Key messages: National Index report

Overall key messages

2016 National Index Report: key messages (PDF)

Overall report findings

Facts and trends by domain stories

Other themes

  • There is a massive gap between how well the economy is doing and Canadians’ wellbeing– and it grew after the 2008 recession.
  • The 2008 recession stole our leisure time, our volunteer time, our living standards, even our sleep – and we never got it back.
  • The CIW provides a valid indicator of what is meaningful to Canadians.

Trends in the Canadian Index of Wellbeing and GDP (per capita) from 1994 to 2014

Graph of GDP and CIW trends. Additional information in data table following graph

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Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW)

  • The Canadian Index of Wellbeing measures what Canadians care about most: their health, living standards, leisure time, their kids’ education, even the air they breathe. GDP doesn’t. It just measures how much money is circulating in the economy.
  • Using the CIW, this national report analyses two decades of data, drawing from almost 200 valid data sources and tracking 64 indicators representing eight domains of vital importance to Canadian’s quality of life.
  • The framework is the result of Canadian and international experts consulting with Canadians to ensure the domains reflect their values.
  • It is a revealing and comprehensive analysis of how we’re really doing in the areas of our lives that matter most and a call to action to put wellbeing at the heart of public policy.

Overall report findings

  • 21-years of data comparing the wellbeing of Canadians to economic growth shows the gap between GDP and our wellbeing is growing.
  • There is no “trickle down”. Inequality is worsening.
  • The 2008 recession dealt a blow to much more than the economy – it was major setback for wellbeing and we have not recovered.
    • The gap is growing.
      • In 2008, the gap between the GDP and the CIW was 21%. By 2010 it was 24.5%. By 2014, it jumped to 28.1%.
    • Work is more precarious. All the gains made on long-term unemployment and the employment rate were lost. More Canadians struggle with the cost and access to quality food and housing. More Canadians are working less than 30 hours/week, not by choice.
    • Canadians are sacrificing the things that make life worthwhile: culture, leisure, volunteering and social connection with friends and community – even sleep.
  • Education is the real success story. It’s the only domain that kept pace with GDP.
  • Community Vitality is also a strength as people pull together, feel they belong and communities are safer.
  • The urgent story is:
    • Living Standards plummeted 11% post-recession and inequality is up.
    • Leisure and Culture dropped 9% overall. Six of its 8 indicators are down. Household spending on culture and recreation in 2014 was at its lowest point in the 21-year history.
    • Environmental progress is flat-lining.
  • There is a real human cost. At every turn, we are feeling the crunch of precarious work, longer commutes, less time with friends, less time to volunteer, to participate in social activities and even to sleep – to name just a few.
  • We urgently need to put wellbeing at the heart of public policy.
  • We need to imagine a Canada where the CIW is as familiar, and as valued, as GDP, the TSX and the DOW.

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Moving forward

  • Governments, organizations and everyday Canadians can’t afford to ignore this growing gap – and the erosion of our wellbeing. We need the CIW to be as important as GDP.
  • When we shift from “we can’t afford it” to “we can’t afford not to focus on what really matters” we will start to see positive change.
  • Because the domains are highly inter-related, improving wellbeing in one key area has positive impacts in many others. This is an evidence-based, integrated approach.
    • Better physical and mental health means we can fully participate in education, community, democracy, leisure and culture and the work force.
    • Education is a key determinant to virtually every domain
    • A healthier environment is fundamental to our economy, our health and our recreation.

The recession story

The 2008 recession dealt a blow to much more than the economy. It was a major setback for wellbeing across many domains and, unlike the economy, we have not recovered.

  • All the gains in employment and long-term unemployment were lost post-recession and work is more precarious.
    • One person in 20 works less than 30 hours/wk, not by choice – up from 1 in 25 in 1994.  
    • The nature of work is changing. Fewer people have regular, weekday work hours
  • Our personal time took the biggest hit. We are volunteering far less in organizations – especially in culture and recreation – sleeping less, taking less vacation, spending less time with friends.
    • Formal volunteering for organizations took a major hit. From a high of 65% in 2008 to 49% by 2014 – the lowest participation rate since 2000.
    • % of household expenditures on culture and recreation in 2014 was at its lowest point since 1994.  
    • Nights away on vacation were down 30% post-recession.
    • We’re spending 30% less time with our friends.
  • We are commuting more and sleeping less
    • Just over 1 in 3 Canadians are getting enough sleep, (35%)
  • Democratic engagement was shaken. After 2008, both satisfaction with the way democracy works in Canada and confidence in federal Parliament dropped steadily. 
  • In 2008, 7 in 10 Canadians were satisfied with the way democracy works in Canada. This slid to 65.8% by 2014.
  • By 2014, barely 1 in 3 people had a great deal of confidence in Parliament – a new low (35.5%). (Down from almost half in 2008)

