World Happiness Ranking: Where the Most Satisfied People Live According to the UN

April 20, 2021
Residence permits and citizenship by investment: ranking of the happiest countries
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The UN has published a report on world happiness every spring for the past nine years. The 2021 report is special. People’s thoughts and feelings have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. We tell you how states affect the happiness of their citizens and which country has the happiest people.

The World Happiness Report is the UN’s annual report on world happiness. The report shows how satisfied the residents of different countries of the world are with their lives.

The report and rating are compiled by experts of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

In 2020, life satisfaction was affected by the pandemic. Some values of happiness indicators have changed: the influence of income has decreased, and the benefits of living together compared to being alone have increased.

The UN also noted that trust and being able to count on others is more important for happiness than income levels, unemployment, and serious health risks. Lockdown and distancing have created a problem for social connections, which are vital for people’s happiness.

How the UN ranks

The data for the rankings comes from public surveys by the Gallup Institute. This is the American Institute of Public Opinion, founded by sociology professor George Gallup.

The Gallup method captures what a person has read, heard, or seen before. For example, you don’t just ask survey participants, “What do you like to read?” but give them a newspaper and see what they choose first: anecdotes, a sports section, or the weather report. The data, which is collected by the Gallup method, allows for a more accurate measure of a person’s desires, and therefore their level of happiness.

The 2020 data also came from Imperial College London’s Covid Center and from the Lloyd’s Register Foundation’s World List Survey.

A country’s score is made up of six indicators:

  1. GDP per capita.

  2. State social support.

  3. The life expectancy of citizens.

  4. The ability of citizens to make their own life decisions.

  5. Generosity.

  6. States’ fight against corruption.

Each indicator is rated on a ten-point scale. The countries are also compared with the hypothetical country of Dystopia, which is assigned the lowest average scores. Then all the indicators are added up and form the final assessment of the country in the ranking.

The 10 Happiest Countries in 2020

Place Country Score
1 Finland 7,889
2 Iceland 7,575
3 Denmark 7,515
4 Switzerland 7,508
5 Netherlands 7,504
6 Sweden 7,314
7 Germany 7,312
8 Norway 7,290
9 New Zealand 7,257
10 Austria 7,213

Finland is in first place for the fourth year in a row. Residents of Iceland are happier in 2020. And Denmark and Switzerland dropped one place in the ranking. Germany moved into the top 10 from 15th place, improving its results by eight positions: the level of well-being of citizens and residents’ trust in each other increased.

Most Asian countries have shown the best results for all years. Experts attribute such results to strict state policy, which not only effectively controls Covid-19, but also mitigates the negative impact of daily infections on people’s happiness.

How to get a residence permit and citizenship in the countries of the ranking

Ten countries in the ranking allow foreigners to obtain a residence permit and citizenship by investment. The governments of these countries offer different investment options, such as buying real estate or government bonds, making a non-refundable contribution, or starting a business in the country.

Countries with residency and citizenship programs by investment

Place Country Score
4 Switzerland 7,508
10 Austria 7,213
18 Great Britain 6,798
24 Spain 6,502
32 Cyprus 6,260
37 Malta 6,157
51 Greece 5,788
53 Portugal 5,768
54 Montenegro 5,722
78 Turkey 4,862

Switzerland has held steady at the top of the ranking every year. In 2020, the residents of Austria, Spain, Cyprus, Greece, and Montenegro are happier – the countries have risen several positions in the ranking. Other countries dropped slightly. The results were also influenced by citizens’ feelings and perceptions of the effects of restrictions and the crisis caused by the pandemic.

Residence permits in European countries. Austria and Switzerland offer residence permits to financially independent persons. In Austria, investors receive a residence permit by investment according to quotas. The government allocates a limited number of quotas – in 2021 there are only 450. Switzerland grants a residence permit only to those who do not plan to work in the country. The investor enters into an agreement with one of the cantons and pays a lump-sum tax.

Investors who want to obtain a residence permit in the UK invest in shares in local companies. The investor can also register his company and invest in its development.

Portugal offers a residence permit by investment. The investor chooses one of 8 investment options. The most popular is the purchase of the real estate, as objects are allowed to sell after 5 years. Investors not only get a return on their investment but also receive income due to an increase in property prices.

Malta offers a permanent residence permit by purchasing or renting a home. Also pays an administrative fee, government fee, and contribution to the Maltese non-governmental organization confirms that he has assets worth € 500,000 or more.

Residence permits in Spain are obtained by investors who buy real estate or government bonds, create a business in the country or open a bank deposit in a Spanish bank.

Cyprus offers the opportunity to obtain a residence permit on four options for the purchase: housing, commercial real estate, shares in local companies, or units in investment funds.

From 450 000 ₣

From 100 000 €

From £2 million

From 250 000 €

From 112 000 €

From 300 000 €

From 500 000 €

Citizenship in European countries. Malta grants citizenship by Naturalisation for Exceptional Services by Direct Investment. The applicant undergoes a strict due diligence check. First, the investor receives a residence permit, and after a year or three years, he can apply for citizenship. And to become a citizen of Montenegro, the investor buys real estate and makes a non-refundable contribution to the state fund.

Turkish citizenship for the whole family can be obtained by investing in the economy of the country from $ 250,000. The investment can be returned in 3 years – it is faster than in most countries.

From 690 000 €

From 350 000 €


From 250 000 $

Immigrant Invest is a licensed agent for European citizenship and residency programs by investment. If you want to move to one of the rated countries, seek advice from investment programs experts.

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