According to the Happy Planet Index (HPI) as announced by UK-headquartered New Economics Foundation (NEF), the country, which is home to an array of mountains and tropical forests, has a strikingly low Ecological Footprint and economic output per head, almost 24 times smaller than that of Hong Kong (China). Indeed, it is one of just three countries to mark the top 10 of the Happy Planet Index rankings with an Ecological Footprint that is small enough to be considered environmentally sustainable.
The report also notes that, “While wellbeing in Vietnam is more modest than in other countries in the top 10 HPI rankings, its average wellbeing score is still higher than Hong Kong’s – despite the Vietnamese economy being significantly smaller and Vietnam’s Ecological Footprint being less than a fifth of the size of Hong Kong’s.”
“Vietnam has an impressive average life expectancy. Both Vietnam and the Gambia have similar sized economies with similar levels of GDP per capita, yet on average, people from Vietnam live more than 17 years longer.”
Vietnam’s inequality of outcomes rating, which measures inequality in wellbeing and life expectancy scores within the country, is better than that of HPI’s first-placed country Costa Rica – a likely testament to Vietnam’s robust public service provision. School enrolment is among the highest in the world at 98% in 2012, and the number of colleges and universities continues to grow rapidly.
Vietnam is on a steep development trajectory. The country has been hailed as a global poster child for poverty reduction – the number of people living in poverty fell from 58% in 1993 to 10.7% in 2010,” the report outlines.
Costa Rica tops the overall list with 44.7 points. Making up the rest of the top five are Mexico with 40.7 points, Colombia with 40.7 points, Vanuatu with 40.6 points, followed with the nation fifth on 40.3 points.
Other Southeast Asian countries also have high places in the rankings, including the Philippines at 14th, Indonesia in 16th, Laos at 19th, Malaysia at 33rd, Myanmar in 39th, Thailand at 41st, Singapore in 49th, and Cambodia at 80th.
Typically, wealthy countries have modest places in the rankings, such as Italy in 69th, France in 71st, the UK in 74th, Japan in 75th, Canada in 89th, Australia in 102nd, with the United States languishing down in 108th.
At the bottom of the list is Chad at 140th, with an HPI of 12.8.
The HPI aims to measure what matters, namely sustainable wellbeing for all. It therefore informs readers about how well nations are doing in achieving long, happy, and sustainable lives.