Canada

   

Social Policies

#6
Key Findings
Featuring high-quality education at all levels and a generally well-performing, universally available health care system, Canada’s social policies fall into the top ranks in international comparison (rank 6). Its score in this area has gained 0.2 points relative to 2014.

Redistributive policies reduce income inequality and support inclusion, although recent immigrants and indigenous communities are somewhat marginalized. A new poverty-reduction strategy is being implemented. Education quality is high, with impressive equity in access. A funding program aimed at closing the educational gap between indigenous and non-indigenous communities is underway.

The labor-force participation rate for women with children is high. Child-benefit levels have been increased. There is no universal child care system, and the net cost of child care is very high. The pension system is relatively effective at reducing poverty among the elderly. High-quality health care is provided for the entire population, though waits for health procedures are a problem.

While crime rates are low, violence against indigenous women is a serious problem, with initial efforts to address the issue having drawn criticism. The government is generous in terms of accepting immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers.

Education

#2

To what extent does education policy deliver high-quality, equitable and efficient education and training?

10
 9

Education policy fully achieves the criteria.
 8
 7
 6


Education policy largely achieves the criteria.
 5
 4
 3


Education policy partially achieves the criteria.
 2
 1

Education policy does not achieve the criteria at all.
Education Policy
8
Education quality in Canada is high. The country has a number of world-class universities and the average quality of its universities is high. Canadian teachers are well-paid by global standards. The most recent (2016) Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) report gave the country scores well above the OECD average in Reading (third of 72 countries), Science (seventh) and Mathematics (tenth).

Equity in access to education is impressive. Canada has the highest proportion of the population aged 20 to 64 with some post-secondary education, thanks to the extensive development of community colleges. There are many educational second chances for Canadian youth. The high school completion rate is also high and rising. Socioeconomic background represents a much lower barrier to post-secondary education in Canada than in most other countries.

Education is under the jurisdiction of the provinces. Allocated resources are reasonable and, in general, efficiently used. The federal government has recently increased grant money for students from low- and middle-income families by 50%.

Despite the strengths of the Canadian education and training system, there are challenges, the biggest of which is the gap in educational attainment between the indigenous and non-indigenous populations. Schools on reserves are funded federally through Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. A recent evaluation carried out for the ministry found that education opportunities and results are not comparable to those off the reserves, that the comparatively lower quality of teacher instruction and curriculum is affecting student success, and that funding gaps relative to provincially funded regular (off-reserve) schools persist, especially in isolated, low-population communities. The 2016 federal budget included CAD 2.6 billion for First Nations schooling, grades primary to twelve, in an effort to narrow the education gap. Furthermore, in December 2016, an agreement was reached to establish a First Nations School System in Manitoba. However, the largest portion of this spending will not be allocated until the 2020 – 2021 fiscal year.

Citations:
Summative Evaluation of the Elementary/Secondary Education Program on Reserve, report prepared for AANDC, June 2012. http://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/DAM/DA M-INTER-HQ-AEV/STAGING/texte-text/e v_elsec_1365173418229_eng.pdf

Organization for Economic Development (OECD), “Education at a Glance 2014” OECD Indicators. September 2014.

2016 Federal Budget “Growing the Middle Class,” posted at http://www.budget.gc.ca/2016/docs/plan/budget2016-en.pdf

2017 Federal Budget “Building a Strong Middle Class,” posted at: https://www.budget.gc.ca/2017/docs/plan/budget-2017-en.pdf

Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (2016) “Measuring Up: Canadian Results of the OECD PISA Study: The Performance of Canada’s Youth in Science, Reading and Mathematics” http://cmec.ca/Publications/Lists/Publications/Attachments/365/Book_PISA2015_EN_Dec5.pdf

Social Inclusion

#11

To what extent does social policy prevent exclusion and decoupling from society?

