Nunavut ranks below Estonia and Cyprus when it comes to socio-economic well-being, according to a study by the Ottawa-based Centre for the Study of Living Standards.

The study compared provinces and territories with the rest of the world using the Human Development Index developed for the United Nations.


A person walks past a stop sign in Iqaluit in March 2009. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

The index is based on life expectancy, education and income and is often used to compare countries.

According to the new study, Nunavut's score is significantly lower than other Canadian provinces and territories.

And if Nunavut were a country, its Human Development Index would put it 38th in the world, just below Qatar, and above Hungary.

"I don't think that's a surprise, because Nunavut is developing; it has a number of issues in terms of health and education," said Andrew Sharpe, one of the report's authors.

"It wasn't too surprising, but I think it's useful to have actual estimates for the gaps between Nunavut and other provinces.  This shows the need for resources in Nunavut to reduce those gaps."

Peter Ma, Nunavut's deputy minister of Health and Social Services, said the study received partial funding from the Government of Nunavut.

He said in a statement that Nunavut's ranking was not surprising "given the relative 'newness' of the territory, along with its isolation and its recent urbanization."

If they were countries, Alberta, Ontario, the Northwest Territories and B.C. would all be near the top of world Human Development Index rankings, at third place. Yukon would rank at 17th place, along with Newfoundland and Israel, ahead of Belgium and behind Denmark.

On average, people in Colombia, Iran and the Palestinian territories live longer than Nunavummiut, though Nunavut finished just ahead of Iran in expected years of schooling.

The good news is the gap between Nunavut and the other provinces and territories may be closing. Between 2000 and 2011,  Nunavut's index improved by more than half a per cent per year, more than twice the Canadian average.