Ocean Mist

Issues and trends shaping our environment, health and economy

22 Nov 2016

How are Canadians really doing?

Posted by Michael Keating

Canadians are living longer on average but are enjoying that life less according to a just-released study by the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW). “There is a massive gap between Canadians’ well-being and GDP, and it has continued to grow since the 2008 recession. While the recession dealt a short-term blow to the economy, it stole our leisure time, our volunteer time, our living standards, even our sleep – and we never got these things we value, back.”

“When Canadians go to bed at night, they are not worried about GDP. They are worried about stringing together enough hours of part-time jobs, rising tuition fees, and affordable housing. They are thinking about the last time they got together with friends or the next time they can take a vacation. Maybe that’s why we are getting less sleep than 21 years ago.”

The CIW, based at the University of Waterloo, tracked 64 indicators from 1994 to 2014 to provide a comprehensive analysis of what Canadians said matters to their quality of life. It reports on economic data to capture changes in living standards. It also tracks fluctuations in community vitality, democratic engagement, leisure and culture, education, environment, healthy populations and time use.

The third national report: How are Canadians really doing? found:

  • Life expectancy is up, and ratings for mental health are slightly better, but Canadians’ overall health ratings are worse.
  • Living standards rose 23 per cent from 1994 until the 2008 recession, then plummeted almost 11 per cent. Overall since 2008, incomes have risen and there is less poverty, but more Canadians experience food and housing insecurity and employment is more precarious.
  • Leisure and culture are down more than nine per cent. Canadians are spending less time away on vacation and participating or volunteering in leisure and cultural activities.
  • Time crunch remains an ongoing challenge. We are spending almost 30 per cent less time with our friends. Commute times are longer, and only 35 per cent get enough sleep.
  • Education is the only domain to keep pace with GDP. Nine out of 10 students now complete high school, but tuition fees and access to regulated child care spaces remain important challenges.
  • Community vitality is strong, but volunteering fell by 15 per cent after the recession.
  • Although voter turnout increased recently, barely one-third of Canadians in 2014 expressed a high degree of confidence in Parliament, down 14 per cent since 2003.
  • The environment domain declined by 2.9 per cent. Canada’s ecological footprint remains among the largest in the world, smog is still a problem and we are nowhere near meeting our greenhouse gas emissions targets.

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