10
 9

Policies very effectively enable societal inclusion and ensure equal opportunities.
 8
 7
 6


For the most part, policies enable societal inclusion effectively and ensure equal opportunities.
 5
 4
 3


For the most part, policies fail to prevent societal exclusion effectively and ensure equal opportunities.
 2
 1

Policies exacerbate unequal opportunities and exclusion from society.
Social Inclusion Policy
8
Most social policies, such as income transfers (e.g., child benefits, pensions) and educational policies, support societal inclusion and ensure equal opportunities. A Centre for the Study of Living Standards (CSLS) study found that Canada’s after-tax income Gini coefficient, which measures inequality after taxes and transfers, was 23.7% lower than the market-income Gini coefficient before taxes and transfers. The study also found that while the market Gini coefficient increased by 19.4% between 1981 and 2010, almost half of the increased market-income inequality was offset by changes in the transfer and tax system. Based on this Canada’s redistribution policies reduce market-income inequality to a considerable degree.

However, certain groups, such as recent immigrants and Indigenous Canadians, are considerably marginalized. For these groups, existing social policy has not prevented social exclusion. For immigrants, social disparities tend to diminish with the second generation. Indeed, second-generation immigrants often outperform the mainstream population on a variety of socioeconomic measures. However, the same cannot be said of the indigenous population, where young Indigenous Canadians often perform significantly worse than young non-indigenous Canadians. Despite the promises of the Trudeau government to improve economic outcomes for Indigenous Peoples, progress is elusive. Indigenous children are more than twice as likely to live in poverty than non-indigenous children. Using figures from the most recent 2016 census, a Canadian Press review found four out of every five Aboriginal reserves have median incomes that fall below the poverty line.

In 2018, the federal government released its first ever poverty reduction strategy, which stressed the importance of social inclusion and established a target for poverty reduction.

Citations:
Andrew Sharpe and Evan Capeluck (2012) “The Impact of Redistribution on Income Inequality in Canada and the Provinces, 1981-2010,” CSLS Research Report 2012-08, September. http://www.csls.ca/reports/csls2012 -08.pdf

Jeffrey G. Reitz, Heather Zhang, and Naoko Hawkins, 2011,“Comparisons of the success of racial minority immigrant offspring in the United States, Canada and Australia,” Social Science Research 40, 1051-1066.

David Macdonald Daniel Wilson (2016), Shameful Neglect: Indigenous Child Poverty in Canada, Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives, available from https://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/reports/shameful-neglect.
Statistics Canada (2013), Education in Canada: Attainment, Field of Study and Location of Study, National Household Survey 2011 Analytical document 99-012-X

Employment and Social Development Canada (2018) “Opportunity for All: Canada’s First Poverty Reduction Strategy” file:///C:/Users/Andrew/Downloads/PRSreport_English_SEPT_final-REVISED%20(4).pdf

Health

#2

To what extent do health care policies provide high-quality, inclusive and cost-efficient health care?

10
 9

Health care policy achieves the criteria fully.
 8
 7
 6


Health care policy achieves the criteria largely.
 5
 4
 3


Health care policy achieves the criteria partly.
 2
 1

Health care policy does not achieve the criteria at all.
Health Policy
8
Like educational policy, health care is primarily the responsibility of the individual provinces. Canadians are generally in good health, as evidenced by the high and rising level of life expectancy.

The most glaring problem with the Canadian system is timely access to care. The number of practicing doctors and hospital beds per 1,000 inhabitants is well below the OECD average, as is the number of MRI and CT units per million. A 2017 study by the Commonwealth Fund, Canada ranked last for providing timely access to care out of 11 high-income countries. Canadians regularly experience long waiting times for medical care, including access to family doctors, specialists and emergency services. In its latest report on the health of Canada’s seniors, the fund documents that Canada was below the international average, with only about 40% of seniors able to get a same- or next-day appointment with their regular physician, and performed worst for waiting times for specialists, with almost 30% of seniors having to wait two months or longer for a specialist appointment.
The Canadian Institute for Health Information reported in 2017 that over the last several years waiting times for elective or less urgent procedures have increased, despite efforts to reduce them. However, for more urgent procedures there has been an increase in the number of patients receiving care within the medically acceptable benchmark, albeit with considerable variation across the provinces.

Income is not a barrier to treatment, with high-quality care freely provided for almost the entire population. However, inefficiencies in the system have led to patients traveling abroad to receive medical treatment and increased demand for domestic for-profit clinics, which endangers Canada’s otherwise impressive record of equity in health care. A recent report by the Fraser Institute estimated that over 63,000 Canadians received non-emergency medical treatment outside Canada in 2016. One effect of equity in access to health care services is the small gap in perceived health between the top and bottom income quintiles. However, since dental care, eye care and drugs prescribed for use outside of hospitals are excluded from general coverage, not all income groups have equal access to these types of health care services – low-income Canadians are far more likely to decline prescriptions or skip dental visits.

