Poles Becoming More Satisfied

A happiness index composed of three components: people’s feelings about their lives, their country’s life expectancy and their country’s use of resources, indicates that Poles are happier than their much wealthier counterparts in the UK.

The London-based New Economics Foundation’s Happy Planet Index shows Poland in 19th place among the 27 EU members and three other countries in the survey. The UK is 21st, Dziennik newspaper reported.     

The life-satisfaction component of the Happy Planet Index is based on the EU’s Eurobarometer survey of residents of member countries. Its results showed that Poles’ optimism is soaring. Seventy-seven percent of the 1,000 Poles interviewed in the Eurobarometer survey said they are satisfied with their lives, compared with 50 percent in 2004. That is only slightly below the EU average of 80 percent.

The Eurobarometer survey was conducted between April 10 and May 15 of this year for the European Commission’s representative in Poland. It involved Poles aged 15 and older. The most content peoples in the EU are the Danes, Swedes and Dutch, with a whopping 97 percent satisfaction rating. Low ratings included Romania’s 53 percent, Hungary’s 51 and Bulgaria’s 36.

The number of Poles who expect positive changes in their lives has also risen significantly from 32 percent in the autumn of 2006 to 40 percent today. The 40 percent figure matched the EU average. The percentage of Poles who believe their household financial situation will improve in the next 12 months has also jumped. Thirty-three percent expect an improvement. A year ago the figure was 24 percent. More than half of Poles, 53 percent, do not expect any change in their financial situation, however. Poles thus beat the EU’s 27 percent average for optimism about household finances.

The percentage of Poles who consider the over-all economy good has risen from 33 percent last year to 45 percent. And the proportion who expect it to improve in the next 12 months has climbed from 18 percent to 33 percent. Despite a slight increase in optimism since last year, Poles trust in the government and parliament is among the lowest in the EU. Eighteen percent trust the government and 15 percent parliament. Trust in government is slightly higher in Romania, 19 percent; Lithuania, 20 percent, and Bulgaria, 22 percent. Trust in parliament is slightly lower than Bulgaria’s 14 percent and at the same level as Lithuania’s 15 percent.

Ninety-seven percent of Poles said they feel attached to their country. Attachment to their city, town or village also was strong at 93 percent. Poles’ feelings of attachment have always been higher than 90 percent in all previous surveys. The proportion of Poles who feel attached to the EU is much lower at 65 percent, but that is still the second-highest figure in the EU. Only the Belgians score higher, with a figure of 66 percent. The lowest figures for attachment to the EU are in Finland, 30 percent; The Netherlands, 32 percent; Cyprus, 32 percent; and the UK, 34 percent.

The number of Poles who think EU membership is a good thing has increased substantially to 67 percent since the country joined the union in May 2004. Just before the country joined, only 42 percent thought it a good idea. The average EU-wide satisfaction figure is 57 percent. The percentage of Poles who believe the country has benefited from EU membership is on the rise as well. Only 50 percent thought so in the spring of 2004. The figure has jumped to 78 percent. The EU-wide average is 59 percent. Sixty-eight percent of citizens of new-member countries believe their countries have benefited from EU membership versus 57 percent of citizens of old-member countries.

Sixty-three percent of Poles think their country’s economy is more stable because it is a member of the EU.  Poles’ trust in the EU as an institution has grown along with their feelings that the union is helping their country economically. Just before Poland joined, 33 percent of Poles said they trusted the EU. Half a year later the figure had reached 50 percent. Now it is 68 percent. Only 18 percent of Poles express distrust in the EU. EU-wide trust in the institution is at 57 percent. The 12 new member countries have a higher trust rating than the 15 old ones, 65 percent versus 55 percent.

The New Economics Foundation melded the Eurobarometer results with life expectancy figures and evidence of a country’s efficient use of resources. It considered efficient use of resources an indication that a country’s residents were healthier and thus happier. The foundation says it is trying to improve the quality of life by promoting innovative solutions to economic, environmental and social problems. The Happy Planet Index is a way to get people to think about the foundation’s objectives. To measure a country’s efficient use of resources, the foundation looked at the amount of resources a nation used to support the lifestyles of its citizens, basically that country’s carbon footprint.

The Happy Planet Index covered all 27 EU members and three of the four members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). Liechtenstein, with a population of less than 40,000, was not included. Combining well-being, as measured by the satisfaction survey and life expectancy, and a carbon-footprint measurement gave the New Economics Foundation a picture of relative carbon efficiency across Europe.

The UK came in a poor 21st in the Happy Planet Index of 30 countries, behind France and Germany, with only the transition countries of Portugal, Greece and Luxembourg doing worse. Even Poland and Romania were ahead of the UK. Iceland topped the index with a 72 percent score. Scandinavian countries were the most resource-efficient, giving them high marks as well. Sweden had a 63 percent score and Norway 56 percent. Poland’s score was 46 percent, better than the marks of the Czechs and Hungarians. Transition nations like as Estonia, Latvia and Bulgaria had scores toward the bottom.

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