The World’s Most – And Least – Miserable Countries in 2016

Steve H. Hanke's picture

Authored by Steve H. Hanke of the Johns Hopkins University. Follow him on Twitter @Steve_Hanke.

In what follows, I update my annual Misery Index calculations. A Misery Index was first constructed by economist Art Okun as a way to provide President Lyndon Johnson with a snapshot of the economy. 

The original Misery Index was just a simple sum of a nation’s annual inflation rate and its unemployment rate. The Misery Index has been modified several times, first by Robert Barro of Harvard and then by myself. My modified Misery Index is the sum of the unemployment, inflation, and bank lending rates, minus the percentage change in real GDP per capita. A higher Misery Index score reflects higher levels of “misery,” and it’s a simple enough metric that a busy president without time for extensive economic briefings can understand at a glance.

Below is the 2016 Misery Index table. For consistency and comparability, all data come from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

Venezuela holds the inglorious spot of most miserable country for 2016, as it did in 2015. The failures of the socialist, corrupt petroleum state have been well documented over the past year, including when Venezuela became the 57th instance of hyperinflation in the world.

Argentina holds down the second most miserable rank, and the reasons aren’t too hard to uncover. After the socialist Kirchner years, Argentina is transitioning away from the economy-wracking Kirchner policies, but many problematic residues can still be found in Argentina’s underlying economic framework.

Brazil, at number 3, is a hotbed of corruption and incompetence, as the recent impeachment of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff indicates. It’s similar in South Africa, at number 4, where corruption runs to the very highest office. President Zuma of South Africa just recently survived impeachment after the Constitutional Court unanimously decided that Zuma failed to uphold the country’s constitution.

Egypt, ranked fifth most miserable, is mired in exchange controls, a thriving Egyptian pound black market, and military-socialist rule. However, Egypt is likely suffering even more than this table indicates, as the EIU’s inflation estimate for Egypt (17.8 percent) is far off from the Johns Hopkins-Cato Institute Troubled Currencies Project, which I direct, estimate of 150.7 percent.

Next, with a Misery Index score of 36.0, is Ukraine, a country still feeling the effects of the highly-publicized civil war that began three years ago. With a civil war and endemic corruption, it comes as a shock to no one that Ukrainians are miserable?

Azerbaijan is plagued by corruption, fraud, and incompetence, and currency devaluations are commonplace – the manat has been devalued twice since 2015, losing 57 percent of its value against the dollar. This weakness in the currency markets makes it difficult to do business, and the Azerbaijani economy has faltered as a result.

Turkey faces a despotic leader in Islamist Erdogan, who devotes all of his resources to staying in power rather than governing the state, leading to a strongly depreciating currency and a populous mired in fear. The Turkish lira has lost over 24 percent of its value against the dollar in the last year, and the economy is in the process of spontaneously dollarizing. Not surprisingly, Turkey is a member of the Fragile Five, which also include Brazil, India, Indonesia, and South Africa.

The reasons for Iran’s rank on this list are almost too obvious and plentiful to enumerate, but it’s safe to say that a combination of corruption, incompetence, theocratic-authoritarian rule, and more have led to its state of misery.

Rounding out the ten most miserable countries is Colombia. The Colombian government has been so preoccupied negotiating peace talks with the rebel FARC group that the economy has been neglected, causing interest rates to spike as the economy stands still.

On the other end of the table one finds Japan with the low score of 0.4. Japan’s low misery is not the result of high GDP per capita growth (Japan’s figure is only 0.7 percent), unlike most other countries at the bottom. Instead, it’s Japan’s -3.5 percent inflation rate that drives the score down. China is the next best, with the second-least miserable score of 4.5, almost entirely due to its high (6.3 percent) GDP per capita growth rate.

Also of note on this list is the United States. In President Obama’s final year in office, the United States ranked lower than Slovakia, Romania, Hungary, China, and even Vietnam. What a legacy.

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Md4's picture

"The gold leaf landing on cathedrals was not bettering the lot of the peasantry. The spices coming in from Asia were too expensive for most. The Medici family that ruled Florence was sent packing by the mob. Intellectuals were persecuted and books burned.

“We need to learn these historical lessons and realize that this is the most precious moment in human history,” Mr. Goldin said. “We need to make the choices to ensure that globalization is sustainable, that connectivity is sustainable, that we deal with the intractable problems that are worrying people.”

To me, the very idea of such a thing as a "World Economic Fourm"...annually, no less...attended by an arrogant, pompous and disconnected microscopic slice of humanity, is revolting in itself.

Many of these people are wealthy precisely because they have outsourced your job, leveraged cheap labor abroad, and financialize practically everything they touch.

Not only do they fail to comprehend the damage they have done, but that their pointless bloviating amongst copies of themselves should tell all of us they could give a rat's damn.

Breaking the centralized power of banks, corporations, and economic blocs like the EU, concentrated during THEIR march toward cheap labor (what "globalization REALLY is) is the key.

You do THAT...and it reduces THEM.

This is what they fear.

