Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Zimbabweans in Botswana happier than Batswana

Were you born outside Botswana but happen to be living in Botswana at this point in time? If yes, chances are you are a lot happier than people who were born in the country and are still living here.

From a total of 156 countries in the latest edition of the World Happiness Report, Botswana comes in at position 146, doing poorly than war-torn Afghanistan, Congo (Kinshasa), Iraq and Somalia, economically struggling Zimbabwe and Lesotho as well as dirt-poor Mali. The 2017 report makes three key findings: that in the happiest countries immigrants are significantly less happy than locals, while the reverse is true in the least happy countries. Being number 10 from the bottom, Botswana falls in the latter category. The second finding is linked to the first ÔÇô that a migrant gains in happiness about three-quarters of the difference in average happiness between the country of origin and the destination country. The third finding has a lot of irony in it: “The happiness of immigrants also depends importantly on how accepting the locals are towards immigrants.” That basically means that through their hospitality, miserable Batswana are making foreigners happy. Put all of that together and the score for the average happiness of foreign-born people living in Botswana is higher than that for the average happiness of domestic-born people.

A lot of statistical science goes into calculating the scores and reaching these conclusions but there is also simple common sense ÔÇô people who are unhappy about the quality of life in their own countries are likelier to emigrate to places where they will be happier. Foreign-born residents include short-term guest workers, longer term immigrants, and serial migrants who shift their residency more often, at different stages of their upbringing, careers, and later lives.

Not only are Batswana unhappy but as the scores show, they have been getting more and more unhappy over the years while the foreign-born are getting happier. Changes in happiness between two periods (2008ÔÇô2010 and 2015ÔÇô2017) show a decline of 0.911 points. On the other hand, the happiness ranking for the foreign-born living in Botswana for the 2005-2017 period shows a positive score of 4.496.

There will be any number of theories to explain why foreigners living in Botswana are happier than the domestic-born. One will be that the country has one of the worst rates of wealth and income inequality in the world. If the methodology of the World Inequality Report 2018 can be relied upon, this situation could become untenable. The latter report says that “if top wealth holders were to grow on a permanent basis at a speed that is three to four times faster than average wealth in the world, then billionaires would ultimately come to own 100 percent of the world’s wealth.” At that point, it is highly unlikely that the mere mechanical act of laughing (never mind the emotional state of happiness) would still exist among ill-fated Batswana.

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