The cost efficiency of the Canadian health care system is not impressive. Canada’s health care spending as a share of GDP, while well below that of the United States, is above that of many European countries.

Overall, Canada’s health care system outperforms the United States but trails behind that of comparable European countries (e.g., Germany, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands). The Commonwealth Fund report ranked Canada third to last overall on a comparative score card of 11 health care systems.

Citations:
Canadian Institute for Health Information (2017), Wait Times for Priority Procedures in Canada, 2017, posted at https://www.cihi.ca/sites/default/files/document/wait-times-report-2017_en.pdf

Commonwealth Fund (2017), Mirror, Mirror 2017: International Comparison Reflects Flaws and Opportunities for Better U.S. Health Care, posted a thttp://www.commonwealthfund.org/interactives/2017/july/mirror-mirror/

Commonwealth Fund (2017), 2017 Commonwealth Fund International Health Policy Survey of Older Adults, available at https://www.cihi.ca/en/quick-stats.

Organization of Economic Development. “Health at a Glance 2015,” OECD Indicators, retrieved from
http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/health_glance-2015-en

“Leaving Canada for Medical Care, 2017,” Fraser Research Bulletin, Fraser Institute, June 2017.

Families

#22

To what extent do family support policies enable women to combine parenting with participation in the labor market?

10
 9

Family support policies effectively enable women to combine parenting with employment.
 8
 7
 6


Family support policies provide some support for women who want to combine parenting and employment.
 5
 4
 3


Family support policies provide only few opportunities for women who want to combine parenting and employment.
 2
 1

Family support policies force most women to opt for either parenting or employment.
Family Policy
8
The labor-force participation rate for women with children all under six years of age in Canada is high by international standards. According to Statistics Canada, the number of two-income families nearly doubled over the past decades: in 2015, 69% of couples with a child under 16 years of age have two working parents. In recent years, one key policy has been the increase in the child tax credit, which has reduced the barriers associated with the so-called welfare wall. In the past, when single parents, mostly women, left welfare, they lost all income benefits for their children. With the integration of the welfare system with the universal, income-tested child benefits, there is now less disincentive to leave welfare and enter the labor market. In 2016, the federal government significantly increased the level of child benefits and in 2017 indexed benefits to inflation.

Canada does not have a universal childcare system, although some provinces have taken steps to implement their own, such as Nova Scotia’s pre-primary education system and most notably Quebec’s CAD $7 per day daycare scheme. The absence of a universal childcare system may make it more difficult for some women to combine parenting and employment. The average net cost of childcare in Canada is among the OECD’s highest, both as a share of the average wage and as a share of the average family income. Canada is below the OECD average in terms of participation rates in formal care and preschool participation rates for children under five years of age. When elected in 2015, the Trudeau government promised to develop a national strategy for childcare and early childhood education. However, the government has not delivered on this promise so far.

The 2018 federal budget emphasized gender equity with one of the central goals being to increase female participation in the labor force. The budget introduced a new Employment Insurance Parental Sharing Benefit, which will allow parents to add five weeks at up to 55% of their average weekly insurable earnings and a new parental leave option for non-birth parents on a “use-it-or-lose-it” basis to encourage mothers to remain in the workforce or rejoin the labor market earlier. Yet, many stakeholders noted the continued absence of a national childcare strategy: no additional funding was allocated to building a national child care system, which is widely seen as the most effective way to remove barriers to women’s participation in the workforce.

Citations:
OECD Family database www.oecd.org/els/social/family/data base

OECD (2011), Doing Better for Families, Chapter 4. Reducing barriers to parental employment, http://www.oecd.org/social/soc/doingbetterforfamilies.htm#publication

Statistics Canada. 2016. “The rise of the dual-earner family with children.” The Daily. Statistics Canada catalogue no. 11-630-X. Accessed October 11, 2017 at http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/11-630-x/11-630-x2016005-eng.htm

Federal budget 2018, Equality + Growth: A Strong Middle Class, retrieved from https://www.budget.gc.ca/2018/docs/plan/budget-2018-en.pdf

Pensions

#9

To what extent does pension policy realize goals of poverty prevention, intergenerational equity and fiscal sustainability?

