Many of the world’s happiest countries are also the best places for women

The countries that are the happiest also tend to have higher levels of gender equality.

Each year, the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network produces the World Happiness Report, a list that determines which countries in the world are the happiest. In the annual list of the happiest countries in the world, countries like Iceland, Finland, Sweden, Norway, and New Zealand made the cut.

These countries not only have the honour of being dubbed one of the happiest countries on Earth, but according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, they also have the most gender equality.

Since 2018, these countries have ranked high on both reports, modelling how improved gender equality can directly contribute to the nation’s happiness. The UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network reportedly measures a country’s happiness through six factors - social support, income, health, freedom, generosity, and absence of corruption.

Meanwhile, the WEF calculates the gender gaps in different countries by analysing four factors, including economic opportunities, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment. Through their research, they’ve determined social policies, the happiness of families, and women’s career mobility have all been key components to Nordic countries achieving higher gender equality in their respective societies.

Iceland, Sweden, Finland, and Norway have generous paid leave policies that make balancing work and family life a little easier and more flexible for parents. Norwegian parents - both men and women - reportedly have the right to 49 weeks of parental leave at full pay, or 59 weeks at 80 per cent pay. Both parents have 15 weeks for themselves, but for the last 19 weeks, the pair can split the time between them in whichever way they desire.

Those living in the aforementioned Nordic countries also have access to some of the most affordable child care in the world, and the WEF noted that this is a leading factor in the happiness of women and families. With increased federal financing for daycare, Norway has enabled mothers to return to the workforce in droves.

Norway isn’t the only country that has seen a record number of mothers in the workforce. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Sweden has the highest percentage of mothers in the workforce out of 38 countries.

But it isn’t just Nordic countries enjoying the fruits of gender equality. New Zealand has notably made legislative strides to shrink its gender wage gap. Although the country already has one of the smallest gender wage gaps in the world, at a low 14 per cent, Bloomberg reports that the country’s government introduced measures requiring 900 companies to report their gender pay gaps.