A country’s progress is no longer solely measured by its economic development; the rubric to evaluate progress now also includes life satisfaction and happiness. Countries are increasingly using the measurement of happiness as an important component in national policy and decision-making. In Penang, the Happiness in Penang (HIP) Index which comprise of four domains, Freedom and Governance (F), Economic Wellbeing (E), Environmental Sustainability (E) and Liveability and Social Wellbeing (L), or FEEL in short, is used to measure the quality of life in the state.
Surveys were carried out in two phases, in October 2020 and in May 2021 respectively, by Penang Institute. The results presented here was conceived in simpler and happier times. Covid-19 hit us right in the middle of the process, but we have had to remain resilient, and after adapting to new circumstances, we have completed the inaugural survey to provide us with data on the wellbeing of the people of Penang.
The full report will be available for download in time, but hereby are some preliminary survey results from a total of 3,011 voices in Penang.
1. Satisfaction towards family interactions
Citizens of Penang were mostly either satisfied or very satisfied with their familial interactions, with only less than 10% of the respondents being outwardly dissatisfied. Dissatisfaction levels were the highest with regard to time spent with family members at a total of 9.9%.
2. Satisfaction levels towards urban connectivity
In terms of urban connectivity, satisfaction levels were higher for walkability and pedestrian crossings and availability of cycling lanes. Respondents were however particularly dissatisfied when it came to appraising road conditions, traffic conditions and availability of parking spaces.
3. Satisfaction levels towards digital connectivity
Overall, respondents were more satisfied than dissatisfied towards the state’s digital connectivity. Among all districts, respondents in Seberang Perai Utara, in particular, seemed to be the most satisfied.
4. Perception towards present quality of life
High percentages of the respondents recorded a positive perception towards their present quality of life. Of all the respondents, 64.7% of them were at least happy with their current state of life.
5. Satisfaction levels towards affordability of living expenses
Approximately 23.2% of respondents reported being dissatisfied/very dissatisfied with their mortgage/rent. According to the Household Expenditure Survey 2019, housing cost (mortgage and rent cost) is the highest (20.7%) contributor to the overall household expenditure in Penang, which may pose to be a substantial financial burden.
6. Satisfaction levels towards employment and opportunities
The lowest percentage of satisfaction was seen in job opportunities, as nearly one-third (30.2%) of respondents were dissatisfied with the availability of job opportunities. Most cited reasons such as lack of experience, lack of skills, as well as mismatch of skills and occupations when it came to job searching.
7. Satisfaction levels towards religious / cultural / spiritual freedom
Most of the respondents felt that their religion and beliefs received a measure of respect by others in Penang. Combined levels of dissatisfaction mostly come in at less than 10%, and the greatest levels of dissatisfaction was observed for freedom to choose, with only 7.5% citing dissatisfaction and 2.7% being very dissatisfied.
8. Satisfaction levels towards government policies for environmental protection
Most respondents indicated that they are either satisfied or very satisfied with current government policies towards a greener and more sustainable city, with no plastic bag campaign and no single use plastics being rated the highest. Concurrently, the efforts to clean up the state’s rivers and seas garnered the highest percentage of dissatisfied responses (20.7%).