As people look for jobs or career opportunities during their lives, it is easy to forget the larger macro-economic drama that is playing out. In fact, some of the macro-story really even begins based on which country you were born in or start your early career in. The Economist has assembled a study that measures which countries not only provide the best life satisfaction today, but also have the potential of providing maximum opportunity in the future.
A few remarkable things about the study -
1. The United States slips from #1 position in 1988 to #16 in 2012.
2. Smaller economies seem to do better than larger economies
3. Countries with higher public spending on health, education, retirement and other benefits (like parental leaves) seem to be doing better.
Having said that there are some issues with the methodology that I’ve. Out of the many factors, climate is one of the factors that is being considered. I’m not sure how in a diverse climate country like United States or Brazil or India one can average that out. This might again be favoring countries with little variation in climate. Gender equality is another factor – but the measure is how many women in the parliament – which might be a relevant measure, but seems an overly narrow measure (especially as some countries have a quota or reservation system for seats).
Further, while much of the study shows why the factors can lead to current higher life satisfaction, it is not clear how these factors are PREDICTIVE in nature. It will be good for study to cite what research shows that the conditions being measured are predictors of higher opportunity in the future.
Still, some of the measures do make sense, and this is yet another reminder to the United States that we can’t rest on the laurels of past successes – the American system is a great one – but one that does need continuous change and nurture to make sure that we do not let stasis or the weaknesses of other class based systems infect an order that has always been based on opportunity and meritocracy. Let not America slip to mediocrity!
[Image via The Economist]