Many people think of Canada as one of the more socially advanced countries of the world. This view is reinforced by OECD’s Better Life Index where Canada placed fourth in 2020, the World Happiness Report, which ranked Canada 15th in 2021, or the Social Progress Index that graded Canada sixth in 2021,
The Social Progress Index was created by professors at Harvard and MIT with the non-profit Social Progress Imperative. the index ranks social and environmental measures that underline well-being and opportunity. This is how SPI viewed Canada:
If you want to move up in the world, move to Canada. Our neighbor to the north ranks first in the world in providing Opportunity to its people, ninth in Personal Freedom and Choice, and third in both access to Advanced Education and Tolerance and Inclusion.
But instead of progressive, Andrew Mitrovica, long an unapologetically bold columnist, labeled the country pedestrian.
Would-be privatizers of public healthcare hold sway in parts of Canada — particularly Alberta — but public support remains strong for a system that ensures people can enjoy access to medical treatment without fear of family bankruptcy.
Pensions though have been an easier target for neoliberalism because people tend not to think about retirement until later in their working lives. For some, that is too late. In 2018, a CIBC poll said about one-third of Canadians between ages of 45 and 64 have nothing saved for retirement. As employer pension plans disappear in a gig-economy, this problem is growing worse.
The economic havoc wreaked by the coronavirus pandemic will fuel the gig economy as companies become increasingly wary of hiring permanent staff and rising unemployment leads to an increase in the number of individuals seeking contract work.Coronavirus set to fuel gig economy growth
The Broadbent Institute found ‘voluntary’ options for saving, RRSPs, TFSAs, etc. are inadequate to address shortcomings in workplace pensions and limited benefits offered by the Canada Pension Plan. Tax deferred savings accounts work extremely well for the wealthiest citizens, and work not at all for the poorest.
Looking through statistics published by Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), I was rather surprised at how badly that organization regarded pension systems in Canada.
Among G20 nations, male and female pensions for Canadians rank 16th:
In a larger listing of nations, Canada ranks very poorly. It is not a subject I have studied thoroughly but some of the countries placed near the top surprised me.
According to OECD, Canada does a little better in terms of gender gap for pensions but still ranks below the middle:
International consulting firm Mercer places Canada higher in its overall evaluations of pensions but ranks the country 15th in adequacy and 21st in integrity. Twelfth place overall seems a stretch in Mercer’s ratings but mysterious forces can sometimes influence ratings.
From the average beneficiary’s point of view, Canada may have far from the best pension plans in the world, but I’d wager we have the best remunerated pension fund managers in the universe.
Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz wrote that the American system is rigged in favour of a small minority of citizens. According to Stiglitz:
The American political system, coupled with high initial inequality, gave the moneyed enough political influence to change laws to benefit themselves, further exacerbating inequality.
Breaking this feedback loop by curbing the power of money in politics is essential to reducing inequality and restoring hope.The American Economy is Rigged
It is no different in Canada.