The resurgence of a strong, independent, and prosperous U.S. leaves much of globalization's mess on the so-called "elite's" doorstep to deal with.

That too scares the shit outta them.

Salzburg1756's picture

Who's on top of the deplorable index?


Mazzy's picture

I only saw one African country on the list (South Africa), and the stated reason for the misery was "Unemployment"?

Pretty sure that's not the major issue there.

tarabel's picture



An intersting calculation.

Fake economic statistics and negative interest rates is the new highway to happiness.

Personally, I think that road leads somewhere else.

hxc's picture

Article said -3.5% price inflation, not interest rates. That should make anyone happy

AlbertthePudding's picture

US/NATO meddling looks to characterise most of the saddest of places on the planet.

Knowing this what is the point of the exwercise without attributing blame correctly.the rest is puff.

Lets Buy The Dip's picture

any country where you can BUY and even endorses marijuana crop is awesome, and I want to live there. 

here are some Marijuana Penny Stocks Expected to Soar here ==>

who cares what TRUMP will do, if he is for these cannibis businesses, things will soar. Business will pay less tax and profits will go up. 

Ex-Oligarch's picture

"Soar"?  "Go up"?
How high?

Yeah, nothing says "increased productivity" like a stoned workforce.

SuzerainGreyMole's picture

So you globalist NWO 1 per cent turds, how well you are doing when over 30 entries of countries cite 'unemployment' as the main contributory factor in the misery.

With all the entries combined, it looks like globalism is a dame duck enterprise.  Its demise can't come quickly enough!

UmbilicalMosqueSweeper's picture

No Afwhanistan? It should be listed as Happy #1 . With all those goat herds and poppy fields, who needs employment or favoable lending rates?

Conax's picture

I have always been fascinated by the Japanese and their traditional culture of warlords, samurai and Bushido. They are a fascinating, unique people. According to this moronic chart, Japan is the happiest place on earth. Really?

There are 120 million people on those few islands, they are irradiated, they get no pussy, they aren't marrying, and eat many things we consider fish bait. They have a patch of woods known for many suicides, which are regular as rain there. On top of it all the BIS and American bankers own their bankers lock, stock and barrel. They use them for an ATM.

Happiest in the World, whistling Zippeddeedoodah out of their assholes, yup.

TradingTroll's picture

You plan to just stay fascinated or study the people?

I know them well. Let's compare to North America.

1. Radiation is claimed to be worse on the North American West Coast than in Japan
2. The Japanese, Shinto Buddhists, are far more liberal about sex than Westerners. It's just not a big deal. The nice part about that is the places say a guy might visit are far classier than the sleazy joints in North America staffed by drug addicts.
3. If you add Japan's murder rate to the suicide rate (both are unnatural deaths) you get a rate way lower than the US murder rate
4. Do you really frequent ZH? Because if you did you would know that the US is a far bigger piggy bank for foreign bankers than Japan. The economy is bigger in the US and the Fed is private. Japan's Central Bank is sovereign.

The main reason for Japan's success is that it's a homogeneous society. Aside from the regular asshats in politics, government and some industries (nuclear) the average Japanese goes out of his way to accommodate his fellow countryman. (Eg Katrina riots vs Fukushima demonstrations).

Diverse societies don't work. Diversity is NOT strength despite what Soros and others say.

Conax's picture

I see you missed the first paragraph, I liked the original Japanese culture and have no interest in their corporate arrangement today. They are boring.

I don't think 'diversity' is good for anyone.

With all the snark you exude, I would not normally respond, especially when you start that 'how long on ZH' bs. 

F O Mr. Troll.

besnook's picture

they are happy because they are all japanese and get to keep their culture unlike western countries. one of their favorite expressions when they see the clusterfuck in the usa especially is, we are fortunate to be japanese.

OpenThePodBayDoorHAL's picture

Wow, Australia is more miserable than The Philippines or Romania. I live here and I did not know that! 

(What a bunch of BS)

VoodooBoy's picture

The land of Elle Fookin MacPherson, there is no way life can be bad or even close to showing up anywhere near the bottom of this stupid misery index. What a load of crap. The aborigines even look good compared Romanian women. Uhhhh sorry no, but crack me open a syrah and let's barby on the beach!

fifty fookin two!

VoodooBoy's picture

Well said. Ever since Sean Connery and Wesley Snipes figured out that murder on tv Japan has never been the same.  That shit was real yo.

screw face's picture

.....what no #Eritrea?

VoodooBoy's picture

I reckon I don't see no Haiti on that there list, dem pavement apes musta had a pretty good fuckin year for not being on the list an all. Dem chinks in Japan, slanty eyed, tojo lovin, jig, jap, jank, butterhead, godzilla snack fuckers better watch out for me because ima gettin me a plane ticket and headed to Tokyo for some Yoko nipper snapper turtle and have me a good ol' time! 

HEYYYY! Is that Germany?  Did they just poll the new sand niggers that showed up there because I sure as heck (excuse me) don't think they spoke with many of the caucasion folk there.

