WSA Happiness Survey: 4 Years On, What's New?

Four years is a long time in the growth of the UAE, where changes cannot be measured in the same way as they can elsewhere. Since winning the expo this is a country on the verge of true transformation....
WSA Happiness Survey: 4 Years On, What's New?
By David Westley
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There are lots of positives in the 2018 Happiness survey, and an almost equal amount that represents, to put a positive spin on it, opportunity.

In the build up to the long awaited Expo 2020, the UAE is in a period of transition, where there is both gain, and its unfortunate corollary, pain.

The UAE has effectively been transitioning into a mature, and rather rich, country over the last five decades, but it is a process that has accelerated in the last four years.

Today, in 2018, many of the infrastructure projects for the emirate's big, transformational play, Dubai Expo 2020, are on the precipice of being delivered.

A new dawn is imminent, but getting through that last mile, or last few hours means first digging in and drawing in energy and resources from everything around it. VAT, commercial and consumer charges, new systems to make a new world easier to manage are all feeding a tomorrow only now beginning to benefit the world with its first, warming light.

Our survey perhaps unsurprisingly therefore reveals a UAE more businesslike, brisk and serious than it was when we first undertook the WSA Happiness Survey in 2014/15. Then, barely one year on from winning the Expo bid, the country still based in that initial expo glow. New projects were being announced, master plans made, and, with an oil price hovering above $100 USD, expectations that investment in these massive infrastructure projects could be delivered on the back of the country's bounteous hydrocarbons.

As we all know that rather fortuitous fiscal position did not hold, and in 2018, we - individuals, businesses, and the government itself - find ourselves far more focused on balance sheets and cash flow than ever before.

As a nation however we rolled up our sleeves and got on with it - remaining overwhelmingly positive and happy delivering project after project, and building businesses and lives in the UAE. In the WSA 2018 Happiness Survey 80.5% of respondents described themselves as either happy, or very happy. Put another way, more than 4 out of every 5 people you ask would say they were happy - or very happy, with their life.

While impressive it is important to note that, since 2014, there has been just shy of a 4 percentage point drop, when 84.2% said they were either happy or very happy.

Given the transition the UAE is going we argue that the four point drop shows, in actuality, a certain resilience, in part built from a mindfulness that happiness matters.

Two years after our first Happiness survey the UAE announced a Happiness Minister*, and brought its pursuit into the government fold**.

At the time the move raised eyebrows, but we think it was inspired. In a country with very low barriers to exit for residents, happiness really matters.

As we wrote at the time of our first survey:

"Happiness is important to a country like the UAE where for the most part the social contract is very real, and which is looking to both attract and retain foreign workers to help it to build its economy of tomorrow… If the UAE is delivering, why leave..?"

While it is perhaps utopian to expect everyone to be, all the time, a country that is aiming to be the happiest in the world can certainly try. As with our 2014 this survey, we hope help in shining a light on the who, why, and how of Happiness...


Happiness 2018 - Four years on, are we still as happy?
Happiness 2018, The Infographic - Key Stats
Happiness 2018: How and Why We Did This Survey
Happiness 2018: What You Choose the UAE
Happiness 2018: Who are the Happiest People in the UAE
Happiness 2018: Property Matters
Happiness 2018: Expo 2020 and Happiness
Happiness 2018: Growing up in the UAE
Happiness 2018: The Changing Face of Expats
Happiness 2018: In Search of the Dolce Vita
Happiness 2018: How the UAE is Switzerland


*In February 2016, the UAE Government created the post of Minister of State for Happiness and appointed H. E. Sheikha Ohood bint Khalfan Al Roumi as the Minister. Her main responsibility was to harmonise all government plans, programmes and policies to achieve a happier society.

**Under the pillar of Cohesive Society and Preserved Identity of National Agenda, the UAE Government aims to make the country amongst the top five happiest countries in the world by 2021.

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