A cohesive society is one where citizens have a high degree of confidence in their governmental institutions and public administration. 67% of people in Canada say they trust their political institutions, higher than the OECD average of 56%. High voter turnout is another measure of public trust in government and of citizens' participation in the political process. In the most recent elections for which data is available, voter turnout in Canada was 60%; this figure is lower than the OECD average of 72%.
Ensuring that government decision making is not compromised by conflicts of interest is key to maintaining trust in government. Transparency is therefore essential to hold government to account and to maintain confidence in public institutions.
Freedom of information laws (FOI) allows the possibility for individuals to access undisclosed information. For such policies to be successful, the public should have a clear understanding of their rights under the law, should be able to file requests with ease and should be protected against any possible retaliation. People in Canada can file a request for information either in writing or in person, but not yet online or by telephone. In addition, there are no provisions for anonymity or protection from retaliation.
Happiness can be measured in terms of life satisfaction, the presence of positive experiences and feelings, and the absence of negative experiences and feelings. Such measures, while subjective, are a useful complement to compare the quality of life across countries.
For Canada, like throughout much of the OECD, self-reported life satisfaction has been rising over the last decade. In recent polling, 78% were satisfied with their life and 85% believe that their life will be satisfying five years later. This makes Canada one of the highest-ranked countries in terms of life satisfaction in the OECD.
80% of people in Canada reported having 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.
Personal security is a core element for the well-being of individuals, and largely reflects the risks of people being physically assaulted or falling victim to other types of crime. Across the OECD, victimisation rates for conventional crime (theft, robbery, assault) have declined in the new millennium. In Canada, only 1% of people reported falling victim to assault over the previous 12 months, much lower than the OECD average of 4%.17% of people feel unsafe on the street after dark, much lower than the OECD average of 26%.
The homicide rate (the number of murders per 100,000 inhabitants) is a more reliable measure of a country’s safety level because, unlike other crimes, murders are usually always reported to the police. According to the latest OECD data, Canada’s homicide rate is 1.7, lower than the OECD average.
Finding a suitable balance between work and life is a challenge for all workers, especially working parents. Some couples would like to have (more) children, but do not see how they could afford to stop working. Other parents are happy with the number of children in their family, but would like to work more. This is a challenge to governments because if parents cannot achieve their desired work/life balance, not only is their welfare lowered but so is development in the country.
Many parents manage to reconcile their work and care commitments adequately, although it remains a challenge for others. The female employment rate in Canada is high at 76% compared to the OECD average of 64%, and in two out of three two-parent families both parents work. 71% of mothers are employed after their children begin school; this figure is higher than the OECD average of 66% and suggests that mothers in Canada are able to successfully balance family and career.
Another important aspect of work-life balance is the amount of time a person spends at work. Evidence suggests that long work hours may impair personal health, jeopardize safety and increase stress. People in Canada work 1699 hours a year, lower than the OECD average of 1739 hours.
The more people work, the less time they have to spend on other activities, such as time with others or leisure. The amount and quality of leisure time is important for people’s overall well-being, and can bring additional physical and mental health benefits. People in Canada devote 62% of their day, or 15 hours, to personal care (eating, sleeping, etc.) and leisure(socializing with friends and family, hobbies, games, computer and television use, etc.) – close to the OECD average.
Better Policies for Better Lives
Childcare support could help vulnerable families
Canada performs well in a number of key family indicators: fertility rates (1.7 children per women), gender pay gaps (20% at median earnings) and child poverty (at almost 15%) are all close to the OECD average. Female employment is higher than most OECD countries and children’s educational achievement as measured by PISA reading literacy values is amongst the highest in the OECD. However, childcare enrolment of children under age six, at 40%, lags behind OECD standards.
Canada is a federal country and each province has different policies in this area. Of the Provinces, Québec arguably has the most comprehensive mix of family-friendly policies, including childcare and out-of-school childcare support, in-work benefits for parents, and paternity leave. However, affordability and quality in childcare remains an issue across Canada.
Particularly vulnerable are sole parents, whose childcare costs are amongst the highest in the OECD. Providing greater investment in childcare would both reduce costs of childcare to parents and increase the quality of service, with positive effects on child development.