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Facts and trends by domain stories

Education is the success story: the only domain keeping pace with GDP growth

  • Education kept pace with GDP with an overall increase of 32.8%. It gets the highest marks.
  • 6 of the 8 indicators show progress
    • 9 out of 10 students now complete high school
    • Nearly 1 in 3 (28%) Canadians now hold a university degree - up from 17% in 1994
    • On both measures, Canada ranks 4th among OECD countries.
  • But tuition fees have almost tripled since 1994
  • Only 1 in 4 children have access to regulated, centre-based child care. That’s up from 11.5% in 1994. It’s positive but not nearly enough.

Positive trends

  • 1 in 4 children have access to regulated centre-based childcare – more than double 1994 levels - but not nearly enough
  • Student-educator ratios are improving
  • Per student public investment rose 15%
  • 9 in 10 students complete high school
  • Nearly 1 in 3 Canadians hold a university degree

Concerns

  • Only an average or 34 minutes is spent each day in interactive talk-based childcare with 0 to 14 year olds
  • Tuition fees have tripled in 21 years to now average $6,000.
  • More adults participating in education-related activities but the rate is still below 6%
 

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Mixed results for Healthy Populations

  • Healthy Populations results are up by 16.2% overall; but this masks contradictions.
  • People are living longer, but are not rating their overall health as positively as before
  • Diabetes is skyrocketing, increasing by two and a half times; it now affects 7% of Canadians
  • More than 1 in 5 people have a health or activity limitation.
  • Only 1 in 3 Canadians are getting their flu shot
  • Low income is a health issue
    • People with higher incomes and education live longer, are less likely to have diabetes and other health or activity-related limitations, and report better levels of health overall.
  • The big win in this category is the steep decline in teen smoking – especially among girls.

Positive trends

  • Life expectancy is up an average of 4 years
  • Teen smoking is down from 21% in 1994 to 8% in 2014
  • 7 in 10 Canadians rate their mental health as excellent or very good – up from 67% in 1994 - but millions are struggling
  • Nearly 1 in 3 people are now getting their flu shots. Up from 1 in 4, but still too low.

Concerns

  • Fewer people rate their overall health as excellent or very good
  • Rates of diabetes are 2.5 times higher than in 1994
  • More than 1 in 5 Canadians have a health or activity limitation – up 140% from 1994
  • Access to family doctors is down 3% to 85.1
 

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Community Vitality shows Canadians pulling together but volunteering less

  • Overall, Community Vitality is a good news story. This domain is up almost 15%.
    •  2 out of 3 people have a strong sense of belonging to their community
  • We feel – and we are – safer than ever.
    • The Crime Severity Index is down almost 80% since 1998
    • 4 in 5 Canadians feel safe walking alone after dark in their communities
  • People are helping one another to a greater extent and are experiencing less discrimination.
  • Canadians came together in a significant way during and after the recession.
    • In 2007-2008 people were providing the highest level of unpaid help to others.
    • The number of people with 5 or more friends and trust levels have been rising steadily from the lowest points pre-recession.
  • But formal volunteering dropped 15% post-recession. Reaching a high of 65% in 2008, formal volunteering lost all its pre-recession gains. By 2014 it was almost exactly at 1994 levels.

Positive trends

  • The Crime Severity Index is much lower
  • There is less discrimination based on ethnicity
  • 8 in 10 people feel safe walking alone after dark
  • The number of people providing unpaid help to others is up by 11.5%
  • 2 out of 3 Canadians have a strong sense of belonging to community – up 15%
  • Before 2008, far fewer people had 5 or more close friends and trust levels were at their lowest, while both are still down overall, they are on a slow upswing since 2008

Concerns

  • Formal volunteering dropped 15% after the recession. By 2014, volunteer rates were back to 1994 levels.
 

