By Lindsey Galloway
It seems that lending a helping hand to a stranger can be more than just a good deed.
In fact, according to research consulting company Gallup, a culture’s willingness to help others is a strong indicator of positive economic factors, including GDP and long-term unemployment, as well as multiple other benefits like encouraging greater overall wellbeing.
To find out more, Gallup conducted surveys over more than 145,000 people across more than 140 countries, asking residents if they had recently donated money to a charity, volunteered for an organisation or helped a stranger in need. The encouraging results, collected in the 2016 Global Civic Engagement Report, were then projected to include the whole world – currently at 7.4 billion people – and found that in a given month, 1.4 billion people donate money to charity, almost 1 billion volunteer and 2.2 billion help strangers.
Each country’s individual score varied widely, however, with residents of certain countries significantly more likely to engage in helping across all measures. We spoke to people living in the five highest-ranking countries to find out what motivates them to donate their time and money, and how it affects society there.
A majority of residents in this small southeast Asian country answered “yes” to each of the questions about giving, resulting in by far the highest country score in the survey.
A strong Buddhist tradition informs much of the generosity here. Dr Hninzi Thet, originally from Yangon, grew up with a Catholic Goanese father and a Buddhist Burmese mother, and explained how the concept of karma in Theravada Buddhism, the school of Buddhism most prominent in Southeast Asia, plays a role.
“Any good deed [Buddhists] do will be shored up for their next incarnation and they will have a better life,” she said. “For instance, on a child’s birthday they offer a meal to monks, who depend on the public to feed them. [This action] will earn merit for them.”
Hninzi Thet did say that donations of food and money have mostly only gone to monks and monasteries. “Only recently has there been an effort to start donating to orphanages and such in an organised effort,” she said, especially as the Burmese diaspora has brought more exposure to Western ideas of giving.
As political stability and general elections have come to the country in recent years, the number of foreigners moving to Burma has increased. In addition to their number one giving ranking, Burma also was recently named the world’s friendliest country in the InterNations Expat Insider 2015 survey, with more than 96% of respondents positively rating their affability toward foreigners.