Happier people  

in the Nordic countries

2012.01.03

New research shows that Nordic people are the epitome of happiness and satisfaction.

The Nordic countries are the world’s happiest nations owing to their welfare model that equally distributes social services and benefits to the entire population, writes the Nordic science news service ScienceNordic.   

According to research, the model is facilitated by good tax administration and collection, low levels of corruption and good economic planning.

Universal welfare

During an interview at the University of Gothenburg, Bo Rothstein, professor at the Department of Political Science at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, explained to ScienceNordic that in the Nordic welfare model most programs and benefits are universal, not selective. Rich and poor citizens have equal status. Countries that provide means-tested welfare are less likely to have happy inhabitants.

No stigma and lots of social trust

In his research paper “Corruption, Happiness, Social Trust and the Welfare State: A Causal Mechanisms Approach”, Rothstein shows that welfare is a good system only if the recipients of the services are not scrutinized so as to cause stigma.

- Recipients of means-tested (selected) government programs are likely to lead to social strains and loss of happiness and satisfaction. The recipients feel isolated and seen as someone who does not contribute to society (not working and not paying taxes) and others deem them unworthy, which is likely to lead to social stigma, he writes.

Rothstein explained that the Nordic welfare system demands a relatively high level of taxation and, importantly, that citizens carry the responsibility of paying taxes.

- It would probably be impossible to establish a universal welfare state in a society in which most citizens were convinced that most other citizens would evade most of their taxes and abuse or overuse the benefits. It could therefore be argued that a universal welfare state can only be established in a society where citizens have a fair deal of social trust, Rothstein said.

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