Social Climate

A happiness rebound

Between mid-December 2018 and late March 2019, there was a partial rebound in the proportion of adult Filipinos feeling good, according to the quarterly SWS happiness reports (see “Fourth Quarter 2018 Social Weather Survey: Happiness and Satisfaction with Life fall to lowest levels since 2014” and “First Quarter 2019 Social Weather Survey: 44% of Pinoys are ‘Very Happy’ with life; 37% are ‘Very Satisfied’ with life,” www.sws.org.ph, 3/17/19 and 6/3/19 respectively).

The “Very Happy,” which had been down by 18 points from December 2017 to December 2018, bounced up by 5 points to 44 percent in March. The “Very Satisfied,” which was down by 22 points, rebounded by 3 points to 37 percent.


The Very Happy said they felt “talagang masaya” (truly happy) with life as a whole. The Very Satisfied said they were “lubos na nasisiyahan” (fully contented) with it. The descriptions are similar, not identical.

Often, but not always, the two items are asked in the same survey. This serves to check if the distributions of the two types of feelings move in the same direction, which is our main concern as trackers of the quality of life. In fact, they do move in the same direction. It also allows discovery of some (a few) happy people who are nevertheless discontented, and of some who are unhappy yet content; but we leave such complexities to the psychologists.


What happened is separate from why it happened.  From one survey to another, the samples are independent, and so the people interviewed are different. It is clear, from the aggregated data, that general happiness rose between late 2018 and early 2019, but it is impossible to separate those that switched to happy from unhappy, and ask them “why” they changed their minds. As a rule, survey respondents are never asked to justify their answers. There are no “wrong” answers. The interviewers are trained to accept all answers, without question.

The retail price of rice fell significantly from December to March. One thing that can help explain the happiness rebound is the drop in the price of rice.

The average retail price of regular-milled rice rose steadily in the first 10 months of 2018, and by the first week of December was P42.17 a kilo. Then it fell steadily to a final weekly price of P41.81 in December, P41.13 in January, P40.65 in February, and P39.82 in March (https://psa.gov.ph/content/updates-palay-rice-and-corn-prices-0).

The total price drop from December to March, the period between the two SWS surveys, was P42.17 – P39.82 = P2.35, or 5.5 percent of the original P42.17. The price fell further to P38.75 by the third week of May, or 8.1 percent below that of early December.

The falling consumer price of rice is the apparent effect of the recent removal of the age-old control of the National Food Authority over private importation, as long advocated by most Filipino economists, including myself (“Abolish the NFA!”, 9/1/18, and “End the NFA monopoly!”, 4/22/17).

BARMM makes Muslims happy. Another important extraneous circumstance was the inauguration of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), on March 29, 2019, at Cotabato City. There is a clear relation of this event to the happiness and satisfaction with life of Muslim Filipinos in particular.

There was a +5 increase, from December to March, in the national proportion of those Very Happy. By religion, this increase is the average of +3 among Catholics, -4 among Iglesia ni Cristos (INC), +14 among Other Christians, and a very large +28 among Muslims (see the 6/3/19 SWS happiness report).


There was a +3 increase from December to March in the national proportion of those Very Satisfied with Life. This increase was the average of +2 among Catholics, +7 among INC, +2 among Other Christians, and +21 among Muslims.

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