Canada picked among best places to live

Canada is among the best places in the world to live, according to a new quality of life measure from a leading international organization that compared rich industrialized nations.

OECD ranks Canada highly across a number of categories

An OECD ranking of countries based on different factors of quality of life placed Canada in third overall. (Hans Deryk/Reuters)

Canada is among the best places in the world to live, according to a new quality of life measure from a leading international organization that compared rich industrialized nations.

The "Better Life Index" from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development launched Tuesday finds Canada among the leaders in most of the 24 indicators measured, everything from hard data dealing with jobs and income, to perceptions of something the OECD calls "life satisfaction."

The index is scheduled to be released Tuesday but the data was on the OECD website Monday.

Canada places 3rd

The Paris-based organization does not give an overall ranking, but if all the indicators are added up and given equal weighting, Canada would come in third behind Australia and Sweden.

Ironically, Australians don't see themselves so blessed. On one measure out of the 11, which the OECD called "life satisfaction" measure,  Australians gave themselves a 7.2 out of 10, while Canadians were at 7.4. Residents of Switzerland topped the indicator with a 7.8.

"Canada performs exceptionally well in measures of well-being, as shown by the fact that it ranks among the top countries in a large number of topics in the Better Life Index," the organization says in its profile of the country.

"In general, Canadians are more satisfied with their lives than the OECD average, with 82 per cent of people saying they have more positive experiences in an average day than negative ones."

Canada's high ranking comes about because it scores inside the Top 10 in most of the major ones and above average overall among the 36 advanced countries studied.

Canada did rank first in a couple of minor sub-indicators. For example, with 2.6 rooms per person, Canadians are on average the best housed by that measure, and they are also among the safest, reporting the fewest assaults.

Two thirds trust their government

Perhaps surprising, Canadians also appear to trust their governments more than many others. According to the OECD, 67 per cent say they trust their political institutions, well above the 36-country average of 56 per cent.

However, when it comes to voting, Canadians fell well below the OECD average of 72 per cent with a record of only 61 per cent.

On more mainstream criteria, Canada ranked in the Top 10 in terms of household disposable income, wealth, educational attainment, self-reported health — although the 81-year life expectancy is middle of the pack.

Canadians also did well in terms of work-life balance, working an average of 1,702 hours a year, less than the OECD average of 1,776.

Overall, the OECD comparison is more flattering to Canadians than the recent Human Development Index from the United Nations, which had Canada slipping to number 11 in 2012.

Income disparity a problem

The OECD measure appears more broad-based, with 11 major categories of well-being measured, as opposed the UN's three — health, education and living standard.

Both, however, include subjective elements that have given rise to skepticism about their usefulness for public policy. While many of the OECD indicators are based on hard data, such as incomes, employment rates and life expectancy, it also includes self-reporting evaluations of such subjective criteria as life satisfaction, state of personal health and water quality.

While mostly positive, the OECD analysis of Canada is not all glowing. It points out that despite a high income level, Canada also has a high level of income disparity.

As well, Canada gets a below average score on job security, with 11 per cent of employees working on a "contract" of six months or less, slightly higher than the OECD average of 10 per cent.