“The 2008 recession stole our leisure time, our volunteer time, our living standards and our sleep – and we never got them back,” said Bryan Smale, director of the CIW. “There is a massive gap between how well the economy is doing and Canadians’ wellbeing, and that gap grew during the recession.”
In 2008, the gap between GDP and the CIW was 21 per cent. By 2010 it was 24.5 per cent. By 2014 it had grown to 28.1 per cent.
The CIW tracks 64 indicators to provide a comprehensive analysis of eight domains of vital importance to our quality of life. While economic data are part of the model to capture changes in living standards, the CIW also reports on fluctuations in community vitality, democratic engagement, leisure and culture, education, environment, healthy populations and time use. The 2016 national report analyzes data from 1994 to 2014 to provide a startling view of wellbeing’s overall evolution over the period as well as its components.
The report shatters the myth that economic growth translates into wellbeing. In some areas, such as Leisure and Culture and the Environment, we are worse off than we were in 1994.
Specific findings include:
- Living standards rose 23 per cent from 1994 until the 2008 recession, then plummeted almost 11 per cent. Now, despite an increase in median family incomes, more Canadians experience food and housing insecurity and employment is more precarious.
- Leisure and Culture is down 9 per cent. In 2014, household spending on culture and recreation was at its lowest point in the two decades measured. Canadians are spending less time away on vacation and participating or volunteering in leisure and cultural activities.
- Environmental progress declined by 2.9 per cent. Although residential energy use is down 20 per cent, there should be much more progress from industry.
- The time crunch is an ongoing challenge. We are spending almost 30 per cent less time with our friends. Our commute times to work are longer and only 35 per cent of us are getting enough sleep – down from 44 per cent in 1994.
- Life expectancy is up and ratings for mental health are slightly better, but Canadians’ overall health ratings are worse. Diabetes rates are two and half times higher than in 1994 and more than one in five people has a health or activity limitation.
- Education is the only domain to keep pace with GDP. Nine out of 10 students now complete high school; and by 2014, 28 per cent of Canadians held a university degree. Still, rising 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. Two in three Canadians have a strong sense of community belonging. People feel safer in their neighbourhoods and help one another. Yet, volunteering was a victim of 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.
“When we shift to innovative, proactive solutions that consider more than one domain of our lives at the same time, we will start to see positive change that will enhance Canadian’s daily lives in the areas that matter most,” said Smale. “The report is a call to action to adopt wellbeing as a measure that is as important as GDP.”
The CIW regularly reports on the quality of life of Canadians at the national, provincial and local levels, and advocates for social change that reflects our values and places wellbeing at the heart of policy.