Saturday, 20 April, 2019

Finns see title of "happiest nation" as recognition of WS

21 Mar 2019, 21:18 ( 29 days ago)

DF-Xinhua Report
Photo VisitFinland by Harri Tarvainen.

The emergence of Finland for the second time as the "happiest country in the world" in a UN commissioned survey was not met with surprise in Finland.

In random interviews by local media, ordinary citizens referred to the general social safety net, free education and public health care as justifications for the results.

In the latest survey published on Wednesday, Finland had increased its lead over Denmark, Norway and Iceland who came next. Following the top four Nordics came Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, New Zealand, Canada and Austria. The survey covered 156 countries and regions, as well as citizens' perceptions of themselves and their own life.

Ilona Suojanen, a Finnish researcher of happiness in working life, reminded that the report reflects the legislation and circumstances of life. Suojanen told national broadcaster Yle the report does not tell about the personal happiness of an individual.

"There is no scientific proof that well functioning society increases directly the feeling of personal happiness in an individual," she said.

Nevertheless, Roope Penttila, a randomly selected young man in the Helsinki area, told Yle reporters on Wednesday he is happy to know that "a serious injury would not kill his economy and that he would get treatment". Natalie Schrey, a mother of two, cited as reason for happiness she would not have to "feel concerned about the safety of her children".

Even though Finns acknowledge the high service level of the welfare system, there are indications that awareness in Finland has declined about the concrete difference between life conditions in welfare state countries like Finland and those industrialized countries that do not offer such a social safety net.

"After nearly three generations as citizens of a welfare state, many Finns do not always have any grasp of what life would be just on their own," observers have noted.

The image as the happiest country in the world has benefited Finland as general PR. Paavo Virkkunen, director of the national travel promotion agency Visit Finland, said on Wednesday the new program "Rent a Finn" is based on the interest aroused by the "happiest country" status.

The program offers a visitor "immersion into Finnish life" or to try to function "as a local". In the program ordinary Finns work as guides about the country.

However, the advertisements of the program focus so far primarily on the connection of Finns with nature, and not that much on social living conditions. Virkkunen reminded that in many industrialized countries city dwellers have practically lost their direct connection with natural surroundings.