Uhoud Khalfan Al Roumi, the UAE’s Minister of State for Happiness, says residents will be surveyed as part of the happiness initiative. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: The UAE is interested in learning about what makes you happy.

Mothers, students, labourers, employees and all segments of society will be surveyed to find out what makes them happy, starting this year, Minister of Sate for Happiness Uhoud Khalfan Al Roumi said on Wednesday.

The survey will be customised for each segment of people to learn about what makes them happy, and help create policies and programmes that fulfil the objective of the country of having a happy society.

During a press conference held at the Prime Minister’s office in Dubai on Wednesday, Al Roumi also said both expatriates and nationals would be targeted in the surveys and programmes she plans to launch with the help of both public and private sectors.

“Measuring happiness is one of our most important objectives. We want to know what makes a stay-at-home mother happy, what makes students happy and what makes employees, labourers and elderly happy. We want to reach all segments of society and ask them what affects their happiness.”

Al Roumi said the survey is currently in the design process because while there are international surveys available, she wants to have a customised survey for the UAE. She expects the survey to be ready this year.

“My job as the UAE Minister of Happiness is to make sure all programmes and policies adopted by the government are in harmony with the concept of happiness that the UAE wants to adopt. If we look at the federal government, we have 90,000 employees and a budget of Dh48.5 billion, this is the budget we have for happiness,” she said.

His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, announced earlier this month that all government bodies will appoint a Happiness Chief Executive Officer and federal ministries will have a happiness and positivity council.

Al Roumi said the newly appointed officers will be trained on how to measure happiness and implement programmes that promote happiness in their respective departments.

The private sector will also be encouraged to contribute to creating programmes and taking part in surveys that measure and achieve happiness.

“Our role is also to encourage private sector to join the drive towards happiness. This is very important because it contributes to a big part of our economy and if happiness is fulfilled in the private sector, it will not only improve our reputation and our competitiveness but also the services provided to both residents and tourists,” she said.

Al Roumi emphasised the importance of having happy employees, stating that studies prove that happiness in the workplace means more productivity.

“Studies found that employees who are happy are 80 per cent focused on their work, while unhappy employees are only 40 per cent focused on their work. This means that companies with unhappy employees lose 100 days of work a year.”

Al Roumi said happiness has become so important that seven Ivy League universities teach happiness and Harvard has 29 professors who teach happiness. Besides, there are 78,000 books on Amazon about happiness and there are 58 Tedx videos about happiness with over 100 million views.

Al Roumi also stressed on the importance of raising awareness, based on scientific research, among the public about the beneficial effects positivity and happiness have on their well-being. She said research has found that those who are positive are more likely to live seven-and-a-half more years than those who aren’t.

In addition to positivity, she said national identity and religious beliefs that promote giving and kindness like Islam also lead to happiness.

Bringing happiness to...

Health sector
Minister of State for Happiness Uhoud Khalfan Al Roumi  says: “It is not only about providing treatment to people who are sick. It is about providing them with information that helps them live a healthy life — how to eat healthy and how to exercise.”
“When we talk about the economy, the focus should not be about providing people with jobs only but [also] about the employees having a friendly work environment and a balance between work and their day-to-day life.”
“We should help the people of the UAE learn how to manage their finances in a right way, that’s what will make them lead a happy life financially.”
“Measuring customer satisfaction is not just about providing them with a quick service, it is about providing them with a service in a way that makes them happy.”

UAE happiest

The UAE ranked first in the region and the 28th happiest place to live in, according to the World Happiness Report 2016 issued recently.
Other countries in the Arab region ranked at various levels, with Saudi Arabia at 34, Qatar at 36, Algeria at 38, Kuwait at 41, and Bahrain at 42.
The report, by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and the Earth Institute at Columbia University, ranked 157 countries based on happiness levels using factors such as per capita gross domestic product (GDP) and healthy years of life expectancy.
Denmark topped the list this year as the happiest country in the world, followed by Switzerland in second place and Iceland in third. The remaining top 10 countries consisted of Norway in fourth place, followed by Finland (5), Canada (6), Netherlands (7), New Zealand (8), Australia (9), and Sweden (10).
The bottom 10 were Madagascar, Tanzania, Liberia, Guinea, Rwanda, Benin, Afghanistan, Togo, Syria and Burundi.
“The cause of happiness as a primary goal for public policy continues to make good progress. So far, four national governments — Bhutan, Ecuador, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela — have appointed ministers of happiness responsible for coordinating their national efforts,” stated the report.
The UAE’s ranking did decline from the 20th happiest country in the world in 2015 to 28th this year, however, the report said even though the ranking dropped it is not necessarily because the happiness levels have dropped but because the survey methodology changed.