Canada has always been considered a country with a high quality of life. It is a safe country with low rates of crime, free universal health care, and excellent education. When looking at quality of life, we also need to look at criteria such as income, jobs, the quality of the environment, people’s social connections and how satisfied they feel with life.

In this article, we explore the quality of life in Canada by focusing on each criterion in turn, so that by the end of the article, you will have a good understanding of what the quality of life is in Canada and how Canadians rate their life satisfaction.

Quality of Life Statistics for Canadians

  • Canadian households have, on average, CAD 5,000 more disposable income than the average for OECD countries.
  • 70% of Canada’s 15-64-year-olds are in paid employment.
  • Only 3% of Canadians work long hours in paid employment compared to 10% across the OECD.
  • On average Canadians spend 3% more of their income on housing (23% compared to 20% across the OECD countries).
  • 92% of Canadians have completed at least their high school studies.
  • Canadians have a life expectancy of 82 years.
  • Canada has better air quality than the OECD countries in general.
  • 78% of people in Canada say they feel safe when walking alone at night.
  • Most Canadians, at 93%, feel that they have at least one person they can depend on if things get tough.

Quality of Life in Canada

To give you a comprehensive picture of the quality of life in Canada, we look at the different aspects that contribute to the quality of life and compare the standards in Canada to the average standards across the OECD.

The OECD, which stands for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, is a group of countries that work together to create better policies to improve the lives of their residents.

Money

While it is true that you cannot buy happiness with money, it can certainly make life easier and is an important tool in achieving better living standards. According to the OECD, Canada has an average household disposable income of CAD 46,211. This is over CAD 5,000 more than the OECD average of CAD 40,933.

Canada also has a higher household net wealth compared to the OECD average. The net wealth measures both financial and non-financial aspects of a household, including savings, shares, vehicles, property, valuables, and any other consumer durables. The average net wealth per household is CAD 642,051 in Canada compared to CAD 434,926 across the OECD countries.

Employment

In Canada, approximately 70% of 15 to 64-year-olds are in a paid job, which is 4% higher than the OECD average. More men are in paid jobs in Canada, at 73% compared to 67% of women.

A person is considered unemployed when they are currently out of a job, but are looking for work. Being unemployed, when willing and able to work, can affect a person’s feelings of self-worth and well-being. The percentage of the workforce that has been unemployed for a year or more is 0.5% in Canada, which is lower than the 1.3% average for the OECD.

Canada also has a better financial security rate if a person were to become unemployed. Canadian workers would lose on average 3.8% of their earnings if they became unemployed compared to the 5.1% OECD average. Canada also has higher than average salaries at CAD 74,298 compared to CAD 66,005.

Work-Life Balance

Having a balance between work and personal life is important for our well-being and quality of life. Only 3% of Canada’s workforce work very long hours compared to 10% across the OECD countries. Men are more likely to work longer hours than women. 5% of Canadian men work long hours compared to just 1% of women.

The longer hours people work, the less time they can spend with family and friends, on their leisure activities, eating, and sleeping. Canadians in full-time employment spend on average 61% or 14.6 hours on leisure and personal care. This is slightly below the OECD average, which is 15 hours.

Housing

Having a home is one of the basic needs but there is more to a home than just the physical aspect of it. A home should be a place where you feel safe, which offers you personal space and privacy, and a place to rest and potentially raise a family. Whether you can afford a house that meets all your needs, is one of the factors that determine the quality of your life.

In Canada, households spend more on their homes than the average OECD household. The average Canadian household spends 23% of their income on rent or mortgage compared to 20% across the OECD countries. In some areas, such as the metro area of Vancouver, it is not uncommon for people to spend half of their income on housing.

However, Canadians have more space per person in their homes. On average, Canadians have 2.6 rooms per person compared to 1.7 rooms per person in the OECD and Canada has the highest rate of rooms per person. In addition, 99.8% of Canadian homes have access to a private toilet compared to 97% in the OECD.

Education

Access to and quality of education are key factors when looking at the quality of life in a country since good education and training improve a person’s chances of finding a job. 92% of Canadian adults between the ages of 25 and 64 have completed at least upper secondary education. This is significantly higher than the average of 79% across the OECD countries.

