A study published yesterday by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that "Canada performs exceptionally well in measures of well-being," according to an online report. On a range of measures — housing, income, health and safety — Canada scored among the world's best-performing countries. The study scored 36 nations, including 34 OECD members, Russia and Brazil. No overall ranking is reported.
The findings will surprise some, given our 7.2% national unemployment rate, 14.5% youth unemployment rate and economic growth projections that remain soft in the short term.
Here are seven highlights from the OECD report:
- Income: The average household earns US$28,194 each year after taxes. That's more than US$5,000 above the OECD average. There is disparity at both ends of the earnings spectrum though, not surprisingly. The top 20% takes home US$55,718, while the bottom 20% earns US$10,526. We ranked seventh on household wealth and ninth on income.
- Community: Canadians spend two minutes a day volunteering; that's about half the OECD average. On the other hand, 64% said they'd helped a stranger in the last month. (The OECD average is 48%.) And 94% know someone they could count on if needed. We ranked seventh on support network.
- Housing: Nine in 10 Canadians are satisfied with their housing. The average home in this country provides 2.6 rooms per occupant, more than any other country. And 99.8% of Canadians live in a home with a private washroom that has an indoor, flushing toilet. (The OECD average is 97.8%.) We ranked 24th on the ratio of housing costs to income, eighth on basic facilities and first on number of rooms per person.
- Environment: We're better than average on both air pollution and water quality measures. We ranked 14th on pollution and 12th on water quality.
- Health: Our life expectancy at birth is 81, a full year above the OECD average. And 88% of Canadians say they are in good health. Health spending in this country makes up 11.4% of gross domestic product. (The OECD average is 9.5% of gross domestic product.) We ranked third in health and 17th in life expectancy.
- Safety: Just 1.3% of Canadians said they were assaulted over the one-year period leading up to the survey. That's well below the OECD average of 4%. Our homicide rate is less impressive. It's 1.6%, only marginally below the average rate of 2.2%. We ranked first on assault rate and 23rd on homicide rate.
- Work-life balance: Canadians work an average 1,702 hours per year. That's 74 hours below the OECD average. When asked if they work more than 50 hours a week, 4% said yes. (The OECD average is 9%.) We ranked ninth on working long hours.
The full index is made up of 11 categories. Canada ranked 27th on job security, fourth on student skills, fourth on government transparency and eighth on life satisfaction.