Social Climate

What’s behind the PH life-ladder?

/ 09:08 AM April 27, 2019

Using a ladder of satisfaction with life, the 2019 World Happiness Report (WHR) states that 64 countries moved up, 42 countries moved down, and 26 countries stayed put, over the period from 2005-08 to 2016-18. The Philippines is one of those that moved up (“Philippines is 12th in happiness progress,” Opinion, 3/30/19).

WHR2019’s Chapter 2, “Changing World Happiness,” by Professors John F. Helliwell, Haifang Huang and Shun Wang, not only measures country-positions on the life-ladder at different times, but also searches for meaningful explanatory factors, and quantifies their relation to ladder position.


The researchers came up with six factors, which by their statistical analysis explained 74 percent of the variation of life-ladder scores in the global data of 156 countries, each with 9 or 10 observations in the past decade. The six factors are listed below in the order of how much they explain the PH life-ladder score of 5.631 in 2016-18 (third-highest ladder score in Asean, after Singapore and Thailand).

  1. Social support: the proportion of the people that, if in trouble, have (versus do not have) relatives or friends to count on for help whenever needed. Source: Gallup World Poll.

Social support in the Philippines averaged 80 percent in starting period 2006-08, and went to 84 percent in 2016-18 (third in Asean, after Singapore and Vietnam). It has fluctuated between 78 and 85 percent.


Accounting for 1.293 of our ending ladder score of 5.631, it is the most important explanatory factor for the Philippines.

  1. Gross Domestic Product per capita: in international dollars of 2011 purchasing power parity, in natural log units. Source: World Bank.

GDP per capita averaged 8.545 in 2006-08, and 8.936 in 2016-18 (fifth in Asean). It rose steadily each year, except once (in 2008-09 it fell by 0.004, i.e. about 0.4 percent in original money units). It explains 0.807 of the ending PH score.

  1. Healthy life expectancy at birth: in years. Source: World Health Organization.

On average, it was 60.0 years in the starting period, and 61.8 years in the ending period (a mediocre sixth in Asean), rising very steadily by 0.2 annually up to 2016, and by 0.1 annually in 2017-18. It explains 0.657 of the ending PH score.

  1. Freedom to make life choices: the proportion of the people satisfied (versus dissatisfied) with feeling free to choose what to do with their lives. Source: Gallup World Poll.

This averaged 85 percent in 2005-08, and 92 percent in 2016-18 (a good second in Asean, after Cambodia). It explains 0.558 of the ending PH score.

  1. Generosity: the proportion of people that donated money to a charity in the past month, less the proportion normally expected for a country with its GDP per capita. Source of original data: Gallup World Poll.

This averaged 3.7 percent in the starting period, and -11.3 percent in the ending period (worst in Asean), i.e. Filipinos donating to charity were above normal at the start, but went below normal, or unfavorable to the life-ladder, at the end. The ending state of generosity explains 0.117 of the ending PH score.

  1. Perceptions of corruption: the proportion of people perceiving that corruption is (versus is not) widespread in business and government. Source: Gallup World Poll.

This averaged 85 percent in the starting period, and 74 percent in the ending period (fourth in Asean), i.e. it was more favorable to the life-ladder at the end. It explains 0.107 of the ending PH score.

The total amount of the 5.631 PH score explained by the six factors is a very decent 3.539. The 2.1 residual is just above the estimated 1.9 ladder score of “Dystopia,” an imaginary country in the worst situation along every explanatory factor.


Contact [email protected]

Read Next
Don't miss out on the latest news and information.
View comments

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.

TAGS: Asean, life-ladder, Mahar Mangahas, Philippines, Social Climate, WHR, World Happiness Report
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.

© Copyright 1997-2020 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.