How Immigration Influences the Happiest Country in the World

By Judy Koren
Staff Writer

The United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) released their Global Happiness Report on March 14, an annual tradition since 2012. Former Secretary-General, Ban-Ki Moon, formed the SDSN to promote realistic solutions for sustainable development through the mobilization of scientific and technological expertise. This includes promoting the 2015-2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) and the Paris Climate Agreement.

Since the SDSN released their first Global Happiness Report, there has been a very apparent trend: the five Nordic countries consistently make the top ten spots. Reuters reports that the Global Happiness Report scores 156 countries based off GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, social freedom, generosity, and absence of corruption.

The 2018 report – written by John F. Helliwell, Richard Layard, and Jeffrey D. Sachs – was released about a week prior to the International Day of Happiness. According to the World Happiness Report, Finland ranked as the happiest county in the world, followed by Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, and Sweden, placing the fifth Nordic Country, as ninth.

One factor that has been making headlines and has taken on a major role in policy-reform is immigration. According to Reuters, immigration – in the Happiness Index’s standards – does the exact opposite of what some extremists believe: immigrants do not damage the average happiness of local people and migrants themselves become as happy as the nation they move to.

In fact, John Helliwell, Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of British Columbia and a co-editor of the Global Happiness Report, states, “The most striking finding of the report is the remarkable consistency between the happiness of immigrants and the locally born.” Helliwell continued to admit, “Those who move to happier countries gain, while those who move to less happy countries lose.”

Within the report, immigrants heavily focused on “The Happiness of the Original Residents in the Host Country.” This section primarily speaks to how the migrant acceptance index has shown to increase the happiness of both sectors of the population – immigrants and the locally born.” This highlights how with acceptance, whether it be through positive contribution from immigrants or the residents tolerance, increases a country’s ability to be “happy” within the report’s standards.

The Telegraph also reports that the analysis within the report proved that well-managed migration could have a potentially meaningful benefit, especially to the happiness of people arriving in happier countries without harming the life satisfaction of locally born populations. Professor Richard Layard, of the London School of Economics and an editor of the report, believes their conclusions are not “evidence for an open doors policy, just that when you are considering [migration policies] that you should be aware people are gaining a lot who come.” Ultimately, the development of a Migration Report within the Global Happiness Report is to encourage the adoption of immigration policy to better integrate migrants, which leads to a happier and more united nation.

Finland’s 2016-2017 Migration Report released to The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the economic develop of nations, expressed their updated policies on how to integrate immigrants into their society. This includes policy programs like the Government Integration Program which is set up to “promote equality… [and] ensure a smooth transition for immigrants into the education system or working life.”

Out of the 5.5 million citizens residing in Finland, only 300,000 are migrants, says NBC News. Meik Wiking, CEO of the Copenhagen-based Happiness Research Institute, says the five Nordic countries “are doing something right in terms of creating good conditions for good lives,” proved by their reliability to hold the top ten spots. Wiking continued to voice how the finding on the happiness of immigrants “shows the conditions that we live under matter greatly to our quality of life, that happiness is not only a matter of choice.”

The Global Happiness Report generated by the UNSDSN ultimately aims to open a door for nations to adopt policies that are beneficial to making others happy. The report also aims to provide insight into what makes countries more or less happy. As immigration becomes a crucial global issue, the report believes human migration can be extremely necessary for the happiness of a country.

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