More Canadians Than Britons Living the Good Life

by Josephine Mazzuca, PhD
Senior Staff Writer, Toronto Bureau

Two weeks ago, the United Nations released its Human Development Report 2004, which includes the human development index (HDI) -- a measure of international living standards. The HDI is a broad appraisal of the quality of life in countries throughout the world, assessing life expectancy, adult literacy, school enrollment rates, and income. The HDI shows Canada ranking an impressive 4th place worldwide, while the United Kingdom ranks 12th.

Data from a recent Gallup survey in these two countries* seem to back up the findings of the HDI. Canadians are more satisfied than Britons with the overall quality of life in their countries. More than a third of Canadians (38%) are "very satisfied" with the overall quality of life in Canada. By comparison, only 19% of British residents are very satisfied. These results are consistent for both countries compared with results from early last year.

About half of the respondents in Great Britain and Canada say they are "somewhat satisfied" with the overall quality of life in their own countries. Fewer than 1 in 10 Canadians are either "somewhat" or "very" dissatisfied with the quality of life in Canada. But one in five Britons are dissatisfied with the quality of life in their country.

Not surprisingly, Canadians in higher income categories are more satisfied with the overall quality of life in Canada than are those with less income. For example, 47% of Canadians with annual household incomes of $75,000 (Canadian) or more are very satisfied with the overall quality of life in Canada, compared with only 27% of Canadians whose household incomes are less than $30,000.

However, across all income levels, few Canadians (less than 15%) report that they are somewhat or very dissatisfied with the overall quality of life. Similar patterns emerge among income levels in Great Britain, although dissatisfaction levels are higher across the board.

Life Is Good, but Can One "Get Ahead"?

Canadians tend to believe that in their country, a person can get ahead by working hard, and most Britons share this sentiment. Slightly more than a quarter (28%) of Canadians are very satisfied with the opportunity for a person to get ahead by working hard in Canada, while 25% of British respondents hold the same view regarding their own country. About half of Canadians and Britons fall into the somewhat satisfied category on this topic, and about a quarter of respondents in each country are dissatisfied at some level with the opportunity to get ahead by working hard.

Bottom Line

Gallup's data do support the U.N. findings that on average, Canadians enjoy a better quality of life than Britons do. But the fact remains that both countries rank among the top 15 nations worldwide in terms of their living standards. The United Nations points out that differences are small in HDI among most "developed" countries. The difference in the HDI scores between Canada and the United Kingdom is only .007. 

*Results in Canada are based on telephone interviews with 1,003 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted April 28-May 4, 2004. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. The survey was conducted by Gallup Canada.

Results in Great Britain are based on telephone interviews with 1,018 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted April 29-May 12, 2004. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. The survey was conducted by Gallup UK.

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