Sometimes when I sit down to write my daily blog post, I find it hard to find something nice to say about China. It takes a few minutes (occasionally a few hours) to find a topic that I can at least add a little silver lining to.
Apparently though I’m not the only one who is having a hard time coming up with something nice to say, a recent poll showed that only 6% of the people who responded to an online survey described themselves as happy. It also revealed that 40% of the respondents thought there was a direct correlation between money and happiness (sadly they are not familiar with the proverb “Mo’ money, Mo’ problems”).
Granted, the survey size was pretty small, but I think this lines up fairly closely to a lot of the attitudes I have heard in these last few months, especially with the rising cost of food, rent, gas…everything. (Note: there was a survey earlier this year that showed 45% happiness, but this was not anonymous so it may have been like the survey I mentioned yesterday)
The real fun comes when the article tries to put a positive spin on these depressing results. “But it was not all bad news. About 36 percent of respondents said their lives had improved during the past five years.” That’s right; the good news is that only 2/3 of the population didn’t think their situation had improved.
This might seem shocking to those of you who have visited China’s major cities, where we have seen nothing but construction for the past 5 years. Even a friend who has been living in China for almost 20 years said that these last 5 seemed like the most frantic in terms of development.
A quote from a young woman living in Shanghai better reflects the sentiments I have heard over the years from so many of my Chinese friends, “More than one-third of my salary goes to the rent and the rest has to cover transportation and food. In the end, my disposable income is almost nothing.”
This happiness deficit has suddenly moved up the priority list for this week’s meetings of the gov’t. It seems that they may adopt some version of a happiness measurement for moving through the political ranks. The gov’t would stop taking GDP so strongly into account and start looking at things like people’s disposable income, cost of housing, access to doctors, energy efficiency, and even forest coverage. This measure is already being used in parts of Henan province.
I think an adoption of some version of this measure would be a big step the gov’t could take to ensure “stability” over the next few years, as it would actually help monitor several of the concerns that I mentioned on Monday.