Measuring well-being: Canada is a little better than other countries

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According to the report, wages and working conditions are generally worse for women, young people, people with less education or migrants than for the other.

Canada is doing a little better than others among the developed countries which are growing all sorts of inequalities of well-being, notes the Organization for economic cooperation and development (OECD).


In some ways, the rich economies are now largely delivered in the Great Recession, but they have also seen some of their problems worsen, reported Wednesday the OECD during the annual update of the fifty economic indicators, and social policies of its measurement of the level of well-being of populations. In addition, national averages conceal growing inequalities within populations, and not only in terms of income or wealth, but also between men and women, young and old, more and less-educated, or natives and migrants.


For example, household incomes have grown by an average of 7 % since 2005, but this was two times more during the previous decade. The proportion of the population in employment has also increased on average, while the number of employees subjected to excessive working hours has declined, life expectancy has increased two years, fewer people say they have fear to walk the night, and that the number of homicides has decreased. Long-term unemployment has also increased, as housing affordability deteriorated, the feeling of insecurity of workers has increased and the rate of participation in the elections as well as the feeling of satisfaction of individuals have decreased.


“Thus, while the economies are beginning to regain the rhythm lost during the crisis, we see several people do not feel the benefits in many aspects of their lives,” notes the chief statistician of OECD, Martine Durand, in the introduction to the report of 460 pages.


This unease is reinforced by the unequal sharing of the benefits of these famous developments of the last few years along all sorts of fault lines within societies. For example, the wages and working conditions are generally worse for women, young people, people with less education or migrants than for the other. These inequalities are often in interaction. Thus, says the OECD, the fifth of the population, the more wealthy tend to be more satisfied with his life as the fifth poorest of the poor, and those who are more satisfied are often also the most healthy.


“Wellness cannot flourish in divided societies “, said Martine Durand. However, “there is a sense of division growing within a number of OECD countries,” believes the head of an investigation which is in its sixth year.


Go beyond GDP


The OECD experts are not the only ones to try to refine tools for measuring well-being that go beyond the usual statistics on the gross domestic product or the unemployment rate. Their method of measuring current well-being of populations focuses on eleven factors ranging from wealth to health, education, social connections, environmental quality, personal security and subjective feeling of well-being. They added a review of resources to ensure the “future well-being” on the other four factors (assets, natural, human, economic and social) measured themselves by thirty other indicators.


In this chapter, appreciation is expressed for example this year of the decline in greenhouse gas emissions per capita, the decrease in the number of smokers, and the increase of investments in research and development, but regrettably, the acceleration of the indebtedness of households and governments, the aggravation of the problems of obesity and the fall of confidence in governments.


Very good, but could do better


Canada is generally better than the average of OECD countries in most of the different indicators considered, it is. The net wealth of households, the employment rate, the quality of the air and water, as well as feelings of security and satisfaction in life are higher than in the majority of the 33 other member countries of the club of rich countries. The disposable income of households grew three times faster than the average of the last ten years. The level of insecurity in the labour market and the long-term unemployment, however, increased, while decreased the proportion of Canadians saying to be able to rely on a relative or friend in case of need.


In inequality, Canada is also better than the other in particular with respect to household income, the employment rate or the amount of leisure time. It is, however, less well in relation to, among others, the salaries, the maintenance of skills in adulthood and the feeling of life satisfaction.


One of the effects of rising inequality is undermining confidence in democracy and the institutions supposed to serve the public, ” warns the OECD. We are pleased, from this point of view, the increase in the rate of participation in the last national elections (68 %) and to see that “only” 38 % of Canadians believe that corruption is widespread in government, compared to an average of 56 % in the OECD.

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