10
 9

Pension policy achieves the objectives fully.
 8
 7
 6


Pension policy achieves the objectives largely.
 5
 4
 3


Pension policy achieves the objectives partly.
 2
 1

Pension policy does not achieve the objectives at all.
Pension Policy
8
The basic components of Canada’s public pension retirement-income system are the demogrant Old Age Security (OAS), the income-tested Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) and the contribution-fed, earnings-based Canada/Quebec Pension Plan (CPP/QPP). Other tiers of the pension system include employer pension plans (both defined-benefit and defined-contribution plans) and government incentive programs for individual saving such as Registered Retirement Saving Plan (RRSPs) and Tax-Free Saving Accounts (TFSAs).

The Canadian pension system seems to be relatively effective as a tool to reduce poverty among the elderly. For individuals over 70 years of age in the lowest quintile of the earnings distribution, the proportion of working income “replaced” by retirement income is nearly 100%. Since 1995, elderly incomes at the bottom have been growing, but not as quickly as the incomes of the rest of the population. Using Statistics Canada’s Low-Income Cutoff (LICO) measure of poverty, an absolute definition, the poverty rate for people 65 and over was 4.7% in 2016, one of the lowest rates ever recorded in the history of the series. In contrast, Statistics Canada’s Low-Income Measure (LIM), a relative poverty definition, senior poverty rates have been on an upward trend over recent years, increasing from a low of 3.9% in 1995 to 14.2% in 2016.

Intergenerational equity is not a major concern for the Canadian pension system as there is a close relationship between contributions and benefits on an individual basis. With the recent benefits and contribution expansion, the CPP/QPP is projected to replace only a third of the average wage up to a ceiling that will reach CAD 82,700 in 2025. Thus, middle- and upper-income workers with no employer pension plan or private savings may not be able to replace a sufficient proportion of their pre-retirement earnings. In the private sector, this issue affects three in four workers.

The CPP is considered to be actuarially sound and fiscally sustainable at its current rate and benefit structure, due to large increases in contribution rates implemented in the late 1990s. The fiscal sustainability of the OAS/GIS is tied to the sustainability of the federal government’s overall fiscal balance, and is fostered by the indexation of benefits to the CPI rather than to nominal wage increases.

Citations:
Milligan, K. and T. Schirle, Simulated Replacements Rates for CPP Reform Options, School of Public Policy Research Paper, Volume 7(7), University of Calgary, 2014.

Integration

#1

How effectively do policies support the integration of migrants into society?

10
 9

Cultural, education and social policies effectively support the integration of migrants into society.
 8
 7
 6


Cultural, education and social policies seek to integrate migrants into society, but have failed to do so effectively.
 5
 4
 3


Cultural, education and social policies do not focus on integrating migrants into society.
 2
 1

Cultural, education and social policies segregate migrant communities from the majority society.
Integration Policy
9
Receiving around 250,000 immigrants per year, Canada has one of the highest annual immigration-to-population ratios in the world. Cultural, education and social policies, including language training and orientation courses, support the integration of immigrants. Canada also allows immigrants to become citizens after three years of residency, one of the shortest residency requirements in the world. The high educational attainment of immigrants, the highest in the world with around half of immigrants having university educations, also facilitates integration.

Nevertheless, these policies do have weaknesses, as seen by the relatively poor labor market performance of recent immigrants and immigrants’ high rate of return to their countries of origin. A CSLS study found that, in 2018, the hourly wage of immigrants to Canada with less than five years of residence averaged just 82% of the hourly wage of people born in Canada. However, this was up from 78% in 2010, so progress is being made. The relative wage for university educated recent immigrants was even worse, 70% in 2018, but up from 65% in 2010. The labor market integration of immigrants is impeded by a number of factors, including difficulties faced by immigrants in having their professional credentials recognized by Canadian authorities, the concentration of immigrants in a small number of major cities (e.g., Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal) and language barriers.

