Mette Ekeroth, deputy head of mission, Embassy of Denmark in India, shares the simple elements that ensure a happy country and happy people.
While organisations across the globe try to keep their workforce happy and engaged, The Happiness Conclave 2.0, held in Mumbai on March 24, had Mette Ekeroth, deputy head of mission, Embassy of Denmark in India, shared with the audience the secret to what makes Denmark one of the happiest countries of the world.
As it turns out, there is no chemical formula to ensure happiness in a country or a company, but the simplest things in life, if learnt and imbibed well as a cultural element, add to making people happy—be it in their motherlands or their organisations. Yet, the whole discussion around happiness has lately attracted a lot of attention of bureaucrats and corporate leaders across the globe.
Ekeroth says, “The subject of happiness has risen high up the international agenda in recent years.” The UN has adopted a resolution calling for all countries to increase the happiness of their people. Consequently, world leaders are trying to explore why some societies are happier than the others, as they seek to create the best possible conditions for happy citizens.
“The subject of happiness has risen high up the international agenda in recent years.”
At the Conclave, Ekeroth unveiled the secret ingredients that have put Denmark as one of the happiest countries in the World Happiness Report for so many consecutive years since it was first released in 2012. The simple elements that ensure a happy country and happy people in Denmark are:
Trust: One of the main reasons that Denmark does so well in international happiness surveys is the high level of trust. Ekeroth shares, “Danes trust each other and the legal and political system, which makes life a little bit easier.” She also shares examples to explain the high level of trust people display, as she says, “Self-service fruit and vegetable stands are common in rural Denmark as Danes trust each other to pay for what they take.” Similarly, she shares that the level of trust is so high that Danes leave their babies in strollers outside shops and cafes in the fresh air, while shopping or taking a break. Danes’ trust in their legal political system also adds to their personal sense of security, and in turn, mental peace and happiness.
Social security: The social welfare system in Denmark is so strong that the people who are less well off in Denmark are significantly happier than those in other wealthy countries. “The Danish Welfare State reduces uncertainty and social and economic concerns among the population,” says Ekeroth as she discloses that the unemployed or the disadvantaged members of society in Denmark, receive monthly social benefits. In addition, students receive study grants from the government, and the universities are tuition free. From illness, to unemployment to poverty, the welfare system takes care of its people, eliminating any chances of extreme unhappiness.
Work: When Danes talk of work life, flexibility is the keyword. A large number of people are able to plan their work in order to accommodate family life, enabling them to pursue a career as well as a fulfilling family life. Ekeroth explains, “Social relations, identity and meaning are among the benefits of work—in addition to wages. Therefore, work is important for happiness.” She also shares that Danish workplaces are generally characterised by high levels of autonomy and job quality. According to a research, 94 per cent of Danish employees are satisfied with the conditions at work.
Work–life balance: This balance is of utmost importance in ensuring overall happiness for any individual. “The Danes have time for a family life and leisure alongside their careers and enjoy high levels of flexibility at work,” Ekeroth revealed. She also shared that the Danes enjoy 52 weeks of paid parental leave and, on an average work only 29 hours a week. This makes them be part of those people in the world who on an average put in the fewest working hours a week. Danes get to spend about 15.9 hours for leisure and personal care.
Civil Society: Last but not the least, Denmark is one of the countries with the greatest level of social cohesion in the world. Ekeroth explains the reason behind this as ‘the high degree of participation in voluntary work. “Both voluntary work and social relations are important for happiness,” she opines. Sharing an example, she says that during the summer, Danes love to spend their time outside as the green spaces of Copenhagen are used for both leisure and work.
Furthermore, in response to one of the questions from the audience, Ekeroth shares that Denmark enjoys inclusive governance as the Danish Parliament has the highest number of women, and hence, half of the population is represented among the decision makers.
Responding to another interesting question from the audience, about the correlation between GDP and happiness, Ekeroth said that in the case of Denmark, wealth is not the full story. She beautifully concludes, “It is the protection against poverty more than wealth accumulation or creation in itself that allows us to be happy. And hence, you could say, more carefree.”
(Sodexo, Art of Living Corporate Programs, XLRI, NHRDN Pune, NHRDN Mumbai, XoxoDay and Kommune are partners for The Happiness Conclave).