While the most traditional metric, Gross Domestic Product (GDP), measures all goods and services produced by a country, it has two critical shortcomings. First, by focusing exclusively on the economy, GDP fails to capture areas of our lives that we care about most like education, health, environmental quality, and the relationships we have with others. Second, it does not identify the costs of economic growth — like pollution.
To create a robust and more revealing measure of our social progress, the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) has been working with experts and everyday Canadians since 1999 to determine how we are really doing in the areas of our lives that matter most. The CIW measures overall wellbeing based on 64 indicators covering eight domains of vital importance to Canadians: Education, Community Vitality, Healthy Populations, Democratic Engagement, Environment, Leisure and Culture, Time Use, and Living Standards. The CIW’s comprehensive index of overall wellbeing tracks progress provincially and nationally and allows comparisons to GDP.
Comparing the CIW and GDP between 1994 and 2010 reveals a chasm between our wellbeing and economic growth both nationally and provincially. Over the 17-year period, GDP has grown almost four times more than our overall wellbeing. The trends clearly show that even when times are good, overall wellbeing does not keep up with economic growth and when times are bad, the impact on our wellbeing is even harsher. We have to ask ourselves, is this good enough?