Citations:
Andrew Sharpe (2019) “Labor Market Performance of Immigrants in Canada, 2006-2018,” CSLS Research Report, forthcoming (Ottawa: Centre for the Study of Living Standards).

Safe Living

#14

How effectively does internal security policy protect citizens against security risks?

10
 9

Internal security policy protects citizens against security risks very effectively.
 8
 7
 6


Internal security policy protects citizens against security risks more or less effectively.
 5
 4
 3


Internal security policy does not effectively protect citizens against security risks.
 2
 1

Internal security policy exacerbates the security risks.
Internal Security Policy
8
Canada’s internal security policy has been quite effective in protecting citizens against security risks. Canada has experienced no terror attacks mounted from outside the country, which suggests that the Canadian intelligence services are doing excellent work. Two separate attacks by native Canadians in 2014, resulting in the deaths of two soldiers, prompted the previous government to introduce a number of bills to bolster security and the power of agencies (notably Bill C-44 and Bill C-51). These laws increased the powers of Canada’s spy agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, to share information and operate internationally, criminalized the promotion of terrorism, and provided the federal police, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, with new preventative arrest powers. The current government has established an all-party national security oversight committee with the power to review the intelligence and security operations of any government agency.

Crime rates in Canada are low from an international perspective and continue to fall. Canadians in general have a high degree of confidence and trust in the police. However, this is not true to the same extent within the Indigenous community. A report released by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 2014 stated that between 1980 and 2013, 1,181 indigenous women were reported murdered or missing. The U.N. Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review of Canada previously expressed concerns about violence against indigenous women and girls and Canada’s perceived failure to address the problem. The government has launched the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls to gather evidence and propose recommendations on the issue. The inquiry has faced substantial criticism over the past year, with several key members stepping down and victims’ families calling for a complete restructuring of the program.

Citations:
UN Human Rights Council (2013). Universal Periodic Review: Canada. Report available at http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/CASession16.aspx

Royal Canadian Mounted Police (2014). Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women: A National Operational Overview. Report available at http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/en/missing-and-murdered-aboriginal-women-national-operational-overview

Global Inequalities

#15

To what extent does the government demonstrate an active and coherent commitment to promoting equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries?

10
 9

The government actively and coherently engages in international efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries. It frequently demonstrates initiative and responsibility, and acts as an agenda-setter.
 8
 7
 6


The government actively engages in international efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries. However, some of its measures or policies lack coherence.
 5
 4
 3


The government shows limited engagement in international efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries. Many of its measures or policies lack coherence.
 2
 1

The government does not contribute (and often undermines) efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries.
Global Social Policy
7
Canada’s government has a long history of supporting international efforts to promote socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries, and has shown leadership on critical issues such as nutrition and child health. Canada’s share of official development assistance has declined in relative terms and was only 0.26% of gross national income (GNI) in 2016, ranking 18th in the world. In 2016, the federal government began a review of its existing aid policies, and has now reoriented the majority of international assistance to creating equal opportunities for women and girls in the world’s poorest countries, in line with the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.

A North-South Institute study makes the case that Canada’s focus on improving aid effectiveness and accountability is insufficient as an overarching guide to promoting development. This is because the focus on aid effectiveness captures only a small part of Canada’s engagement with the developing world. A broader vision that includes aid and non-aid policies is needed in order for Canada to improve the coherence of its development policy and be an effective actor in the international development sphere. In principle, Canada promotes a fair global trading system. In practice, domestic interests are often paramount. For example, the government vigorously defends Canada’s agricultural marketing boards in trade negotiations, even though the removal of the trade barriers related to these boards would give developing countries better access to the Canadian market.

Citations:
OECD Data, ODA as a percentage of GNI, data obtainable at https://data.oecd.org/oda/net-oda.htm

OECD, “Gender equality and women’s rights in the post-2015 agenda: A foundation for sustainable development,” posted at https://www.oecd.org/dac/gender-development/POST-2015%20Gender.pdf

Anni-Claudine Bulles and Sghannon Kindornay (2013) “Beyond Aid: A Plan for Canadian International Cooperation” North-South Institute, May. http://www.nsi-ins.ca/wp-content/up loads/2013/05/BuellesKindornay.2013.CNDPolicyCoherenceEN.pdf
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