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Social Climate

Serve others, be happy

/ 10:51 PM August 31, 2012

Despite his great worth as a man for others, Jesse Robredo was only moderately popular with the voters, relative to other national leaders. His survey ratings (if he even noticed them) were not enough to favor him to win a Senate seat in 2013.  But clearly, he expected no other reward than being happy to serve others.

Now the call is for everyone to be a Robredo. How many Filipinos are capable of heeding it? I am optimistic that the potential number is large, based on some data about Filipino altruism, recorded in the World Values Survey (WVS) of 2001.

Altruism in the Philippines, 2001. The WVS-2001 had a battery of questions as to how important were several matters in the lives of the respondents.  Of seven matters tested, the three with the highest percentages calling it Very Important in their lives were “family” (99), “work” (94) and “religion” (87).


In the middle of the seven matters was “serving others,” which 57 percent of Filipino adults called Very Important. Such Filipinos are altruists. There is no doubt that Jesse Robredo was one of them.

The three other matters in the battery, with lower percentages calling them Very Important, were “friends” (37), “politics” (22), and “leisure time” (15).

Aside from the 57 percent altruistic, another 37 percent called serving others  Rather Important, and 6 percent called it Not Very or Not At All Important, in their lives.

Filipino altruism is similar across age, sex, social class, and geographic area groups.  I notice, though, that Muslim Filipinos are more altruistic (71 percent) than Christian Filipinos, Catholic or otherwise.

Happiness in the Philippines, 2001. WVS-2001 also found 38 percent of Filipino adults feeling Very Happy, 49 percent Rather Happy, 11.7 percent Not Very Happy, and 0.6 percent Not At All Happy.

One of every four (26 percent) was altruistic and very happy at the same time.  That’s not a few potential Robredos, since there are now over 50 million adult Filipinos.

Another tabulation shows altruistic Filipinos as 67 percent of the Very Happy, 52 percent of the Rather Happy, and 48 percent of the Not Happy (i.e., Not Very or Not At All).  That’s enough to convince me that altruism is generally helpful to happiness among Filipinos.

Altruism and happiness in the world. WVS-2001 had 37 countries that surveyed the importance, in one’s life, of serving others.  These were (with the percentage of altruists): Puerto Rico 78, Morocco 72, Venezuela 68, Jordan 67, Mexico 64, Iran 62, Zimbabwe 62, Nigeria 62, Egypt 62, Tanzania 59, Philippines 57, Argentina 57, Chile 53, United States 51, Peru 49, South Africa 49, Uganda 48, Bangladesh 47, India 47, Algeria 45, Canada 42, Saudi Arabia 41, Sweden 37, Indonesia 36, Pakistan 33, Moldova 32, Spain 30, Serbia-Montenegro 26, Kyrgyzstan 25, Albania 20, Bosnia-Herzegovina 18, Vietnam 16, China 16, Singapore 16, Macedonia 14, Republic of Korea 11, and Japan 9.


The average for the 37 countries is 45 percent. It is good to see altruism in the Philippines as well above average, ranking 11th. Note that Christian and Islamic cultures have no relative advantage in altruism.

In WVS-2001, very many countries surveyed happiness, but I show here (with the percentage Very Happy) only the 37 that also surveyed altruism: Nigeria 67, Venezuela 57, Tanzania 57, Mexico 57, Puerto Rico 54, Vietnam 49, Canada 44, Saudi Arabia 44, United States 39, Philippines 38, South Africa 38, Sweden 37, Chile 36, Argentina 33, Peru 31, Japan 29, Singapore 29, Morocco 26, Uganda 26, India 26, Iran 25, Bosnia-Herzegovina 22, Indonesia 21, Pakistan 20, Spain 20, Kyrgyzstan 20, Zimbabwe 20, Macedonia 19, Egypt 18, Algeria 17, Bangladesh 15, Jordan 13, China 12, Serbia-Montenegro 11, Albania 10, Republic of Korea 10, and Moldova 6.

The WVS average for all countries (including others not listed above) is 26 percent. The Philippines is 10th among the 37, about the same rank in terms of altruism, which fits my altruism-happiness hypothesis. But the world rankings change a lot—note that Japan is 16th in happiness but 37th in altruism, whereas Jordan is 32nd in happiness but fourth in altruism.

Happiness in the Philippines, 2012. SWS just did a new WVS, which again includes happiness.  It finds 49.6 percent of Filipino adults Very Happy, 39.8 percent Rather Happy, 9.6 percent Not Very Happy, and 1.1 percent Not At All Happy. Yes, happiness is better now in 2012 than it was in 2001. We know, from over 20 SWS surveys since 1991, that happiness fluctuates over time.

Unfortunately, the WVS-2012 questionnaire (done by the WVS secretariat) excluded the importance of serving others.  Sayang.  We’ll remedy this by including altruism and happiness together in a future SWS survey.

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The Philippine WVS-2012 was funded partly by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA), a Stockholm-based intergovernmental association that supports democratic reforms worldwide, and partly by SWS itself.  With over 250 questions, excluding demographics, a WVS is very costly, and too full for extra “riders.”

The three WVS rounds in the Philippines were on April 18-24, 2012,  July 9-27, 2001, and March 30-April 25, 1996, with separate national samples of 1,200 adults.  The 2001 and 1996 rounds are open for public research at the SWS Survey Data Library, as well as at, a joint site of the World Values Survey and the European Values Survey.

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Contact SWS: or I thank Josefina Mar of SWS for special tabulations.

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TAGS: Filipino altruism, jesse robredo, Mahar Mangahas
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