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Democratic Engagement presents a paradox

  • There are real challenges in the areas of trust, confidence and participation in our institutions.
  • Democratic Engagement was up 15% from 1994 to 2008 but took a 2% hit since the recession.
  • There is a participation-satisfaction paradox.
    • Voter turnout is stuck at 66-67%.
    • Fewer than 2% of Canadians volunteer for political or advocacy organisations.
    • Barely 1 in 3 Canadians expressed confidence in federal Parliament (down 14% from 1994). YET
    • Satisfaction with how democracy works in Canada is up 6%
  • Women are still under-represented in federal Parliament
    • The % of women is only up 5% in 21 years and still well below equality (25%)
    • At this rate it will take 80 years to achieve gender parity in the House of Commons

Positive trends

  • 2/3 of Canadians are satisfied with the way democracy works in Canada, up 6%
  • The age gap between older and younger voters is narrowing
  • The number of women in the House of Commons is up 5% in 21 years – progress is slow
  • MPs are spending a larger percentage of their budgets on communications…mostly before and after elections

Concerns

  • Just over 1 in 3 Canadians (35.5%) have a lot of confidence in Federal Parliament – down from 1 in 2 in 1994
  • Voter turnout is stuck at 66-67% but dipped as low as 58.8% in 2008
  • The ratio of registered to eligible voters is down
  • Only 2% of Canadians volunteer for a law, advocacy or political group
 

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Living Standards: not recovered from the recession’s painful blow

  • Living Standards were on a good trajectory, increasing 23% until the recession in 2008.
  • After 2008, Living Standards dropped almost 11%. The domain is up almost 12% overall, but with a lot of pain, uncertainty and inequality along the way.
  • Our assumption that Living Standards are tied to economic growth is totally shattered.
  • Income inequality is growing.
  • The people most affected are women and seniors.
  • Living Standards are an important determinant to education, health, community- and democratic participation

Positive trends

  • Median family incomes are up nearly 30%
  • The incidence of poverty declined by 44%, but roughly 3.5 million people still live in poverty

Concerns

  • Income inequality is up by almost 10% since 1994
  • Employment quality is declining
  • Housing costs are becoming less affordable
  • More than 2 million Canadians struggle with food insecurity
  • Long-term unemployment is making a post-recession comeback 
  • The employment rate dropped after the recession and has yet to recover 
 

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Time Use: We are badly out of balance

  • Canadians – especially women- struggle with “time crunch” despite a 3.0% gain in Time Use.
  • The recession didn’t change how many hours there are in a day; but it did change how we use that time.
  • Positively: Fewer people work more than 50 hours each week and flexible work hours are more widely available. BUT
  • Work is more precarious – especially for low income workers.
    • More people are working less than 30 hours/week not by choice – an indication of more part-time and precarious work.
    • 1 in 3 workers do not have regular, week day work hours, up from 1 in 4 in 1994.
  • The time crunch reaches us even in our most personal time.
    • We are spending 30% less time daily with friends – hitting a record low in 2014.
    • Only 1 in 3 Canadians are getting enough sleep
    • 1 in 5 people report high levels of time pressure
    • … and we have seen a reduction in volunteering and attending arts, culture and recreation.

Positive trends

  • Fewer people are working more than 50 hrs/wk. In 1994, 15% of workers kept very long hours, that’s been holding at around 9% since 2009
  • 45% of people now have some flexibility in working hours– flexible start times, flex time, telecommuting – up 9% from 1994.

Concerns

  • 1 in 5 Canadians feel high time pressure
  • 1 in 20 people work less than 30 hrs/wk, not by choice
  • 8% fewer workers have regular, weekday work hours
  • Commuting times now average almost 1 hour- 10 minutes longer than in 1994.
  • Time spent daily with friends hit a record low in 2014 – down 32 minutes from 1994.
  • Only 1 in 3 Canadians are getting enough quality sleep, down from 44% in 1994.
 

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Environmental progress is flat-lining

  • We’ve had 21 years to take on the most urgent issue on the planet. Our progress? We declined 2.9%.
  • Our environmental footprint - the 4th largest in the world – remains massive and unchanged.
  • Greenhouse Gas emissions are up and we are nowhere near emissions targets.
  • Smog levels, air quality and freshwater yields are essentially the same.

