The UAE’s pursuit of happiness

Ohood Al Roumi, the UAE's first Minister of State for Happiness, was sworn in this year. Ryan Carter / Crown Prince Court - Abu Dhabi
Ohood Al Roumi, the UAE's first Minister of State for Happiness, was sworn in this year. Ryan Carter / Crown Prince Court - Abu Dhabi

We might live in the least happy region on the planet, but we are the 28th happiest country in the world, according to the World Happiness Report 2016. This in turns gives us more happiness – and also motivation to improve our ranking in the coming years by focusing more on areas like social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom and other criteria.

Even though our ranking dropped from 20th in 2015, the decline doesn’t necessarily mean a fall in our happiness levels. The report says that the UAE was affected more than any other country by the changes in survey methods, in part because of its “newly sampled non-Emirati population”. If only data from Emiratis was taken into account, the country would have ranked 15th in the world.

In any case, we are still doing very well compared to the rest of the Middle East, and we rank at the top of the Arab world in the index. But there is always room for improvement, and this helps explain why the Government has appointed its first Minister of State for Happiness, Ohood Al Roumi, as part of the biggest reshuffle of the Government in its history.

The Government has also adopted the National Programme for Happiness and Positivity this month, which sets government policies, programmes and services that could promote those virtues as a positive lifestyle in the community and puts in place a plan for the development of a happiness index to measure contentment and satisfaction.

The next step is to translate those plans into action. As part of her duties, the minister will oversee the process to make sure that these programmes are implemented across all government ministries. Some of the most important areas to tackle include health issues, such as obesity and diabetes; social issues such as divorce rates; economic issues such as the increasing costs of living and personal issues such as debt. We can also do more to improve the freedom to make life choices, which is an important part of the World Happiness Index.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has said that each government entity should have dedicated employees to ensure the happiness of all those who use them, transforming public service centres into “public happiness centres”. When these plans are turned into reality, the UAE may be able to compete with the happiest countries in the world.

Published: March 17, 2016 04:00 AM

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