Around the world

Finland has been voted happiest country on Earth

Happy emojis
Image: lefym Turkin, iStock

The Happiness Report declared Finland the happiest country on Earth.

Over the past decade, the Nordic countries: Finland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway, have ranked in the top ten.

Finland has been ranked the happiest country for the fifth year in a row.

Finland has strong social safety net

Why the top ranking? Happiness expert and researcher, Frank Martela credited Finland’s social safety net:

Nordic countries tend to be countries where there are [good] unemployment benefits, pensions and other benefits.

Frank Martela as quoted by Hareem Khan, SBS “Why Finland has been voted the happiest country in the world for the fifth year running, 25 October 2022

Finland is often lauded for its education system. In 2018, The World Economic Forum gave the following reasons:

  • There is no standardised testing. There are voluntary tests when a student enters their senior year
  • Egalitarian education that focuses on the basics
  • Students are given more post- high school options. Senior students can study for three years in order to take the Matriculation Test, which gets them ready for University. There are also trade school options.
  • Students start school later, usually between 9 – 9.45am
  • Students often have the same teachers, sometimes for six years.

The Finnish education system seems far superior to the Australian, US and British systems. Maybe we can learn something from them (no pun intended).

The irony: happiest place on Earth… yet melancholic?

Helsinki skyline boat view,Finnish flag ( white background with blue cross
Image: diegograndi, iStock

The irony about Finland being ranked the happiest country on Earth is that Finnish culture is seen as melancholic. In fact, Finns aren’t happy with the label of happiest country in the world.

Compared to the US, Finns don’t make a habit of expressing emotions, either happy or sad.

Finnish ballerina, Minna Tervamäki has described Finns as “content”, rather than happy.

Finland vs US, UK and Australia

From what I can gather, I think there is a contrast in how Finns view happiness than what Australians, Brits and Americans do.

Finns are quite stoic, rather than emotive. They are less likely to outwardly express feelings like sadness and anger.

Similarly, Finns don’t necessarily express happiness outwardly. either. They don’t smile at strangers, like someone in Australia or the US might.

Egalitarianism is more important than endless wealth

Finland is very egalitarian. In contrast, other Western countries are very competition – focused. Also, happiness and well – being does not mean endless toxic positivity. Sometimes melancholy is OK. Some reservation is OK.

‘Happiest country’ means best welfare of citizens

How is the happiness of a country determined? Since 2002, the World Happiness Report has published data and ranks 149 countries by comparing them to a fictional Dystopia.

There are six performance categories that are measured:

  • Gross domestic oroduct (GDP) per capita
  • Social support
  • Health
  • The citizens’ freedom to make personal choices
  • Generosity and
  • Perceptions of internal and external corruption

‘Happiness’ is determined by the overall welfare of its citizens. It’s not based on the West’s idea of what ‘happiness’ is.

Do you believe that Finland is the happiest country on Earth? Feel free to leave any opinions or insights in the comments below.

Barnaby Joyce calls for raise in Newstart in a bad way

Centrelink/ Medicare building
Image: iStock

Former Nationals leader, Barnaby Joyce has become more “sympathetic” to those on Newstart. He “knows what it’s like to struggle”.

He is now calling for the Coalition to raise Newstart.

Prime Minister, Scott Morrison has rejected the idea.

The kicker? He currently gets over A$211,000 salary per year.  His ‘struggles’ that he has are nowhere near those on Newstart.


It’s good that Joyce has had a change of heart over Newstart (six years too late, but still). But cry me a river. Joyce made his bed, now he has to sleep in it! It’s insulting to those struggling to survive on Newstart to have Joyce compare them to himself on over A$211,000.

Current Newstart rates

According to the Department of Human Services website, single people on Newstart get A$511.70 a fortnight.

Other recipients and the eligible  andidates and amounts are:

  • Single parents with one or mor dependent child: A$601.10
  • With partner (also receiving Newstart): A$501.70 per person
  • Single 60+ who has been unemployed who has for nine months: A$601.10
  • Principal carer of a foster child, looking after a child granted by the court, has large family, has children who are homeschooled or receiving distance education: A$776.10


The amounts hasn’t changed since 1994.Newstart hasn’t kept up with inflation or to reflect cost of living.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has admitted it was “modest“.


