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The happiest country in the world is…

 

DUBIA – For the second time, the title of “happiest country in the world” following a UN commissioned survey went to no other than Finland.

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

In the latest survey published recently, Finland had increased its lead over Denmark, Norway and Iceland, which came next. Following the top four Nordics came the 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 resident of Helsinki area, told Yle reporters that 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 not having 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 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 has declined.

“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 far as general public relations is concerned. 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 to tell and show tourists many things 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. XINHUA

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