Celine Manalansan Morning Aparicio Honorbound– Recently, economists have been questioning the efficiency of GDP for measuring a country’s overall well-being. Several economists such as Ben Schiller of Fast Company Media argue that it is “a crude measure of national success” because it equally accounts for negative and positive transactions.1 In other words, GDP only adds up the final goods and services a country produces, not whether the production of those goods and services are beneficial or detrimental to the country. Additionally, the GDP does not take into account the actual well-being or happiness of a nation’s citizens; therefore, should a country with a high GDP but a low happiness rating really consider themselves successful?
Though it is difficult, if not impossible, to economically measure a country’s happiness accurately, the United Nations has conducted two studies called the World Happiness Reports which rank 156 countries according to a few “factors that promote and hinder happiness” and their GDP per capita.2 According to the Ranking of Happiness of 2010-2012, Denmark and the other Scandinavian countries top the rankings while the United States is just ranked at #17.3 A possible result of these rankings could be that the United States is less happy, but more productive than Denmark because they contribute more of their time to work rather than leisure. This assumption is false and disproven by other studies comparing nations’ productivity.
A study was done by Expert Market ranking 35 countries on their productivity based on their GDP per capita divided by the number of hours worked per person.4 This value shows “which nations make the most money in the least amount of time, and are therefore the most productive.”5 According to this study, Demark, ranking at number 7 with a value of $30.73, is more productive than the United States, ranking at number 8 with a slightly lower value of $30.12.6
Jessica Stillman of Inc. Media analyzes another study of productivity done by the OECD which ranks the countries with the world’s most productive employees.7 The study concludes that the most productive countries are Germany at the top, France in second, and the United States in third.8 In the article, Stillman says that some countries, including Germany, are shortening work hours to put less stress on the average worker and to fight unemployment.9 Despite the shortening of work hours and creating more leisure time for the citizens, Germany is still more productive than the United States.10 Additionally, according to the World Happiness Report and the Expert Market productivity ranking, Denmark ranks both happier and more productive than the United States.
My initial theory, prior to researching, was that the more productive countries are less happy because they are using more of their time helping the economy through rigorous work hours rather than spending longer leisure. However, these studies have disproven by theory.
The United States has a culture which stubbornly takes pride in our longer work hours; however, as seen through several studies regarding happiness and productivity, longer work hours does not increase our overall utility. Additionally, our average 40-hour workweek does not improve our country’s productivity or happiness. Perhaps there is something to learn from countries such as Demark and Germany. Maybe they have a secret formula to maximizing their happiness and productivity.
1 Schiller, Ben. “The 10 Happiest Countries In The World, And Why We’re Not One Of Them.” Fast Company. September 10, 2013. Accessed June 20, 2017.
4 Martin, Will. “The 19 most productive countries in the world.” Business Insider. July 24, 2016. Accessed June 20, 2017.
7 Stillman, Jessica. “Which Country Has the Most Productive Workers?” Inc.com. July 25, 2014. Accessed June 20, 2017.