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Hennessy’s Index: GDP vs. Well-being

More and more Canadians support governments prioritizing social metrics rather than just economic ones

November 1, 2023

2-minute read


Percentage of Canadian respondents participating in a public opinion survey by the Department of Finance Canada who said they felt measures beyond economic growth—health and safety, access to education, access to clean water, life satisfaction, equality of access to public services—are more important to their day-to-day life.


Percentage of Canadian respondents to the same survey mentioned above who feel it is important that the government move past solely considering traditional economic measurements, such as economic growth, but to also consider health, safety and the environment when it makes decisions.


The percentage by which Canada’s GDP grew between 1994 and 2014.


The percentage by which Canadians’ well-being grew between 1994 and 2014; a stark contrast to GDP growth during that period.


That’s the percentage of factors and influences that determine our health outside of the health care system—this is known as the social determinants of health, because the medical system focuses mainly on treating illness, less so on prevention.

1 cent

A one-cent increase in social spending for every dollar Canada spends on medical care could increase life expectancy and decrease potentially avoidable deaths.


Average per capita spending on health care in Canada was three times higher than on social services in 2011 compared to 1980.


That’s the percentage of Canadian younger children who live in child care deserts—neighbourhoods where they don’t have access to full-time licensed child care.


The one-bedroom rental wage in Canada is lower than the minimum wage in only three communities: Sherbrooke, Trois-Rivières and Saguenay. That means every other city in Canada is too expensive for a minimum wage worker to be able to afford the rent.

1 million

In 2020, nearly one million, or more than one in eight children, were growing up with the short- and long-term physical, mental, emotional, economic and social harms of poverty. Without temporary pandemic benefits, 1.5 million children would have been living in poverty. Those benefits showed us governments can indeed reduce poverty, in a flash.

“In an economy with well-being at its heart, economic growth will simply be another tool to guide it in the direction that the society chooses. In such an economy, the percentage points of GDP, which are rarely connected with the lives of average citizens, will cease to take the center stage. The focus would instead shift towards more desirable and actual determinants of welfare.”—Amit Kapoor and Bibek Debroy, “GDP is not a measure of human well-being,” Harvard Business Review.

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