tend to be happier. Does that mean that, ultimately, it really is all about economic growth and money? Or is it more about how we measure “happiness”? Is it possible to decouple our notion of progress from economic growth, maybe even ‘de-growing’ our economies and prioritising wellbeing? Or is that all a bunch of hippy nonsense?

What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from Christian arguing that the “belief in infinite growth makes people unhappy, especially all the genuine hard workers who work every day to create what the rich then reap….”. Is Christian right? Does the constant pursuit of growth make people unhappy?

We put this question to German liberal MEP Engin Eroglu, who sits on the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs. What would he say?

Dear Christian, thank you very much for your question, which perhaps already contains your answer. How do I see the matter? For me, the pursuit of growth is not a point that makes people unhappy, I don’t believe that. I also don’t believe that one should start badmouthing growth, because growth can have many different forms. Not everyone works in a company that ultimately exploits its employees. So, if we’re in the field of poetry, where employees write a book or freelance artists create works of art, or in the music industry, if you have a contract with a record company, then the record company (I don’t know much about that) says: “Here, you have half a million, deliver a great album in two years”. Then the musician has two nice years, travels around the world and writes songs about his experiences.

Certainly there are industries, I might share your opinion, where growth can make the employee unhappy, because there might not be a good distribution of wealth. But I am firmly convinced that our European system is the most beautiful in the world and that’s why it doesn’t make people unhappy. When I’m out and about in the world – I’m on the Committee on Foreign Affairs – people talk about Europe as a place of freedom and hope. I’ve never heard anyone say: “It’s stupid in Europe!”

I completely agree with you that things are getting better and better. Intermediate question: what is growth? Musicians don’t ‘grow’ by making an album, they mature in the sense of cultural growth. There is not only growth in the production of goods. So, I wouldn’t put it so bluntly and I think the truth lies in the middle and, of course, we can still do a bit better in Europe. But I’m very, very happy with the way we’re doing it and we also need growth in order to develop further. In the end growth needs entrepreneurs, like from the company BioNTech, who say: “Hey, you need to create a lot now. I need you to be productive. I will make a lot of profit but I will also pay my employees well”. At the same time he also says: “Hey, I have decided that in Africa we will release the vaccine for the cost of production”. So, there are also good growth systems and not always only bad ones.

Is happiness more important than economic growth? Is it possible to measure ‘wellbeing’? And is Europe really one of the happiest places on Earth? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: (c) BigStock – Mihailo K; PORTRAIT CREDITS: (cc by-sa 4.0) Thorsten Strack
Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Commission. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.



17 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    EU-Reform Proactive

    Maybe the past has seen & measured happiness differently than the current politicized academic versions composed by globalists and sung by politicians, delegates & some media? All anointed angles. What’s left, than to forget?

    Some short versions:

    https:/ /www.youtube.com/watch?v=bUcma3Lz-Q4
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QuOaoQB6T3o

    The long version
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dka-_N6KaG0

    As long as everyone is given the freedom to choose! Because enforced democracy by a group also leads to dictatorship.

  2. avatar
    Julia

    I agree with Klaus Schwab when he mentions this in one of his books. Happiness is more important than GDP and it is a more accurate measure of the economic success of the majority, not the minority.

    • avatar
      Крис

      I also agree but it sounds extremely cynical when it comes from someone like him.

    • avatar
      Крис

      I also agree with the message because it’s true based on objectivity and reality. Just like our need for oxygen. The message that we can’t survive without oxygen is always true whether it is said by a scientist or by someone without basic education.
      But when someone claims that happiness is more important than GDP while holding an influencial position in global economy and does nothing about it, this means that he’s hypocritical.

    • avatar
      Julia

      That is true. But one person can’t change the world. The demand needs to come from the bottom up. People must refuse to tolerate what we have and demand what we want. This is impossible at the moment, as it requires a critical mass of people like us, and we are the minority.

    • avatar
      Adrian L

      You mean his “you will own nothing and you will be happy” spiel?
      Yeah I’ll keep my property thx.

  3. avatar
    Крис

    Economic growth is essential to the economy. Overproductiivity however is bad because it’s always at the expense of people’s wellbeing. Wellbeing must be a priority and happiness is one part of it.

  4. avatar
    Natasha

    Of cause it’s possible to own nothing and be happy, but not if you are freezing at the same time.

  5. avatar
    Любомир

    Who is coming up with these questions, a 10-year old?

  6. avatar
    Lili

    Of course! Rules, laws, systems, procedures etc. shell all be for the benefits of people…
    The nature and people shell be the winners out of all these systems!

  7. avatar
    JT HK

    Before the US proxy war in Ukraine is concluded, a second proxy war in Kosovo is near, with rocketing inflation, Europe is at the brink of a third world war, it is stupid talking about happiness.

    • avatar
      Adrian L

      You mean before Russia started an unprovoked war after Invading and illegallly annexing Crimea?

  8. avatar
    Business Opportunities & strategies to increase sales

    GDP is not an adequate metric to measure an economy because the cost of public administration, money blocked in projects that take long term to generate revenues, and government spending are all included 100%, with a plus signal, in the equation of GDP.
    That is a mistake

  9. avatar
    Adrian L

    Not sure where is the Europe where it is the “happiest place on earth” or whatever. My corner of Europe sure does not feel happy.

    And no I will choose economic growth over this “happiness” that I have not even experienced.

  10. avatar
    JT HK

    Without GDP growth, without economic means, how come government has money to protect people from the COVID death, hunger and cold? Europe can’t talk luxurious wellbeing things unless the government can bring a prosperous economy. Do not divert people’s attention from all the difficulties to dreams and empty promises. Europe governments are killing Europe for the MAGA.

  11. avatar
    Lili

    Yes, but many are happy just if they feel financially secured and have a good economy. Both happiness has many sources and reasons.

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