BEIRUT: Lebanon ranked 88 out of 156 countries in the U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network’s 2018 World Happiness Report published Wednesday. Finland topped this year’s index, rising from fifth place last year, followed by Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, the Netherlands Canada, New Zealand, Sweden and Australia making up the top 10.
The report ranked the countries according to their scores for things such as GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, social freedom, generosity and absence of corruption. The 2018 report focused heavily on foreign-born migrants, noting that “large-scale international migration has increased greatly in recent years due to globalization.
In 1990 there were in the world 153 million people living outside the country where they were born.
By 2015 this number had risen to 244 million, of whom about 10 percent were refugees.”
As a result, the report, for the first time since its inception in 2012, also ranked the happiness of foreign-born migrants. Of these, Lebanon ranked 69 on the happiness index, while neighboring Syria came in last.
One chapter of the study was devoted to analyzing the links between happiness and migration, finding a number of notable trends.
For instance, it was noted that the happiness of migrants and local populations was closely connected.
“The most striking finding of the report is the remarkable consistency between the happiness of immigrants and the locally born,” said John Helliwell, a professor emeritus of economics at the University of British Columbia and one of the report’s co-editors.
“Although immigrants come from countries with very different levels of happiness, their reported life evaluations converge towards those of other residents in their new countries,” he said.
“Those who move to happier countries gain, while those who move to less happy countries lose.”
The study reported that migrants’ happiness depended heavily on the happiness of the locals in the destination country, as well as the happiness of the inhabitants of the country from which they emigrated.
One of the other impacts upon the happiness of migrants was the disposition of the local community toward immigrants.
Allison Finn, a case manager at Lebanon’s Migrant Community Center, an affiliate of local NGO Anti-Racism Movement, told The Daily Star that some parts of the migrant community faced considerable hostility in Lebanon.
“Migrant workers and migrant domestic workers face an incredible amount of discrimination in Lebanon,” Finn told The Daily Star.
Finn also drew attention to the limited applicability to Lebanon of the study’s finding that it is better for both migrant and host communities if immigrants “find and accept opportunities to connect with the local populations.”
She noted that this is impossible for many migrant domestic workers, as “many employers confine migrant domestic workers to their homes, in violation of international labor standards. Many migrant domestic workers are physically prevented from leaving the house or only allowed to leave once a week or only on certain errands, so many are physically confined and not permitted to mingle with anybody except for the family that they’re working for, if they’re working in that kind of situation.”
The study, which did not specifically survey refugee communities, noted that “moderate levels of immigration cause fewer problems than rapid surges.”
Lebanon has undoubtedly seen a marked increase in migration from overseas. According to statistics from the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Lebanon experienced an increase of over 1 million migrants between 2010 and 2017. The figure does not distinguish between refugees and migrants. The country’s migrant population in 2017 made up 31.9 percent of the total population.