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Penang Institute: Penangites generally a happy lot

GEORGE TOWN: A study has shown that 76.5 per cent of Penangites are identified as happy under the Happiness In Penang (HIP) Index 2020-2021 survey unveiled by the Penang Institute today.

The remaining 23.5 per cent are found to be not-yet-happy, of which 13.7 per cent were narrowly happy and nearly 10 per cent unhappy.

Results show that the not-yet-happy people still enjoy sufficiency in 49.6 per cent of the weighted indicators on average.

The results were based on a survey of 3,011 respondents — 54.3 per cent female and 45.7 per cent male — between October 2020 and May 2021.

Of those surveyed, 33.6 per cent were from the northeast district, 16.9 per cent (southwest district), 15.3 per cent (Seberang Prai Utara district), 14.5 per cent (Seberang Prai Tengah district) and 19.7 per cent (Seberang Prai Selatan district).

About 1,600 respondents were interviewed face-to-face while the rest via online.

Penang Institute senior analysts Yeong Pey Jung and Dr Negin Vaghefi said the number of respondents was statistically significant to represent the whole Penang population of 1.8 million people.

Penang Institute chief operating officer Ong Siou Woon said the HIP Index was the first-of-its-kind survey ever conducted in the country.

She said the first survey would act as a basis for comparisons with future surveys in this series.

She added that the HIP Index would be computed every two to three years, with the next one to begin in the first half of next year.

"Although we live in a democracy, we do know that many suffer in silence and they also cheer silently.

"It is therefore useful that we reach out to them and provide them with a platform to tell us how they feel," she said during the unveiling of the HIP Index at the Penang Institute building at Jalan Brown here today.

The HIP Index comprises four domains — freedom and governance; economic wellbeing; environmental sustainability, as well as liveability and social wellbeing.

Ong said, as far as satisfaction goes, it was found that satisfaction was higher in the domain of liveability and social wellbeing, where most indicators achieved a strong level of satisfaction, among them housing, family relationships, as well culture and heritage.

Although some respondents indicated that their state of life was better before the pandemic, more than half professed themselves to be in at least a good stage of life, she said.

On the other hand, she added that a neutral attitude was prevalent in the domain of freedom and governance, with governance achieving the lowest level of satisfaction, while a high percentage of Penangites were satisfied with their religious/cultural/spiritual freedom.

"Where economic wellbeing is concerned, considerably high satisfaction levels are seen for social and economic mobility and household expenditure. Conversely, satisfaction over financial security is at considerably lower levels.

"Government policies to protect the environment are well-received, as illustrated in the domain of environmental sustainability. Awareness of environmental issues is also prevalent, with river pollution and air pollution being the main areas of concerned," she added.

Ong also said for the domain of freedom and governance, 78.2 per cent of Penangites had achieved happiness while 8.6 per cent were considered narrowly happy.

Approximately 13.2 per cent of respondents are identified as unhappy in this domain.

She said the percentage of happy people was slightly higher for the domain of economic wellbeing, with 79.1 per cent respondents identified as happy and 11.5 per cent as narrowly happy.

The percentage of unhappy people is lower at 9.4 per cent.

"The percentage of happy people is at a comparable level for the environmental sustainability domain, with 76.1 per cent of respondents considered happy.

Subsequently, 14.5 per cent are narrowly happy while 9.3 per cent are seen to be unhappy.

"Lastly, the domain of liveability and social wellbeing has the highest percentage of happy people at 79.3 per cent. As for the narrowly happy, these stand at 7.7 per cent of total respondents, while unhappy at 13 per cent," she said.

Overall, Ong said, the calculation of the HIP Index showed that each domain and its indicators contributed differently to the overall happiness of Penangites as the perception of happiness and sufficiency were subjective for each person.

"As such, the HIP Index provides a nuanced and balanced picture of experienced happiness and life satisfaction in Penang," she added.

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