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The pursuit of happiness in the Mediterranean

The pursuit of happiness is a serious business. So serious that the eminent economists at the Euro-Mediterranean Forum of Institutes of Economic Sciences have been studying the issue. In the FEM34-14 report, they take an in-depth look at the factors which contribute to well-being.

The inhabitants of Benin suffer hardships on a daily basis. (Photo Vero)
The inhabitants of Benin suffer hardships on a daily basis. (Photo Vero)
In July 2011, the King of Bhutan took the decision to replace GDP with gross national happiness (GNH) which takes into account health, culture and the use of time. In his kingdom, the GNH is as important as other economic indicators.

Businesses that choose to expand abroad must now take into account the human development index (HDI), a new indicator which measures the quality of life. Since May 2011, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has been offering citizens of the 34 member countries the opportunity to evaluate and compare their index of well-being on the OECD web site.

The "better life" index takes into account eleven criteria (environment, health, education, employment, housing etc.).

In a report entitled "A Cross-Country Assessment of Well-Being and Quality of Life in the Euromed Region: Models and Measurements", the economists demonstrate the influence of economic factors and in particular the consumption of goods and services on well-being. Consumption activities give individuals the possibility to satisfy their requirements and at the same time to improve their quality of life.

The French suffer the least in terms of hardships

Goods and services that contribute to affirming people's social status. (Photo hypo.physe)
Goods and services that contribute to affirming people's social status. (Photo hypo.physe)
This very detailed report devotes 140 pages to studying the consumption of three categories of goods and services. First, those of a basic nature, satisfying requirements such as food and clothing. Then those intended to be pleasurable, such as going to the cinema, restaurants, museums, travelling. These are not essential but contribute to well-being.

And finally, goods and services that contribute to affirming people's social status. "If you don't have a Rolex by the time you are fifty, you must be a failure". This remark by French advertising tycoon Jacques Ségéla was picked up by the media, and demonstrates to what point external signs have come to count in a consumer-oriented, image-conscious society.

The Femise carried out a comparative study of the consumption and satisfaction of requirements in the Mediterranean. It shows that the French suffer the least in terms of hardships, followed by the Tunisians and Moroccans. In contrast, the inhabitants of Benin suffer hardships on a daily basis. The satisfaction of needs should, according to the authors of the report, be an integral part of public policies.

Like social indicators and indicators of economic production, the well-being of individuals will become an increasingly important factor in political strategies. "Bread and circuses!" Caesar understood the necessity of feeding and also entertaining Rome's citizens long ago...

Version française

Nathalie Bureau du Colombier, MARSEILLE

Thursday, July 4th 2013

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