Social Climate

Well-being in Southeast Asia

/ 05:14 AM August 26, 2017

The History of Well-Being in Southeast Asia,” written by myself and Edilberto C. de Jesus, is a chapter in the massive new book “The Pursuit of Human Well-Being: The Untold Global History,” edited by R. J. Estes and M. J. Sirgy and published by Springer. Below are latest values for major indicators in the chapter.

The Global Peace Index of the Institute for Economics and Peace. This measures how much at peace a country is with itself and other countries, on a scale of 1 to 5, of lack of peacefulness. The average score in Southeast Asia (SEA) is 2.0, as of 2014.


The two least peaceful countries in SEA are Myanmar and the Philippines, both at about 2.5, followed by Thailand (2.4) and Cambodia (2.2). The SEA average is 2.0. All others are more peaceful, especially Singapore (slightly over 1.5) and Malaysia (just below 1.7). In between, starting from the most peaceful, are Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia and Timor Leste.

The Democracy Index of the Economist Intelligence Unit. This is scaled between 0 and 10, from less democratic to more democratic. As of 2012, the average score in SEA is slightly over 5.0.


The most democratic country is Timor Leste, at about 7.0, followed by Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines (just over 6.0), and Singapore (just below 6.0). Cambodia is at 5.0. Much less democratic countries, scoring between 3.0 and 2.0, are Vietnam, Myanmar and Laos.

The Corruption Perceptions Index of Transparency International. This is scaled from 0 or totally corrupt to 100 or noncorrupt. As of 2013, the average score for nine SEA countries is 37.

The least corrupt country is Singapore (about 85), with Malaysia (50) a distant second. The Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia are all below average, in the 30s. Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia are worse, in the 20s.

The Human Development Index of the United Nations Development Program. This index, scaled from 0 to 1, combines life expectancy, education, and income per capita. The latest world average, for reference year 2015, is .72.

The SEA countries above the world average are Singapore (.92), Brunei (.86), Malaysia (.79), and Thailand (.74). Then come Indonesia (.69), Vietnam (.68), the Philippines (.68), Timor Leste (.60), Laos (.59), Cambodia (.56), and Myanmar (.56).

The Global Gender Gap Index of the World Economic Forum. This is scaled from 0 to 1, according to equality between genders. Gender equality is the one dimension for which the Philippines (.78) tops SEA, as of 2014. Next come Singapore, Thailand and Laos (all .70), Vietnam (.69), Brunei and Indonesia (both .67), and Cambodia and Malaysia (both .65).

Subjective health and happiness in the World Values Survey (WVS). The percentage of Southeast Asians rating their health as either “good” or “very good,” as of 2014, is 87 in Malaysia, 82 in Singapore, 77 in Thailand, 76 in Indonesia, 59 in Vietnam, and 56 in the Philippines.


The percentage feeling “very happy” and “quite happy” is 98 in Singapore, 97 in Malaysia, 94 in Indonesia, 93 in Vietnam, 92 in Thailand, and 90 in the Philippines. The reference year for the three countries ahead of the Philippines is 2009. Countries not mentioned did not have a WVS.

The Cantril ladder of the Gallup World Poll. Consider a ladder where ground level or 0 is the worst possible life, and the tenth step or 10 is the best possible life, that one can imagine. As of 2010/12, the average step positions in SEA are Singapore (6.5), Thailand (6.4), Malaysia (5.8), Vietnam (5.5), Indonesia (5.3), the Philippines (5.0), Laos (4.8), Myanmar (4.4), and Cambodia (4.1)

The figures show the Philippines as a middling country, in a region of middling well-being.

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