30 May 2011 

Two recent surveys show New Zealand in an interesting juxtaposition.  To mark its 50th anniversary last week, the OECD published a Better Life measure of its member countries – a “happiness index”.  New Zealand was 4th overall on eleven indicators.  Australians are the happiest and residents in Canada and Sweden are also happier than we are. Those in the US and Norway rate similarly to us.

The survey meets a demand for an index that does more than assess economies by their GDP. The OECD says production is  still important but it is not sufficient to measure wellbeing. Apparently Robert Kennedy once said that GDP measured everything apart from the things that made life worthwhile.

But Iceland (whose citizens are the 11th happiest in the OECD)  has tipped New Zealand from the top spot on the Global Peace Index of 152 countries. New Zealand replaced Iceland as the most peaceful place in 2009, and retained that spot last year. In the latest survey published last week,  New Zealand scored less well than last year and largely indistinguishable on the 23 indicators from Denmark and Japan, while the assessment of Iceland improved. Denmark is 6th on the happiness index and the Japaneses are 19th. Australia, Canada and Sweden, ahead of us on the happiness index are respectively 18th, 8th and 13th on the Global Peace Index.

Among the reasons we lose marks on happiness is a poor work -life balance and our level of peacefulness is diminished by numbers being imprisoned.

The Australian compilers  of the peace index point out that the world has become less peaceful for the third successive year, with terrorist attacks in 29 countries and violent demonstrations in many others. However there are fewer conflicts between countries and spending on armaments has reduced. The cost of violence during the year is assessed at US$8.12 trillion. (The cost of corruption by comparison is estimated at US$3 trillion annually.)