Canada is a prosperous and affluent country. It has a highly developed social welfare system that includes a progressive health-care system. The nation aggressively pursues policies which emphasize human rights. In terms of the welfare of its citizens, Canada is one of the world's most progressive nations. The combination of a thriving economy and generous social benefits gives Canada one of the highest standards of living in the world. In the Human Development Report 2000, published by the United Nations, Canada ranks number-one in the world in human development. Furthermore, over the past 25 years Canada has consistently ranked number-one or two in the report. The GDP per capita in 1999 was US$23,300. Education is mandatory through age 15 and the literacy rate exceeds 97 percent.
The highest 10 percent of the population accounts for 23.8 percent of all income. At the same time, the lowest 10 percent makes only 2.8 percent of all income. The majority of Canadians fall into what is considered to be the middle class. While most people in Canadian society share in the nation's prosperity, there are several groups that are generally excluded from the affluence of the country. Among these groups are the native people of Canada and recent immigrants. Women and the disabled
|GDP per Capita (US$)|
|SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.|
also face inequities in employment and wages. While women have the same property rights and are guaranteed equal employment under the law, many women are paid less than male workers in similar jobs. Women head over 85 percent of single-parent households and these households have a higher level of poverty than their traditional 2-parent family counterparts.
Native Americans in Canada generally do not share in the nation's prosperity. They have higher rates of unemployment, alcoholism, suicide, and poverty than the national averages. Increasingly, the tribes have sought greater autonomy and political control over themselves and their land. In response, the government has allocated US$400 million for programs designed to alleviate the worst problems of the tribes since 1996. The federal government is also currently in negotiations with over 350 different tribes over issues of self-government.
The Canadian health-care system is often described as a model for other nations. The system is a combination of public financing and private delivery of medical care. In other words, private doctors and health-care providers treat people, but the costs are paid for by the government. The federal government sets standards and provides funds for the provincial governments. Each province is responsible for specific planning, public health, and the financing of the health-care system. Over 95 percent of Canadian hospitals are private non-profit ventures that are run by community boards and municipalities.
|Household Consumption in PPP Terms|
|Country||All food||Clothing and footwear||Fuel and power a||Health care b||Education b||Transport & Communications||Other|
|Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.|
|a Excludes energy used for transport.|
|b Includes government and private expenditures.|
|SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.|
|Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage|
|Survey year: 1994|
|Note: This information refers to income shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita income.|
|SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].|
For-profit hospitals exist mainly to provide long-term care. In 1998, total health-care expenditures were Can$82.5 billion or Can$2,694 per person. Each year, health care usually accounts for about 10 percent of GDP, and about one-third of total spending by the provincial governments. The main complaint about the system is the length of time that patients often have to wait before they receive certain treatments. In 1999, the average time between referral by a primary care doctor and treatment by a medical specialist was 14 weeks.