About the Canadian Index of Wellbeing

Canadians share a legacy of coming together during hard times and building a stronger foundation for a vibrant future. The 2008 recession dealt a blow to wellbeing. 

As we continue to recover, we believe that same legacy holds the key to our collective recovery and growth. From quarterly updates of Canada’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) we know how our economy is doing, but it doesn't capture how well we are really doing in our lives.

Are communities in Canada thriving? Is the economy growing at the cost of the environment, our health, and education?

bright blue sky with clouds and sign "bright future"

Photo credit: BICS

Asking these questions highlights the weakness in relying solely on GDP to measure how our country is faring. GDP only tells us about our economic productivity, assuming that all growth is good when in fact, spending on crime or natural disasters contributes to productivity. Further, GDP allows no insight into the quality of life of our people, our environment, our democracy, or other aspects of wellbeing that Canadians value.

In 2016 we launched the third national index report of the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW). We discovered that between 1994 and 2014, Canada showed robust economic growth, but increases in the wellbeing of Canadians were not nearly comparable. We are now able to track the significant impact the 2008 recession has had on the quality of life of everyday Canadians, and apply these learnings to the Covid-19 pandemic, to make better policy decisions as we "build back better".

As the gap between Canadians at the top and those at the bottom continues to grow, it is important to recognize that societies with greater inequality are shown to have worse health and wellbeing outcomes. The evidence shows negative impacts are felt by those both at the bottom and top of the socioeconomic ladder, meaning everyone suffers decreased wellbeing in unbalanced societies.

The CIW provides a broader depth of understanding that, when partnered with GDP, gives us the evidence needed to help Canadians make decisions that will build a society that responds to the call for greater fairness. The choices we make as a society will determine whether we face a distressed future or a better quality of life.