Women in Canada are more likely to have finished their high school education at 94% compared to 91% of men. In the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which scores students in reading, math, and science, the average score for Canadian students was 517, which is above the OECD average student score of 488.

In Canada, the difference between points scored by points and girls is bigger than across the OECD. While girls in Canada scored on average 9 points more than boys, the difference was 5 points for girls across the OECD countries.

While there are differences between the genders, students’ performance in Canada is not linked to their socio-economic status, what language they speak at home, or if they are native or immigrated to Canada recently. This demonstrates the inclusivity of the Canadian education system.

Health

At 82 years, the life expectancy in Canada is one year higher than across the OECD. Women in Canada have a life expectancy of 84 years and men 80 years. Canadians benefit from universally free health care, which means getting ill is not as much of a financial burden as it is in some other countries.

Canadians themselves are likely to say they are in good health. When they were asked how they think their health is in general, nearly 89% of Canadians said their health was good. This is considerably higher than across the OECD where, on average, only 68% said their health was good.

Quality of the Environment

The quality of air can be measured by the level of atmospheric PM2.5. These are tiny particles of air pollutants that can enter the lungs and cause damage. In Canada, the level of PM2.5 is 7.1 micrograms in a cubic meter, which is lower than the OECD average of 14 micrograms in a cubic meter. 90% of Canadians are satisfied with the water quality from the tap compared to 84% across the OECD.

Safety

Living in a place where you don’t have to feel worried about your personal safety is a key indicator of quality of life. The fact that 78% of Canadians (compared to 74% across the OECD) feel safe when walking alone after dark shows that the majority of Canadians feel safe in the area where they live.

The rate of homicides is another, less subjective, measure of how safe a country is. The OECD average homicide rate is 2.6 per 100,000 people. In Canada, the rate is 1.2 per 100,000 people showing that Canada is a safer place to live than many other OECD countries. Overall crime rates, too, are low in Canada compared to similar countries and people feel safe even in large cities such as Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal.

Social Connections and Civic Engagement

93% of Canadians say they know someone they would be able to rely on during a difficult time in their life and there is a strong sense of community among Canadians. Having contact with other people and the quality of personal relationships are important factors in our well-being. A high rate of people feeling they have someone to depend on shows that Canadians have good social networks.

Civic participation in Canada is moderate. For example, only 68% of people eligible to vote, voted in the recent elections. However, this voter turnout percentage is close to the OECD average of 69%. If we compare Canadians’ level of engagement in government decisions and developing regulations to the OECD average, Canadians are more involved with a rating of 2.9 compared to 2.1 out of 4 across the OECD countries.

Life Satisfaction

While we can look at all the different factors separately, they all feed into how satisfied people feel with their lives. When all the boxes are ticked, it is easier to feel satisfied. In Canada, the average rate of satisfaction is 7 out of 10. This is slightly higher than the average of 6.7 across the OECD countries.

Conclusion

When looking at the quality of life in Canada, the country compares favourably among the OECD countries. Canada has a low percentage of long-term unemployment, high standards of education, and people feel safe enough to walk alone after dark.

Canadians enjoy higher-than-average salaries and have a slightly higher life expectancy than the average in the OECD. However, Canadians spend more than average on housing costs and spend a little less time on personal care and leisure activities.

Overall, the quality of life in Canada is high and people are well looked after through a network of social security. Canadians also benefit from free health care and education being free for everyone until the end of their compulsory schooling. This means everyone has equal access to services that are fundamental to well-being and quality of life.

Frequently Asked Questions

When we measure the quality of life in Canada, or any other country, we need to look at a range of factors. These factors include access to and level of education, access and quality of healthcare, crime rates, affordability, and work-life balance among other factors.

Canada always ranks highly on international comparisons on quality of life, for example, for its strong and stable economy, universally free health care, and an excellent education system with 92% of adults having graduated at least high school. In addition, Canada is a safe country with a low crime rate and an inclusive and diverse society.

While the quality of life in Canada is very good and the country ranks high when compared to other countries there is still room for improvement. For example, Canadians spend more on housing than many other countries, especially people who live in urban areas such as Vancouver or Toronto. Therefore, more needs to be done to ensure all Canadians have access to affordable homes. Other areas for improvement include reducing environmental impact, supporting marginalised communities, and improving access to mental healthcare.

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