May 042014

Many nations though are home to some of the world’s most spectacular place, the reality of life in some of these places is far from rosy. High inflation, unemployment, high interest rates and falling GDP per capita are creating havoc in economies across the world.

The Cato Institute, a U.S. think tank based in Washington D.C., has assigned 90 different countries with a “misery index”, based on unemployment figures, lending and inflation rates, minus the percentage change in the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita. Here are the top ten most miserable countries as listed by the index. Unfortunately, India came up in the 21st spot in the list.

Greece: The popular holiday destination, Greece with a misery index of 36.4 is the tenth most miserable nation in the world. This is mainly attributed to the high unemployment rate prevailing in this country.

It is the global financial crisis that has dramatically hit Greece, where the unemployment rate is now at 27.3 percent, one of the highest in Europe and is expected to rise 28 percent in the coming years. The figure is twice as high among the youth.
In a country of 11 million people, the economy lost more than a million jobs as businesses shut their doors or fired staff. Since the beginning of recession, not just unemployment but even suicides also have risen frantically in Greece in the last four years.

Brazil: Host nation of 2014 World Cup and the Olympics in 2016, Brazil is well known for its beaches and Carnival celebrations. But, mainly because of the soaring poverty, crime rates, and unemployment coupled with high interest rates, this country have come up at the ninth place in the list with a misery rating of 37.3.

The rate of poverty has strongly affected the country’s economic inequality. The poor segment constitutes roughly one-third of the population, and the extremely poor makes upto 13 percent. This Latin American nation has serious problems with crime too. With roughly 23.8 homicides per 100,000 residents, muggings, robberies, kidnappings and gang violence are common.

South Africa: Nelson Mandela’s homeland, South Africa is the eighth least happy country in the world, scoring 37.4 in the misery index. The unemployment rate is the major contributor to the misery index result, though it has slightly decreased only in 2014, passing from 24.5 percent to 24.1 percent. It is one of the greatest socio-economic problems currently facing in this country. It is the youth who are mostly affected by it. As per the Quarterly Labor Force Survey by Statistics South Africa, in the third quarter of 2013, 34.8 percent of young South Africans could not find a job compared with less than 15 percent of adults over 34. If all youngsters are considered in the calculation of youth unemployment then the actual unemployment rate was 47.5 percent for the third quarter of 2013. This means that 1 in every 2 young people cannot find a job and has very little chance of ever finding a job.

Spain: With a misery score of 37.6, Spain emerges as one of Europe’s most miserable countries. The major contribution to Spain’s misery score is the inflation rate, caused mainly by the increase in food prices and value added tax. It is also noted that Spanish annual inflation rate is expected to accelerate further to 0.4 percent in the coming years, up by 0.5 percentage point from a negative 0.1 percent.

The uptick in annual consumer prices is mainly due to a rise in cost of tourist services and to stable electricity, fuel and lubricant prices, following previous year’s fall. Not just this, even the country’s unemployment rate has also contributed to this index as the rate of unemployment was risen above 26 percent, according to official figures. Earlier this year, one out of every four adult Spaniards was out of work.

Egypt: With a score of 38.1, Egypt comes up as the sixth most miserable nation on the list. The country remains locked in a prolonged process of political transition after the resignation of the long-serving leader Hosni Mubarak in February 2011. Since then political uncertainty and anxiety over the future have generated ongoing political protest, labor strikes, deep mistrust between Islamist and secular parties, in some parts of Egypt. Even social problem like poverty has been slowly rising in Egypt, while worries about food supplies have increased. 17 percent of the country faced a shortage of food in 2011, compared with 14 percent in 2009, revealed the U.N. World Food Programme. With the economy barely improving, poverty remains a pressing concern for millions. All these attributions named this nation as the miserable one.

Jamaica: Despite being described as one of the liveliest place, Jamaica’s residents still had reason to be miserable because of high interest rates, the study disclosed. The country’s interest rates presently are at 5.75 percent. Even corruption and crime rate are also soaring and high unemployment is believed to create widespread discontent among the masses.

Jamaica’s critical development challenges also include relatively high government spending due to which public debt has surpassed 145 percent of GDP.

Argentina: The eighth biggest country in the world and home to Buenos Aires, Argentina ranked fourth as the unhappy nation with a misery index of 43.1. This is mostly attributed to high inflation. It is struggling with a weakening economy and rapidly rising inflation, which currently stands at roughly 30 percent. The constant hike in prices and a sharp devaluation in the currency earlier this year had set off hundreds of smaller protests. Argentina’s currency crisis and economic depression are mainly because of the government’s bad policies, economist Kurt Schuler said.

Serbia: A landlocked country, Serbia with a score of 44.8 is the third most miserable nation globally. It is unemployment that brings this country in this list. Out of 20.1 percent of unemployed people, about 51 percent are young people. According to Laszlo Andor, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, if Serbia enters EU today, it would be the third place rated for unemployment after Greece and Spain.

“Young workers are the future of Serbian economy and the future of the country. If their unemployment lasts too long, it will be a generator of social unrest, and will have a negative impact on economic development, demographic future of the nation, and its political destiny. Resolving this issue should be a priority for Serbia and the European Union with its instruments will encourage the country’s efforts to address this problem”, Andor added.

Iran: With a high misery index of 61.6, largely due to high inflation, Iran is named the second most miserable country in the world. Also the political relations with the West that have made travel to Iran difficult for the past few decades, resulting in a surge in tourism.

Venezuela: With a misery index score of 79.4, Venezuela is named as the most depressing nation in the world. It is mostly due to its super high inflation, which was officially 56.2 percent last year; but analysts suggest it was five times that rate.

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