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indicator value unit
Population 34.9 mil.
Visitors per year 25.3 mil.
Renewable energy 17.9 %

How’s Life?

Canada performs very well in many measures of well-being relative to most other countries in the Better Life Index. Canada ranks above the average in housing, subjective well-being, personal security, health status, income and wealth, social connections, environmental quality, jobs and earnings, education and skills, and civic engagement.

Money, while it cannot buy happiness, is an important means to achieving higher living standards. In Canada, the average household net-adjusted disposable income per capita is USD 29 365 a year, more than the OECD average of USD 25 908 a year. But there is a considerable gap between the richest and poorest – the top 20% of the population earn about five times as much as the bottom 20%.

In terms of employment, over 72% of people aged 15 to 64 in Canada have a paid job, more than the OECD employment average of 65%. Some 75% of men are in paid work, compared with 70% of women.  In Canada, 4% of employees work very long hours, much lower than the OECD average of 13%, with 6% of men working very long hours compared with just 1% for women.

Good education and skills are important requisites for finding a job. In Canada, 89% of adults aged 25-64 have completed upper secondary education, well above the OECD average of 75%. This is truer of women than men, as 88% of men have successfully completed high-school compared with 90% of women. This reverses the OECD average picture, where men are slightly more likely to have graduated high school. Canada is a top-performing country in terms of the quality of its educational system. The average student scored 522 in reading literacy, maths and science in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). This score is higher than the OECD average of 497, making Canada one of the strongest OECD countries in students’ skills. On average in Canada, girls outperformed boys by 7 points, lower than the average OECD gap of 8 points.

In terms of health, life expectancy at birth in Canada is 82 years, two year higher than the OECD average of 80 years. Life expectancy for women is 84 years, compared with 79 for men. The level of atmospheric PM10 – tiny air pollutant particles small enough to enter and cause damage to the lungs – is 14.5 micrograms per cubic meter in large urban areas, considerably lower than the OECD average of 20.1 micrograms per cubic meter. Canada also does well in terms of water quality, as 91% of people say they are satisfied with the quality of their water, more than the OECD average of 81%.

Concerning the public sphere, there is a strong sense of community but only moderate levels of civic participation in Canada, where 92% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in time of need, higher than the OECD average of 88%. Voter turnout, a measure of citizens’ participation in the political process, was 61% during recent elections; this figure is lower than the OECD average of 68%. Voter turnout for the top 20% of the population is an estimated 63% and for the bottom 20% it is an estimated 60%, a much smaller difference than the OECD average gap of 13 percentage points and suggests there is broad inclusion in Canada’s democratic institutions.

In general, Canadians are more satisfied with their lives than the OECD average. When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Canadians gave it a 7.3 grade, higher than the OECD average of 6.6.

For more information on estimates and years of reference, see FAQ section and BLI database.


OECD in Action

OECD Economic Surveys: Canada 2014

OECD's 2014 Economic Survey of Canada examines recent economic developments, policies and prospects. Special chapters cover housing in Canada and the labour market and skills mismatch.

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Canada in Detail