Canada has a deep commitment to the pursuit of social and environmental well-being. Canada’s Constitution Act, 1867 guarantees to all Canadians “the peace, order and good government” that is necessary for their welfare. The Canadian Index of Wellbeing will provide an objective measure of how this promise is being fulfilled in people’s daily lives by measuring inclusivity and the quality of life across several dimensions:
- community vitality
- living standards
- leisure time activities
- work-life balance
This tool will allow policy makers at all levels to better understand what matters most to Canadians when it comes to their own lives. Using the information gathered in the different domains allows for a more holistic picture in order to better understand how we can improve our country and wellbeing. To understand how businesses are contributing, there is data collected from the Canadian Securities Administrators NP 51-201 Disclosure Standards of Canada.
Why is the CIW so important?
The CIW is important because it offers a comprehensive measurement of well-being that is not measured by traditional economic indicators. The inclusion of physical health, community vitality, democratic engagement, leisure and culture, time use, education and skills development as well as social connections provides a more balanced perspective of societal progress.
Why is the CIW so crucial to sustainability?
The Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) is an important tool for monitoring and tracking trends in the area of environmental health. The data gathered by this index provides evidence that demonstrates how individual, community, and societal well-being is influenced by changes in the environment. By focusing on wellness rather than on the traditional economic indicators of “GDP”, the CIW provides a framework to assess and guide policy decisions that affect environmental health. As an increasing number of Canadians are making sustainable consumption choices, the CIW tracks progress towards a nation characterized by clean air, water and land.
In addition to being an effective tool for monitoring trends in environmental health, the CIW also plays a key role in bolstering our understanding of the inter-relationships between society and environment. The CIW is unique because it evaluates social determinants that are not included within other major indexes such as the Better Life Index or the United Nations’ Human Development Index. These other indexes typically focus on aspects such as income, education, and employment status. Such perspectives are helpful for measuring societal well-being but the CIW goes beyond these traditional socioeconomic dimensions to capture data pertaining to physical health, community vitality, democratic engagement, leisure and culture, time use, education and skills development as well as social connections.
Canada’s promise to Canadians
Canada’s Constitution Act, 1867 guarantees to all Canadians “the peace, order and good government” that is necessary for their welfare. The Canadian Index of Wellbeing will provide an objective measure of how this promise is being fulfilled in people’s daily lives by measuring the quality of life across several dimensions:
The CIW measurement of Community Vitality
Community vitality is the ability of a community to provide for the needs of its members. This includes affordable housing, sufficient income, individual and collective security and access to social support networks. The index measures this by looking at how people feel about their personal safety and security and whether or not they feel like they can participate in civic and social activities in their community.
The CIW measurement of Education
Education is an important factor in human development and is therefore an integral part of the CIW. The CIW assesses education on four levels: early years and care, elementary or secondary school, post-secondary institutions and adult learning.
- The early years and child care level measures the quality, accessibility and affordability of daycare services as well as family support services for child care.
- The elementary or secondary school level measures the quality of education, student engagement and post-secondary preparation.
- The post-secondary institutions level measures the quality of education, affordability and availability for students in community colleges, universities or trade/vocational programs.
- Finally, the adult learning component evaluates the accessibility to lifelong learning opportunities at the post-secondary level as well as the adult literacy rate.
The CIW measurement of Health
The health component of the CIW measures personal and community characteristics that have a direct impact on individual and population health. The category is divided into five subcategories: healthy populations, safe environments, sustainable communities, responsible consumption and living standards.
The healthy populations subcategory measures the percentage of population who report good, very good or excellent health and evaluates indicators such as life expectancy and infant mortality rates. The safe environments subcategory measures crime rates and several other factors that affect the safety of individuals such as traffic accidents and exposure to various forms of pollution (including noise, air, water and soil). The sustainable communities subcategory measures the quality of drinking water, air quality and environmental health as well as the availability of green space for community use. The responsible consumption and living standards subcategory looks at a number of factors such as income security rates, safe working conditions, food security and shelter affordability to measure whether or not individuals can afford a minimum standard of living. Finally, the health behavior subcategory measures both active and passive forms of participation in communities such as rates of volunteerism, civic engagement and participation in social or sports groups.
The CIW measurement of Leisure and Culture
Leisure time is important for the development of Canadians’ personal identities as well as their physical, psychological and social wellbeing. The leisure and culture subcategory measures the quality of available services, safety and accessibility for various forms of entertainment (including parks, recreation centres or facilities as well as libraries), culture (such as art galleries) and sports.
The CIW measurement of Living Standards
Living standards is an important part of any analysis because it provides people with the opportunity for a good standard of living and to participate in their communities. The living standards subcategory assesses several factors such as unemployment rates, income security, food security and shelter affordability. Living standards: median household income and poverty rate
The CIW measurement of Time Use
Time use is important because it provides people with an opportunity for self-fulfillment by participating in community life and engaging in activities that they value. The time use subcategory assesses several indicators such as volunteer rates, civic engagement and social or sports group participation.
How will the CIW affect policies?
The CIW will help policy makers at all levels understand what matters most to Canadians, so they can better focus on the policies that will have the most positive effect. A clear example of this is our work with provincial and territorial governments. They share responsibility for implementing social programs with the federal government, so having a way of measuring what Canadians care about most makes it easier to understand what needs to be done to improve their lives.
How often with it be released?
The index will be released every five years. The data is collected until five years prior to the release date of the index. The data is then plotted in order to create a graph that displays the changes in the quality of life over time.
What is the Government’s commitment?
Canada has committed itself to providing this information based on the Canadian Index of Wellbeing and all of it’s components. With this information, Canadians will be able to understand how they are doing in their social and environmental areas which is something they can do in order to see what they need most in their lives. Canada wants all Canadians to be able to live with a good standard of living and be engaged in their communities.
Other countries with a similar index?
The UK, Australia and Norway all have a similar index to the Canadian Index of Wellbeing. The UK’s is called the “UK Index of Multiple Deprivation”. In 2012, Australia released their Australian Bureau of Statistics’ “Australian Wellbeing Index” which provided an overall score from 0 to 10. Finally, Norway has been measuring their index for over a decade. All of these indexes were started because the governments wanted to better understand the living standards and quality of life their country was providing.
What is future research?
Future research will focus on collaboration and evaluation of the data that is collected, as well as how to make sure that all Canadians can use this information. The CIW also wants to help policy makers gather input from those who are directly involved in these areas such as, doctors, community workers etc.
The conceptual framework in conclusion
The CIW is a unique opportunity for Canada to determine how well off they are as a country and what needs to be improved on. The data that the CIW is based on will also be an important tool for policy makers who want to improve lives of all Canadians.
In conclusion, this index of wellbeing will be an important tool to policy makers in order to better understand what is needed in the country of Canada. With this information, Canadians will also be in a position to see how they are doing with their living standards and quality of life. This index can provide people with an opportunity for self-fulfillment by participating in community life and engaging in activities that they value. This is an important way in which Canada can fulfill their commitment to better understanding the living standards of Canadians, and make sure that all of them are able to live with a good standard of living and be engaged in their communities.
Caveats, economic productivity and disclaimers
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