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What are the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Countries?

Every time the United Nations releases its annual World Happiness Report, Nordic countries usually top the list. Happiness Experts from all over the world conduct an annual survey ranking 156 countries by how happy their citizens are in their lives.

Jeff Sachs, the co-founder of the World Happiness Report, told CNBC Make It that when talking about “happiness”, they refer to a person’s satisfaction with the way his or her life is going. 

The World Happiness Report was established in 2012. Since then, Nordic countrieswhich consists of Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland and Finland, as well as the Faroe Islands, Aland, and Greenlandusually land at the top of the list.

Finland ranked first for two consecutive years in 2018 and 2019. Norway was No. 1 in 2017, while Denmark topped the list in 2013 and 2016. Switzerland clinched the top rank in 2015.

Finland topped the World Happiness Report in 2019

The reason why Nordic nations rank high is due to the benefits that they have, such as free education and health care. These countries also have lower crime rates and have good social security nets at that.

Fundamentally, the people living in these nations prioritize balance, which Sachs describes to be the formula for happiness.

Here are 3 secrets on how Nordic nations balance their lives:

They work fewer hours

Denmark’s full-time workweek is generally 37 hours, distributed over five days. Moreover, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics,  the typical American workweek is 44 weekly or 8.8 hours daily.

In terms of their attitude toward longer hours of work, Danes are different compared to Americans. For many Americans, working late is a good way to make headway in your career, people in Denmark find it as a weakness, since it proves that you cannot finish your tasks in the allotted working hours, Kay Xander Mellish, author of “How to Work In Denmark,” told CNBC Make It. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark said that most Danes leave work at around 4 p.m.

Danes typically end their work day at 4pm

In order to be efficient at work, Danes solely focus on getting things done quickly, which means they do not socialize at work or even take breaks to run errands. 

They also exercise flexible working arrangements. In Finland, employees may even change their workday three hours earlier or later than the regular hours assigned by their employers.

They are guaranteed to have five weeks of paid vacation

In Denmark, regardless of a person’s position or nature of work, full-time employees have five weeks of vacation time guaranteed.

People from Denmark and Sweden make sure to take advantage of their time off to enjoy their vacation time. In Finland, a lot of them spend their summers in “mokki” or cottages, where they unwind and relax with their families and friends.

Full-time employees in Denmark have at least 5 weeks of guaranteed vacation

They can go on a “stress leave”

Mellish said that people go on “stress leave” when things at work become hectic, and the burnout affects their mental health. 

In Denmark, there is a system that enables businesses to easily hire and fire employees called “flexicurity.” Generally, flexicurity is a welfare state model that enhances flexibility and security and guarantees active labor market policy. This system protects individuals rather than jobs as the government ensures to provide security to its people. 

Under this model, employees pay an average of $62.54 monthly to an unemployment insurance fund. If they meet the requirements, they can get up to two years of their salary once they lose their jobs. In order to assist people to get back to work, the government even provides counseling and education.

In this case, Nordic countries put the spotlight on freedom. Having the freedom to find and have the job that they truly love doing elicit happiness.

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