Vietnam has surpassed Bhutan to become the fifth happiest country in the world and ranks the second position in Asia-Pacific, Russian newspaper Sputnik reported.

The given information is based on the recently released data by the New Economics Foundation (NEF), U.K.

According to the NEF, the country with the highest Happy Planet Index (HPI) is Costa Rica (44.7), which ranks number one among 140 countries and territories. Countries in the top five are Mexico (40.7), Columbia (40.7), Vanuatu (40.6), and Vietnam (40.3).

Little girls from flower H’Mong ethnic group in Sapa town, Lao Cai province. Photo: My Vietnam Now.

Bhutan, the renowned Himalaya country that is considered as “the happiest kingdom in the world” with several million people living in peace and tranquility, beautiful natural scenery at the foot of the “world roof”, according to the NEF’s index, is only ranked 56th in the world and 13th in the Asia-Pacific region.

“Vietnam ranks fifth in the Happy Planet Index results, and second in the Asia Pacific region,” the affirmed. 

According to the website, this South-East Asian country, characterized by its mountains and tropical forests, has a strikingly low Ecological Footprint and economic output per head almost 24 times smaller than nearby Hong Kong.

Kids from black H’Mong ethnic group in Sapa town, Lao Cai province. Photo: S Vietnam.

Vietnam is one of just three countries in the top ten Happy Planet Index rankings with an Ecological Footprint that is small enough to be considered environmentally sustainable.

So, what’s working well in Vietnam?

While wellbeing in Vietnam is more modest than in other countries in the top ten HPI rankings, its average wellbeing score is still higher than Hong Kong’s – despite the Vietnamese economy being significantly smaller and Vietnam’s Ecological Footprint being less than a fifth of the size of Hong Kong’s.

Vietnam has an impressive average life expectancy. Both Vietnam and Gambia have similar sized economies with similar levels of GDP per capita, yet on average, people from Vietnam live more than 17 years longer.

Kids of Dao ethnic group outside their homes in Bac Ha province. Photo: Thuy Dung

Vietnam’s inequality of outcomes rating, which measures inequality in wellbeing and life expectancy scores within the country, is better than that of HPI number 1 Costa Rica – a likely testament to Vietnam’s robust public service provision. School enrollment is among the highest in the world at 98% in 2012, and the number of colleges and universities continues to grow rapidly.

Vietnam is on a steep development trajectory. The country has been hailed as a global poster child for poverty reduction – the number of people living in poverty fell from 58% in 1993 to 10.7% in 2010.

Ecological Footprint is a new scientific terminology that was used by scientists William E. Rees and Mathis Wackernagel of the University of British Columbia in the 1990s.

Accordingly, Ecological Footprint accounting measures the demand on and supply of nature.

It measures the ecological assets that a given population or product requires to produce the natural resources it consumes (including plant-based food and fiber products, livestock and fish products, timber and other forest products, space for urban infrastructure) and to absorb its waste, especially carbon emissions.