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Happiness not at odds with economic growth

By Yu Jincui (Global Times)

10:27, May 17, 2012

A recent study conducted by the University of Southern California concluded that the general happiness of people in China has been declining in the past two decades. Published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study is based on six different surveys on self-reported satisfaction with life since 1990.

The period covered by the study is representative as China's economy has witnessed its most robust growth in the two decades since 1990. The result of the study has been widely cited as proof that economic growth hasn't resulted in equal benefits and they hinted that increasing social welfare is as important as economic growth.

Happiness is a rather vague term. In recent years, the index of happiness has been increasingly emphasized by local governments and media, following the trend of many other countries. It might be true to some extent that a sentiment combining expectation and apprehension, plus some uncertainties, is prevailing in society, and probably not unusual in countries experiencing fast development.

Dissatisfaction does exist, but paradoxically if you ask people which period they would want to be born in Chinese history if they could choose, the current time would be the choice of many.

The huge size of China functions as an amplifier of dissatisfaction toward a society that erodes people's happiness.

In fact, economic development and growth bring more confusion to Chinese people. The economic boom has raised people's expectations of living standards, while problems such as social injustice and the growing rich-poor divide add to the public's dissatisfaction.

China should make efforts to reduce the public's dissatisfaction and offer them security and happiness. China has taken economic development and growth as its main task in the past three decades. In the process, China has accumulated wealth as well as problems.

There is no disagreement as to the fact that the government needs to make more efforts to improve the social welfare network.

However, there is no consensus as to the proper level of public benefit and how much the government should do. The government, individuals and the media should have an honest and candid debate on the issue.

Economic growth has created some confusion, but has also laid down the foundation for increasing happiness. The next step is how to distribute the wealth.


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