It has always been the Singapore government advocate to equate the people’s level of wellness and happiness to the economic growth of the nation. However, do material comforts really mean happiness to all? I beg to differ.
Over the years, the people in Singapore have been told that the only passport to a better life and better future is to work hard and increase the productivity of our workforce. This proposition is portrayed as the only way that we can do to contribute to the economic growth of the country and in so doing, all of us can enjoy a better living standard for ourselves and our future generations.
Having supported this proposition for almost three decades myself, I must say that the opportunity costs and the personal sacrifices that come with it are also high. When most of us worked ourselves crazy to meet the high expectations of our leaders, we lose a lot of the precious intangibles which are crucial factors in the assessment of the quality of our lives such as spending time with our families and loved ones, following our aspirations, art appreciation and achieving a personal state of happiness!
As the saying goes, “money cannot buy happiness” and “happiness certainly cannot be measured in dollars and cents”. Moreover, it is common sense to most of us that the wealth attained and accumulated by our high economic growth are the fruits of our collective labour and hence ought to be shared proportionately with all the citizens of the country. Sad to say, the current disproportionate income distribution and widening income gap in our society only add on to the agony and unhappiness currently experienced by the lower and middle-income groups. These people work very hard to boost the economy but are placed at the lower income percentile, causing them to work all their life just to maintain a basic life style with little savings and little time to enjoy life’s light moments. Naturally, the feeling of happiness hardly enter their minds or felt in their lives.
Hence, the idea of using the economic growth of the country to grade its success is definitely not an accurate or sound one. Conversely, using the “Happiness Index” of the people could be a more equitable one as a country is made up of its people!
The ideal would be to work hard enough to achieve the desired growth for the economy, leaving sufficient time for people to enjoy life and pursue life’s little luxuries, both social and emotional and appreciate ‘happiness’ in the real sense of the word.