The irony of Newstart rate

A number of politicians argue that Newstart is only meant to be a temporary safety net between jobs.

The tragic irony is they’ve made the Newstart payment so low that many recipients can barely afford to live, let alone pay for transport, clothing for work, or fees for further training. Surely this defeats the purpose, unless locking people in poverty is the goal.

Joyce’s ‘struggles’ vs the struggles of someone on Newstart

Over the past few days, media outlets have been awash with reports and opinion pieces on realities of living on Newstart.

Mamamia posted an article yesterday by student, Shelley Cheng about trying to survive on Newstart. Unlike Joyce’s choice on whether or not to use a dishwasher, Cheng has had to make really tough choices.

Cheng claimed after rent, bills, transport and a number of medical expenses, she is left with less than A$10 for food and other expenses. did an article suggesting some Newstart actually skip meals in order to make their budget stretch. This is beyond apalling.

The tragic irony of the jobs defense

People who protest a rise in Newstart often give one of two arguments: one, that the Coalition Government can’t afford to raise it. The second argument is that Newstart was, and is only meant to be temporary for those in between jobs. It isn’t meant to be a comfortable alternative to working.

The irony to the second argument is that the government has made Newstart payments so low that many recipients can’t afford to look or prepare for work.


By many accounts, Barnaby Joyce should be praised for his change of heart. Unfortunately, he has turned the debate into a farce due to his narcissism. Hopefully someone else can make a slightly more convincing argument that will win over the government soon.

What do you think about the Newstart? Feel free t9 comment below?

SBS’s ‘The Feed’ brings poverty into the spotlight

The ABC and SBS are often criticised for bias. There have also been new calls for the two Australian government – owned broadcasters to be merged or sold and be pushed into the commercial media landscape.

I do agree that bias is a bit much on the ABC. I used to see it quite often when I used to watch Q and A regularly. And, yes, the SBS has controversial shows on it.  Sometimes, presenters aren’t as respectful as what they could be.

One thing both the ABC and SBS have going for them is that often, they give a voice to those that the commercial mainstream media (and governments) often ignore.

The real face of a ‘dole bludger’

Tara Schultz is on Newstart. She is thirty – one. By her own admission, has never held down full- time work.

Reading that alone may give you an impression that Schultz is a bum. But, if you read the rest of The Feed’s article, you’ll quickly realise that her story is much more complicated.

Schultz’s short life so far has been marred by sexual abuse, poverty, terminal illness, death and mental illness in the family. She cared for her father to the end of his battle with lung cancer. After her father’s death, Schultz looked after his widow, who suffers agoraphobia and post – traumatic stress disorder. She then moved to look after her mother who suffers fromschizophrenia. Her step – mother no longer had a carer due to government funding cuts.

When talking about elections, Schultz said her family finds voting “utterly laughable”.

I won’t go through the whole article. Read through it yourself. It’s heartbreaking.

Indictment of society and Australia’s political system

The article really reflects how broken our political system is. Quite frankly, it’s also a reflection of how broken our society is.

Poverty wasn’t mentioned during the election. The main focus was (as is often the case), on the upper and middle -class.

This election was also about culture wars. The media, especially Newscorp did the Israel Folau’s sacking to death. This became part of a very messy political campaign. It’s ironic that Christianity and religious freedom became hot button issues, yet, the poor were left out of the debate. The Bible contains hundreds of verses advocating for them.

What should be done?

Poverty is complicated, so I won’t be able to provide an adequate answer in one post. Obviously, Newstart should be increased so it can be lived on.

The way the government fails to help the severely mentally ill is appalling. It is a disgrace that Schultz’s mother lost her carer due to funding cuts.

I passionately believe that those with chronic mental illnesses should be able to access the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). If not, there needs to be an equivalent for mental illness sufferers.


The article also shows that welfare isn’t something that should be sneered at. The caricatures of what a welfare recipient looks like is obviously not the reality. There are people and families that need it as a means to survive.

A question to Prime Minister Scott Morrison: what will you do about it? Or should I say: What would Jesus do? (Hint: He wouldn’t give himself an A$11,000 pay rise while allowing penalty rates to be slashed for lower income workers).