I'll let you fuckers know how Japan goes as my dick can't wait and gonna smell like some tuna sushi gone wild!

0phita's picture

Your breadth and depth of debate is staggering!! LOL

VoodooBoy's picture

Debate? Who said anything about a fawkin debate?  Debate?

Ex-Oligarch's picture

Your breath is death, your debauch is staggering. 

ThirdWorldDude's picture

The kid just DQF'd himself from any future interaction in Fight Club.

Sad, but true: more Muricans in the ZH comment section these past few years have greatly contributed to degrading the comments' quality by a couple orders of magnitude.

Salsa Verde's picture

You mean the "We keep making the same damn mistakes and can't figure out why nothing ever changes" index.

YourAverageJoe's picture

I would think rape would be the biggest cause of misery in Sweden

VoodooBoy's picture

No, because in progressive Sweden, it's the woman's fault for seducing 15 sand nigga's at one time.

Scrubbing Bubblez's picture
Scrubbing Bubblez (not verified) Jan 17, 2017 12:51 PM

Judging by cities in the USA and elsewhere, I'd have to say the more niggers per square mile, the worse it is!

847328_3527's picture

I'm pretty miserable where ever i go so the list does not affect me much.

holgerdanske's picture

Ha Ha Ha Ha brilliant.

I know what you mean.

Grumpy old men!

Ex-Oligarch's picture

Has anyone cross-checked this "Misery Index" table with the "Basket of Vice"  table ZH published the other day?

Arnold's picture

I'm looking for something smaller than those listed.

Somewhere I can be El Supremo Heffe on a dollar a day.

You know, Golden Years and all....

CRM114's picture

Well, this kind of 'Top 10' listing is worse than useless, and in my experience bears no relation at all to how miserable Joe Average in any of these countries is. 

It is interesting however to work out WHY it's rubbish.

Primarily this is because the official inflation and unemployment stats are merely propaganda these days.

Secondly, it takes no account of the social welfare provisions in each country. There's a lot of people in, say, the UK and Saudi Arabia, who don't give a flying f#k about the unemployment stats as long as the benefit checks keep coming.


And lastly, given the markets are now off in some kind of fairyland bubble, it offers no useful data on which to base future policy. It has lost it's raison d'etre.

Ex-Oligarch's picture

Yes, first question in my mind was:  for the US, does the Economist go with the "everything is awesome" Obama administration unemployment stat, or the "depression's got ahold of me" workforce participation stat? And I imagine most of the countries on the list offer similar uncertainties.

KickIce's picture

Major Contributing Factor:  Rothschild


Idaho potato head's picture

I don't see Syria in there, BS +BS=BS

Nunyadambizness's picture

Shouldn't that be:  BS + BS = BBSS?  Or maybe BBS?  BSS?  Or, maybe it should be BS X BS = BS^2?    I mean, there's nothing like BS squared.  Just sayin'


land_of_the_few's picture

No sign of Jamaica ... but then people would start to question why it's so bad if it's Capitalist, unlike Venezuela .... same goes for the Baltics, none of those listed here...and where's Angola, Puerto Rico and Nigeria? :D

heuvosYbacon's picture

What a load of shit. According to this list, the English are flooding to Romania and Hungary, while Australians and New Zealanders are getting on boats to emigrate to Vietnam, the Philipines, Thailand, Malaysia and China.

Fucking lists and people who make them, I tell ya. 

I've got a list. 

I write down the names of all my enemies on my list.

cheech_wizard's picture

It's always a slow news day on ZH when they include a Hanke article.


Bay of Pigs's picture

Hanker is a fucking douchebag. His articles are almost always a joke.

Maybe bring Marc to Market for some good laughs? Chuck Biderman?

TeaClipper's picture

Top of the tree Japan, a country that has kept its culture and its ethnicity firmly intact. Take note Globalist cunts.

VoodooBoy's picture

Yes, it's called don't let anybody onto the island with the exception of hot korean women (slaves) and keep the black US military men away from the ladies. The last thing the Japanese culture needs are well hung, yellow / brown (doesn't yellow and brown make green?) slanty eyed, afro jiving Yoko looking basketball dunking freaks screwing up their perfect culture.


On a side note... will somebody please see if brown and yellow makes green because I think it would be funny seeing green slanty eyed tojo's dunking basketballs then fucking jap women with 15 inch cocks.  Just a fantasy I always had people.  Ty

Nobodys Home's picture

"Take note Globalist cunts"

They have. Nobody's offering to help stop and repair the most catastrophic ongoing nuclear meltdown ever, are they?

UmbilicalMosqueSweeper's picture

Teeth that glow in the dark are a sure sign of happiness

847328_3527's picture

If I had the means I would move there in a second.

Nobodys Home's picture

If you ever do, check your food for radiation...and never bring your shoes inside. (a great custom...those Japanese are forward thinkers)

East Indian's picture

Nothing surprising in the results.


The major cause for Indian misery is the demonetization and the subsequent war on cash.

Heavy's picture

So the bankers-elites systemically stole/steal way too much and got the whole contraption stuck in the sand?  yep