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I’m Only 11% Happier!

November 9, 2011

As a permanent temporary worker, I’ll often salvage my sanity by looking up unemployment stats and reading about a hopeless and jobless future. Pretty morose, huh? I actually have some way more fun hobbies, but I couldn’t think of a better exordium to introduce the Canadian Index of Well-Being.

Here’s a picture of Happy Stephen Harper.

There’s a competing hyperbolic rhetoric in Canada that’s being played out in Occupy movements across the country.

While one side claims there are no dream jobs, an education does not ensure you a career, you will not be well paid when you enter the workforce, your work-life balance will be all work, you will struggle to pay your rent, raise a family, and afford healthy meals. And I’ve heard politicians do not care about your interests or the environment.

Another side is saying the opposite. The older generation took any job they could get. They knew what kind of world they were going into. They worked hard long hours to get where they are. They didn’t whine and expect the world to give them things. They worked for it, and now they have to work past retirement to support those younger people who refuse to work.

That kind of rhetoric does not change the situation in Ontario, where the unemployment statistics from Stats Can in August read:

17.2 per cent: 15- to 24-year-olds
7.0 per cent: 24- to 44-year-olds
7.3 per cent: Overall population

The Canadian Index of Well-being has just been released and indicates that while the GDP has steadily increased, well-being has not. The report only goes back to 1994 and is thus an indicator of Canadian progression since then.

Money doesn’t equal happiness? No, and it shouldn’t. Other factors certainly come into play and are also reasons why Canada is great.

The index looks at eight central domains, Community Vitality, Democratic Engagement, Education, Environment, Healthy Populations, Leisure and Culture, Living Standards, and Time Use, to assess a score to Canadian well-being.

While you should certainly check it out and give it a quick read, it reports on something remarkable. While Living Standards, Community Vitality, Democratic Engagement, Education, and Healthy Populations have improved. Yet, Environment, Time Use, and Leisure and Culture have not improved.

Canadians are certainly enjoying some degree of wealth, safety, and health, but they certainly are working harder, longer and enjoying life less.

Importantly, the CIW shows that values change. They should change, and society would be stagnant without change. The values that seem to be of importance indicate that greater wealth does not improves happiness.

GDP is certainly no indicator of individual wealth.

Unrelated to the CIW, is a report put out this month by Dr. Paul Kershaw. He writes, “the new reality for parents with preschool kids is a decline in the standard of living.  Compared to the previous generation, young families have less time together, less household income after housing, and insufficient services to balance work and young kids.”

Perhaps there are concerns that are real. The Occupy Bay Street does unveil some real concerns. Young people are working harder and longer. They will take any job they can get, and there is a general feeling of dissatisfaction.

The obvious reason why unemployment is so high is change. The market has changed drastically. The younger generations are facing the challenge of reinventing themselves, finding new goals, and ignoring established ways of doing things. The established way of doing things is not making life any better. It may be much easier, but it isn’t make things better.

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