The most recent Mercer’s Survey 2015 for quality of life ranks Singapore as number one in Asia, with an overall place of 26th in the world. This should be no big surprise as we have been ranked as the nation with the highest quality of life in Asia for a couple of years now, beating countries like Japan hands down.
Although these results claim that we are the happiest nation in Asia, it raises a question of to what extent is that really true. These being results of indicators which gauge the living standards afforded to a population, whether or not we, as people living in Singapore, are truly satisfied with what we have available is a totally different aspect. Quality of life never directly translates to the happiness or level of contentment of a population. However, it does to a certain extent show us how blessed we are in having a decent level of living conditions made available for us.
This brings upon a dilemma for those of us who disagree that we are indeed the happiest country in Asia – are we truly unhappy with our living and working conditions, or are we taking our quality living standards for granted whilst being greedy?
How is quality of life measured?
There is a whole list of factors which are measured to give an estimated gauge of the quality of life for a country. To make things simple, we can classify these factors to four main categories: physical, social, economical and psychological.
Physical factors measure aspects like the contents of diet of a population, whether everyone has a roof above their heads with clean water supply and sanitation. It also takes into account public transportation facilities provided for the population. One thing to note is that, when the general diet of a population is analysed, food preferences become an important topic of discussion. Even if one disagrees that Singapore has a good quality of life, we cannot disagree that the thought of our local food is something that brings us happiness even when we are miles away from home. The good food in Singapore has set up such a culinary scene which makes a large impact on our quality of life, and we will touch on this later on.
Social factors count in education, social support system, opportunities for recreation and the welfare benefits given to a population. Finally, psychological factors ties in with social factors to estimate the level of happiness and contentment amongst people, along with the analysis of health and security in the country.
The problem with estimating the quality of life in a country is that, many of these factors do not have any precise measuring tool. It is difficult, for example, to measure someone’s happiness or contentment with life. Moreover, it is also difficult to assume that a population is living content with a good quality of life just because they have good employment rates, availability of physical necessities and a safe environment. That might be the problem that we are facing here in Singapore.
Singapore’s cost of living contradicts its position of high quality of life
It was indeed a great irony when the Mercer’s Survey for 2015 revealed that our nation had the best quality of life in Asia, because just a day before that, the Economists Intelligence Unit ranked Singapore as the world’s most expensive city for expatriates to live in. This might seem like familiar argument to us. Day in and out, we see plenty of expatriates coming into Singapore for business and employment, and often we hear from them that the living cost in Singapore is far higher than anywhere else they have been in the world. That way, it seems that a stable employment and decent living standards comes with a big price to pay in Singapore.
Perhaps the close relationship between the cost of living in a country and its quality of life is why it is so hard to understand how Singapore has hit a high position in both aspects! This is why it might be puzzling how it might be said that there is a high level of contentment in a country where affording a reasonable standard of food, shelter and recreation is difficult. It might be seen that although opportunities for high standards of living are aplenty, not everyone is able to achieve or sustain them.
Other factors making up the quality of life which we can relate to – how do they fare?
Some factors measuring the quality of life, like the employment rate of a country or the percentage of those affluent are not directly relatable to all members of the population. ON the other hand, elements like food preferences and general contentment with life are aspects which all members of the population, of any age, are able to empathise with.
As we had mentioned before, the good food in Singapore has set up such a great culinary scene which is renowned not just in Asia, but throughout the world. Our local food is almost always voted to be good food by us Singaporeans, and having it as part of our everyday diet definitely gives us contentment. As much as it makes us happy, not all of such food also grant as good health. There is a large variety in our local food cuisine but picking on healthy food options is what would help us boost both the diet and health elements of the quality of life scale in Singapore.
In conclusion, life in Singapore may not be perfect with an ideal cost of living or work-life balance as many may argue, but we still hold many positive aspects that we are blessed with compared to our other neighbouring countries.