Canada: How’s Life?

oecdbetterlifeindex.org – countries/canada
June 2012.

Canada performs exceptionally well in measures of well-being, as shown by the fact that it ranks among the top countries in a large number of topics in the Better Life Index.

Money, while it cannot buy happiness, is an important means to achieving higher living standards. In Canada, the average person earns 27 138 USD a year, more than the OECD average of 22 387 USD a year. But there is a considerable gap between the richest and poorest – the top 20% of the population earn more than five times as much as the bottom 20%.

In terms of employment, over 72% of people aged 15 to 64 in Canada have a paid job, above the OECD employment average of 66%. Some 74% of men are in paid work, compared with 69% of women. People in Canada work 1 702 hours a year, less than most people in the OECD who work 1 749 hours. Some 4% of employees work very long hours, much lower than the OECD average of 9%, with 6% of men working very long hours compared with just 1% for women.

Having a good education is an important requisite for finding a job. In Canada, 88% of adults aged 25-64 have earned the equivalent of a high-school degree, well above the OECD average of 74%. This is truer of women than of men, as 86% of men have successfully completed high-school compared with 89% of women. This reverses the OECD average picture, where men are slightly more likely to have graduated high school. Canada is a top-performing country in terms of the quality of its educational system. The average student scored 527 in reading literacy, maths and science in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). This score is higher than the OECD average of 497, making Canada one of the strongest OECD countries in students’ skills. On average in Canada, girls outperformed boys by 6 points, lower than the average OECD gap of 9 points.

In terms of health, life expectancy at birth in Canada is 81 years, higher than the OECD average of 80 years. Life expectancy for women is 83 years, compared with 78 for men. The level of atmospheric PM10 – tiny air pollutant particles small enough to enter and cause damage to the lungs –is 15 micrograms per cubic meter, considerably lower than the OECD average of 22 micrograms per cubic meter. Canada also does well in terms of water quality, as 90% of people say they are satisfied with the quality of their water.

Concerning the public sphere, there is a strong sense of community but only moderate levels of civic participation in Canada, where 92% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in time of need, higher than the OECD average of 91%. Voter turnout, a measure of public trust in government and of citizens’ participation in the political process,was 60% during recent elections; this figure is lower than the OECD average of 73%. Social and economic status also affect voting rates; voter turnout for the top 20% of the population is 62% and for the bottom 20% it is 56%, in line with the OECD average gap of 7%.

In general; Canadians are more satisfied with their lives than the OECD average, with 80% of people saying they have more positive experiences in an average day (feelings of rest, pride in accomplishment, enjoyment, etc) than negative ones (pain, worry, sadness, boredom, etc). This figure is higher than the OECD average of 72% and makes Canada one of the happiest countries in the OECD.

Canada in Detail...  (see OECD web site for detailed findings on: Housing, Income, Jobs, Community, Education, Environment, Civic Engagement, Health, Life Satisfaction, Safety, & Life-Work Balance).

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