Thursday, June 18, 2009

How are we really doing?

"If you don't count it, it doesn't count."

That is Roy Romanow quoting economist John Kenneth Galbraith on TVO's Agenda Tuesday night as he rolled out the First Report of the Institute of Wellbeing.

Yeah, I know, pinko quoting lefty, but give this a chance.

The whole idea here is to provide a Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) as a measurement of the quality of life in Canada, something not done adequately by purely economic yardsticks like Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Until these factors are understood, they can not be addressed through public policy. In other words, government is flying blind, guided by pressure groups and ideology.

The CIW will consolidate 8 "domains" into an index number that can be plotted over time. These domains include Arts, Culture and Recreation; Civic Engagement; Community Vitality; Education; Environment, Healthy Populations; Living Standards; and Time Use.

So what have they learned so far about this? Between 1981 and 2008:
• Income and wealth increased.
• Income and wealth inequality increased.
• Labour productivity growth exceeded real wage growth.
• Little progress was made in reducing poverty.
• There was an overall improvement in labour market conditions.
• The social safety net continued to fray, providing less support for the disadvantaged.
Overall, the report says, "Canada became a much richer country, but it was the top 20% that received the lion’s share of rising income and wealth."

Nothing here that we haven't heard before. The novelty is the attempt to put a number on it. This will come when the CIW framework has been fully developed. The Institute seems to have done a pretty good job of finding quantitative indicators for what are largely qualitative concepts. You can sift through all the details in the PDF report.

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