Twenty-Five Key Indicators
of Social Development
|INCOME AND POVERTY
|1. Income per Person (%US)
|2. Poverty Rate
|3. Child Poverty Rate
|4. Employment Rate
|5. Unemployment Rate
|6. Working Long Hours
|7. Low Paid Jobs
|8. Earnings Gap
|9. UI Benefits as % Earnings
|10. Jobs Supports (%GDP)
|11. Unionization Rate
|12. Health Care (Public Share)
|13. Tertiary Education (Public Share)
|14. Private Social Spending
|15. Life Expectancy (Men)
|16. Life Expectancy (Women)
|17. Infant Mortality/100,000
|18. Homicides per 100,000
|19. Assault/Threat per 100,000
|20. Prisoners per 100,000
|21. Adults/Post Secondary Ed.
|22. High Literacy (% Adults)
|23. Low Literacy (% Adults)
|24. Grade 12 Math Score
|25. Voter Turnout
As we’ve all heard ad nauseam, Canada lags behind the USA in terms of productivity. But how are we doing in when it comes to our social performance? In the afterglow of our gold-medal victories over our neighbours to the south, it seems timely to present a scorecard.
The bottom line? Canada beats the U.S. hands down on most social indicators, but we still fall well short of the Swedes. So there’s reason for pride, but not for complacency.
Our 25-indicator scorecard looks at income and poverty; jobs; employment security; social supports for families; health; crime; education; and civic participation.
In terms of average income, it’s no surprise that we lag behind the U.S. Adjusted for purchasing power, the average Canadian family has 21% less income than the average American.
But our income is much more equally distributed. Using a common definition of poverty (having less than half the income of the average family), one in ten Canadians are poor compared to one in six Americans and just one in sixteen Swedes. One in six Canadian kids is poor, compared to almost one in four American children.
When it comes to jobs, the U.S. wins in terms of low unemployment, but there is little difference between the three countries in the proportion of people who have jobs. The U.S. does worse than Canada, however, when it comes to the quality of jobs, and here we both compare badly to the Swedes.
A common definition for being “low paid” is being paid one-third less than the national average. If we use this definition to compare the workforces of the three countries, 21% of Canadian workers are low paid, compared to 25% in the U.S. and just 5% in Sweden. More Americans than Canadians and Swedes work in jobs with very long hours. And Americans are much less likely to be in a union, to have access to unemployment insurance, and to qualify for government paid retraining programs.
One of the biggest differences is in terms of social supports, where Canada again stands between the U.S. and Sweden. American families have to pay much more out of their own pockets for health care and education, which wipes out a lot of the benefits of those vaunted lower taxes.
Governments pick up 70% of the cost of health care and 60% of the cost of higher education in Canada, compared to 45% and 51% in the U.S. Overall, American families spend 9% of GDP on social protection – everything from health care to pensions – out of their own pockets, compared to only 4% in Canada and 3% in Sweden.
Greater income equality and more citizenship entitlement programs make Canada and Sweden clear winners over the U.S. when it comes to health outcomes, crime rates, and educational attainment. And we get to enjoy it longer -- Canadians live more than two years longer than Americans: 75 years compared to 72 years for men, and 81 years compared to 79 years for women.
We in Canada are much, much less likely to be victims of violent crime than Americans. The murder rate in the U.S. is a staggering three times higher. And, for every 100,000 people, the U.S. has 546 prisoners, compared to 118 in Canada and just 71 in Sweden.
Based on the results of the International Adult Literacy Survey, 50% of Americans have low literacy skills, compared to 43% of Canadians and just 25% of Swedes. At the other end of the skills scale, 39% of Canadian adults have completed post secondary education, compared to 35% of Americans and 28% of Swedes.
Finally, Canadians are more likely to be politically involved than Americans, though both of us compare badly to the Swedes: 56% of Canadians vote in Parliamentary elections, compared to 49% of Americans and 83% of Swedes.
Beating the U.S. for the silver medal is something to be proud of, but we should be aiming to wrestle that gold away from the Swedes. Perhaps it’s time to put some of our national pride to work to better our social performance.
Final Medal Standings
NOTES AND SOURCES
Unless otherwise indicated, data are from the OECD Social Indicators Database.
1. GDP per capita at purchasing power parity for 2001 (OECD estimate.)
2. Poverty defined as less than half the median income of an equivalent household.
3. Definition of poverty as in 2. Source: UNICEF. Child Poverty in Rich Nations. 2000.
4. Proportion of population age 15-64 in employment. OECD Employment Outlook. 2001.
5. Source as in 4.
6. Men working more than 45 hours per week. OECD Employment Outlook. 1998.
7. Low pay is employed in a full-time job and earning less than 2/3 the median hourly wage.
8. Ratio of the top to bottom 10% (ie top of 9th decile to top of 1st decile of earners.)
9. Earnings replacement rate: average by family type and unemployment duration.
10. Public spending on training and labour adjustment (excluding income support) as % GDP.
11. OECD Employment Outlook. 1998.
12. Public share of total health care expenditures.
13. Public share of tertiary education sector revenues. Education at a Glance. OECD.
14. Private social spending (health, pensions, disability insurance etc.) as % GDP.
15. and 16. Life expectancy at birth.
18. Rate per 100,000 population. Statistics Canada Daily. December 18. 2001
19. Victimization rate as reported by persons per 100,000.
21. Percentage of adults with post secondary qualifications (not including CEGEPs.)
22.and 23. Data from International Adult Literacy Survey.
24. Data from Third International Math and Science Survey.
25. Voting in Parliamentary elections, 1995-99