The World’s Happiest Countries

Jan 24, 2019

By AMA Staff

New research from London’s Cass Business School identifies an important link between the levels of happiness and extraversion found in a national population and the level of commitment employees in that country have toward their employers. Surprisingly, income levels and the strength of a country’s economy were found to have no effect on the level of employees’ job commitment.

Dr. Garry Gelade and co-researchers discovered that job commitment is high in populations with individuals identified as “happy” and “extraverted,” and low in populations where people identify as “less happy” and “neurotic,” and thus more prone to negative tendencies, such as anxiety. The happiness levels of the different populations were defined by published data from previous outside research, in which individuals self-identified along a scale from “very happy” to “not at all happy.”

In their study, the Cass researchers examined national differences in organizational commitment (an employee’s identification with an organization that makes him or her less likely to leave voluntarily) in 49 countries across the globe. They identified the happiest countries as Brazil, Israel, and Mexico. The United States, Canada, and the Scandinavian countries also picked up relatively high scores in the study. Russia and Japan scored as the unhappiest countries.

“We think that in happy countries, people are surrounded by others who are generally positive and enjoy their work,” says Gelade. “This makes employment a pleasant experience, and individuals thus tend to develop positive feelings about their employers.”

Russia, with the lowest score in happiness levels, scored second-lowest in employee commitment. Only Japan scored lower,” Gelade explains. “In generally unhappy countries, the atmosphere at work can become depressing, and employees tend to project these negative feelings onto the companies they work for. In Japan, people act committed; for example, they are rarely absent from work. But this is probably because of peer group and social pressures. They don’t necessarily feel committed to their jobs. The cultural factors that are associated with certain populations—such as the high level of group loyalty in countries like Japan—turned out to have no connection with the overall population’s commitment levels.”

Gelade continues, “Additionally, our research showed that countries with stronger economies don’t necessarily have higher employee commitment, although this is what one might expect. We found that per-capita income is completely unrelated to commitment levels. On the other hand, we did find that countries with low unemployment have slightly higher levels of commitment—probably because in these countries people can choose the kind of job they like.”

“With many corporations operating globally and employing an international workforce, companies have a vested interest in maximizing commitment levels among such a diverse employee base,” says Gelade. This study will have practical implications for companies as they recruit candidates across all levels of an organization…As companies enter new markets, they should not be surprised to find low levels of commitment in some countries. This need not be due to a failure of management. It often will be a consequence of the general levels of happiness, extraversion, and neuroticism in the national workforce.”

For more information about this Cass Business School study, contact Davia Temin or Suzanne Oaks of Temin and Company at 212-588-8788 or news[email protected]

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