DUBAI // Ohood Al Roumi’s job might be a world’s first, but she is tasked with carrying on a tradition that is as old as the UAE itself.
“Everything our leaders have done has been with the sole purpose of enriching lives and making the citizens of this country happy,” said the UAE’s first Minister of State for Happiness.
“The Ministry of Happiness’s work is going to be an extension of this crucial foundation.”
Speaking at the Ministry’s headquarters at the Prime Minister’s Office, Ms Al Roumi was confident of meeting the needs of the nation.
“We don’t have a benchmark to compare ourselves to. This is the first Ministry of Happiness in the world. We’ve taken input from experts and researchers to make happiness a way of life in this country.”
The UAE was ranked as the 28th happiest country in the world, according to last year's UN World Happiness Report. Denmark, Switzerland and Iceland occupied the top three slots. The UAE was the happiest country in the region.
Ensuring the nation is a happy one has always been a priority for the Government but the ministry, which was formed in February, is hoping to take that to an institutional level, Ms Al Roumi said.
“Customer service centres will now be referred to as Happiness Centres,” she said.
“We are no longer trying to offer great services but to get to the core of service by getting to what makes customers happy.”
The Government’s 90,000 employees will work towards a national charter of happiness and positivity, said Ms Al Roumi. They will also affect the way the federal budget is spent.
“The federal budget is Dh49 billion and this allocation is to make people happy,” she said. “We’ll be working with more than 50 government entities on ways to do that.”
She said she would work with all ministries, government institutions and the private sector to ensure they had the tools needed to improve the lives of their employees.
“There is no one way to make everyone happy, but we’re going to do studies to learn how to make different factions of society happy,” Ms Al Roumi said.
“We’ll work on making students happy, making mothers happy and so on and so forth.”
The focus of a national programme of happiness is to work with the Government, then people, before finally assessing the work being done.
“Happy people live 7.5 years more and take one third less sick days,” the minister said.
“Unhappy people cost companies 100 days of productivity, so it’s in everyone’s interest to work with the ministry.”
Suggestions to boost happiness made to the minister include increasing salaries and having fewer speed cameras on the roads. “Fewer cameras mean more accidents and no one wants that, but I’ve read everything,” Ms Al Roumi said.
She said simply paying higher salaries did not equate to happiness, so the focus had to be on employee satisfaction.
She said she had researched many ways in which happiness could be achieved and measured. “Religious values are an important way people feel happy and connected, so is tolerance, inclusion and benevolence,” she said. “All of these values are intrinsic to our national identity and correlate to being more happy.”