Positive trends

  • Individual Canadians are doing their part. Residential energy use is down almost 20%
  • Agriculture is evolving as available farmland shrinks

Concerns

  • Our ecological footprint remains massive and unchanged
  • Absolute greenhouse gas emissions are up
  • Primary energy production is up 1.5 million petajoules - enough to power Canada for more than 170 years
  • There has been no improvement on air and water quality
 

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We have sacrificed our Leisure and Culture Time

  • Canadians were hardest hit in Leisure and Culture. The domain declined 9.3%.
  • Six of the 8 indicators in this category are worse than they were in 1994.
    • We are spending less time in arts, culture and social leisure
    • Time spent volunteering in culture and recreation is down almost 30%
    • The recession stole our vacation time – we’re spending 30% fewer nights away on vacation
    • In 1994, the percentage of household spending on culture and recreation in 2014 was at its lowest point in the 21-year history – down 15%.
  • The good news is:
    • We are more active especially among youth and, increasingly among seniors
    • Canadians are returning to the arts and to national parks and historic sites

Positive trends

  • Frequency of physical activity is up – from an average 21 times/mo. to 28
  • Average attendance per performance at all performing arts is up slightly overall after taking a massive post-recession plunge
  • Average visits per site to national parks and historic sites are down significantly from 1994; but the trend seems to be reversing – up 38,000 from 2010 to 2014.

Concerns

  • Household spending on culture and recreation hit a 20-year low in 2014
  • We are spending less time in social leisure and arts & culture activities
  • Volunteer time for culture and recreation is down almost 30%
  • Recession “Staycations” stole precious vacation time: We are taking 30% fewer nights away on vacation than we did in 1994
 

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Other themes

Wellbeing is a women’s issue

In many ways, women’s wellbeing improved between 1994 and 2014.

  • Women can expect to live 4 years longer than men
  • More women than men have university degrees (31.7% and 27.3%, respectively)
  • Slightly more women than men report better overall health
  • More women get their flu shot

However,

  • Women don’t feel as safe as men.
    • In 2014, over 90% of Canadian men said they felt safe walking alone after dark but only about two-thirds of women (67.8%) felt safe
  • Women are at greater risk of poverty - especially single mothers and seniors
  • Women are more likely to be underemployed. More women are working part-time because more secure, full-time employment is not available.
  • Women and single parents of young children feel the greatest time pressure
  • Women are still significantly under-represented in the House of Commons.
    • Over the 21-year study, the number of women in Federal Parliament was up 4.5% to 20.3% in 2014 and 26% in the 2016 election but nowhere near parity.
    • At this rate, it will take another 80 years to get to 50% representation
  • Spend less time with friends
  • Felt the biggest drop in social leisure activities.
    • Women spend on average a much greater percentage of their time than men on both social leisure and arts and culture activities, but the drop in social leisure activities from 1998 to 2014 was higher among women; in fact, the decline in social leisure activities by all Canadians was felt mostly by women.
  • Spend less time volunteering in culture and recreation.
    • Although the amount of time for both men and women has dropped over time, in 2013, men reported on average twice as much time volunteering for culture and recreation organisations than women.
    • This may be because sport volunteering has a greater rate of participation than the arts and culture where women volunteer more.
  • Exercise less regularly than men
    • While the trends in frequency of physical activity is rising for both genders, men reported almost two more episodes of physical activity per month than women

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Addressing low incomes is key/ Low income is a health issue

If you are born into a low income household in Canada today, then statistically-and practically-your wellbeing will be far worse than someone in a higher income home.

Arguably, over the past 21 years, the poorest Canadians are much worse off as the income gap widens and they fall further behind.

  • High tuition fees are a deterrent for students from low-income families to pursue post-secondary education. Since education is key to overall health and later life success, better access for low-income families is critical.
  • Physical and mental health outcomes are poorer, which leads to reduced participation in almost all aspects of life.
    • Over two-thirds of Canadians (68.7%) with household incomes over $80,000/yr report very good or excellent health. Well under half of Canadians (43.9%) in households with annual incomes under $40,000 report feeling as healthy.
    • Health and activity limitations are more prevalent
    • 10.4% - one in 10 people – who live in low income households have diabetes
    • Access to doctors can be an issue – especially in Canada’s North
  • The things that keep you healthy – like good food and shelter – are harder to access
    • Access to affordable, quality food is difficult for over 2 million Canadians
    • Shelter costs – the gap between what we require and what we are able to afford – are increasingly out of reach
  • Employment – the very thing that can get you out of low income – is even more precarious
    • Working Canadians in households with the lowest annual incomes are much less likely to have regular weekday work hours (60.4% as opposed to 66.5% average).
  • There is less, if any, discretionary income to participate in organized activities, culture and recreation
  • Reducing income inequality means Canada can better use the skills and capabilities of its citizens to their fullest potential and that people can enjoy healthier, fuller lives
  • This great inequality flies in the face of Canadian values where fairness and equity are cornerstones
  • Because the domains are inter-related, alleviating income inequality also yields improvements across all the domains.

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