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S. Koreans less happy despite improved welfare

South Korea ranked 33rd out of 34 countries surveyed on national happiness, despite improvements in welfare, a study showed Wednesday.

According to the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs, South Korea saw its happiness ranking drop by three notches over the past five years from 2011 to 2016.

In terms of well-being, the country ranked 21st, two steps up from 2011.


The study was based on a comparative analysis of 34 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development on five areas -- economic vitality, fiscal sustainability, welfare needs, welfare fulfillment and national happiness. The yardstick also included 23 indicators.

South Koreans’ satisfaction with life came in 27th, in line with national transparency. Suicide and fertility rates, an annual challenge for the nation, remained at the bottom. Availability of personal time ranked 25th, while life expectancy ranked 10th.

Economic vitality, which is measured by looking at per capita gross domestic product, labor productivity and economic growth, dropped from sixth to eighth. Fiscal sustainability, a scale for national debt level and public financial burdens, stayed fixed at third.

Welfare needs, which contributes to the Gini Coefficient, income distribution and economic misery, placed 10th, up from 12th. Contentment over the income replacement ratio of public pension and unemployment benefits, along with the welfare system such as social expenditure, soared to 28th from 32nd.

“From the economic perspective, the indices for economic vitality, fiscal sustainability and welfare fulfillment are improving, but national happiness has dropped. The level of welfare that people can actually feel won’t have changed much,” the report said.

By Jung Min-kyung (