Social Outcomes in Canada's Territories Fall Behind National Average

OTTAWA, July 26, 2017 /CNW/ - The territories generally fall behind the Canadian average on a number of measures of equity and social cohesion, yet outperform the rest of the country in some areas, according to The Conference Board of Canada's How Canada Performs: Social Outcomes in the Territories. Scores are below average on indicators such as poverty, crime rates, and income distribution, but the territories perform relatively well on life satisfaction and for the most part racial wage gaps disappear between Indigenous and non-Indigenous individuals that have post-secondary education.

"When assessing outcomes in the territories, we need to consider the context that helps explain why average territorial performance is distinct from and, in many cases, lower than the provincial averages. The territories' geographic isolation, low educational attainment, differences in the availability of social services, and infrastructure gaps all have significant effects on several of the society indicators in our report and help explain why they fall behind the Canadian average on social outcomes," said Adam Fiser, Senior Research Associate, The Conference Board of Canada.

"In order to improve social outcomes in the territories, efforts must be made to improve education attainment and access to health care, including mental health services, as well as investing in poverty reduction strategies."

Highlights

  • The territories' geographic isolation, low educational attainment, differences in the availability of social services, and infrastructure gaps help explain their lower social outcomes.
  • Policy actions to improve educational outcomes and access to health care, as well as investing in poverty reduction strategies could help improve social outcomes in the territories.
  • Culturally specific measures of social cohesion—such as access to informal networks of emotional, social, and material support—are vital to understanding social cohesion in the territories and especially in remote Northern Indigenous communities.

Yukon
Yukon is the best performing territory on the How Canada Performs: Society report card. It performs better than the Canadian average on a number of measures. In 2016, Yukon had one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country at 5.6 per cent (national rate in 2016 was 7.0 per cent). However, unemployment rates between Indigenous and non-Indigenous individuals differ substantially. Yukon's unemployment rate for Indigenous individuals with a high-school diploma was 17.3 per cent in 2011, compared to 7.4 per cent for their non-Indigenous counterparts. Compared with the Canadian average of 8 per cent, Yukon has a low proportion of families who fall under the low income measure, with only 4 per cent of couple families considered low income. This could be due in part to the strong employment rate and the relatively high number of individuals employed in public administration. Yukon's gender wage gap of 8 per cent is much lower than the national average of 19 per cent and its proportion of youth who are not working or going to school is comparable to the national average. The territory also has a life satisfaction score on par with the Canadian average.

However, when it comes to the racial wage gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous individuals with a high-school diploma, the gap in Yukon, like much of Canada, is substantial. Indigenous men earned 38.7 per cent less than non-Indigenous men in Yukon, compared to 19.2 per cent across Canada. Higher education helps to equalize earnings. Indeed, Indigenous men with a university degree earned 24.6 per cent more than their non-Indigenous counterparts in 2011.

Crime is a concern for people living in the territories and Yukon is no exception. Yukon's three-year average homicide rate of 3.6 deaths per 100,000 people is elevated and comparable to Manitoba, which had the highest average homicide rate among the provinces. It is important to note, however, that this report looks at rates and not the actual number of incidents. Thus, despite having a relatively low number of actual homicides, a territory with a small population can have a higher homicide rate. In this case, Yukon's homicide rate is due in part to a high rate in 2014, while in 2013 there were no recorded homicides. Burglaries in Yukon are roughly 1.5 times higher than the Canadian average, but the number of actual burglaries ranged from 212 to 300 between 2013-2015.

Northwest Territories

The Northwest Territories generally falls just behind, or at, the Canadian average on most social measures. However, its gender gap, unemployment rate, share of jobless youth, homicide, burglaries and suicide rates are higher than the national average.

N.W.T.'s gender wage gap of 23 per cent is higher than the national average of 19 per cent, while the gaps in the other two territories are significantly lower. N.W.T.'s unemployment rate was 7.4 per cent in 2016 and nearly a quarter of youth in N.W.T. (23.8 per cent) are not in school or working. The N.W.T. has an average homicide rate of 7.6 deaths per 100,00 population (between 2 to 5 deaths)—roughly five times higher than the Canadian average. The N.W.T. had an average of 1,207 reported burglaries per 100,000 population, approximately 2.8 times more than the Canadian average. These elevated crime rates, however, partly reflect the small population.

Participation in traditional activities—an important measure of social cohesion for Indigenous groups—is high across the territories. In the N.W.T., 57 per cent of Indigenous youth (aged 15 to 24) participate in traditional activities compared to 37.9 per cent across Canada.

When it comes to average incomes, 42 per cent of the N.W.T.'s residents occupy the top two Canadian income deciles. While at first glance the average income in the N.W.T. appears to be higher than the national average, it does not factor in the cost of living and goods, which can be significantly higher in Canada's North. The income disparities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous individuals is also cause for concern. About 24 per cent of Indigenous individuals in the N.W.T. fall in low income groups, compared to 16 per cent of the total N.W.T. population. However, Indigenous men and women with a university degree earn more than their non-Indigenous counterparts.

While the N.W.T.'s percentage of couple families that are considered low income is the same as the Canadian average (8 per cent), its share of single-parent families who are low income is higher, 41 per cent compared to 32 per cent across Canada.

Nunavut

Nunavut lags the Canadian average on most of the measures used to assess social outcomes. Nunavut's unemployment rate, prevalence of low-income families, percentage of youth who are not working or going to school, and burglary, homicide and suicide rates are significantly higher than the national average. That said, Nunavut has only a 2 per cent gender wage gap, compared to the 19 per cent Canadian average.

Nunavut's substantial Indigenous population faces distinct historical, cultural, and socio-economic challenges, including the impacts of residential schools, which contribute to the social outcomes seen here.

Despite Nunavut's relatively elevated unemployment, crime, and poverty rates compared with the Canadian average, self-reported life satisfaction scores in Nunavut are high. Nunavummiut report close family and other kinship ties, as well as high levels of participation in traditional activities, which may contribute to the territory's performance in this measure. Culturally specific measures of social cohesion, like traditional activities, are vital to understanding social cohesion in the territory. And like the N.W.T., the Nunavut population experience a very high level of participation in traditional activities across age groups.

How Canada Performs is an ongoing research program at The Conference Board of Canada to help leaders identify relative strengths and weaknesses in Canada's socio-economic performance. Six performance domains are assessed: Economy, Education and Skills, Innovation, Environment, Health, and Society.

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SOURCE Conference Board of Canada

For further information: Yvonne Squires, Media Relations, The Conference Board of Canada, Tel.: 613- 526-3090 ext. 221, E-mail: corpcomm@conferenceboard.ca; Juline Ranger, Director of Communications, The Conference Board of Canada, Tel.: 613- 526-3090 ext. 431, E-mail: corpcomm@conferenceboard.ca

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