Alberta slapped with a C on quality of life thanks in part to wage gaps

Alberta received a C grade and ranks 19 out of 26 comparable regions in a report released by the Conference Board of Canada on Wednesday.

The How Canada Performs: Society Report Card compares the social performance of Canada, its provinces and 15 peer countries, using 10 indicators that range from income inequality and the gender wage gap, to homicide and burglary rates.

Canada ranked 10 out of 16 countries, and 13 out of 26 when the country as as whole was compared to the provinces as well as the other countries. The United States ranked at the bottom of the list.

The report said Alberta performs badly on several measures of equity, and gets a D on the gender wage gap.

"With a difference in median weekly earnings of close to 25 per cent between men and women, Alberta has the third-highest gender wage gap among all 26 regions — only Japan, and Newfoundland and Labrador fare worse," the board said in a release.

Gap for immigrants and people with disabilities

Alberta also had the poorest showing among the provinces in terms of the wage gap for people with disabilities, who earn 66 per cent of the income of people without disabilities, the report said.

The province got a C grade for the immigrant wage gap, with a 25.9-per cent gap between the earnings of university-educated landed immigrants and Canadian-born citizens — compared to the national average of 20.6 per cent.

"Alberta's ranking on the society report card highlights the need for improvement on some key social challenges, such as the gender wage gap and the wage gaps of immigrants and people with disabilities," said Craig Alexander, the board's senior vice-president and chief economist.

"Improving labour market opportunities and conditions for disadvantaged groups can help the province boost social and economic performance."

Social support

The report also compared "perceived social network support" — an attempt to measure whether citizens in the 26 regions feel they have people to count on in times of need.

On this measure, Alberta was given a D grade, ahead of only Japan, Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island.

Alberta received its only A grades on poverty, intergenerational income mobility and life satisfaction.

The report said Alberta had the lowest poverty rate among all the provinces and the third-lowest among all 26 jurisdictions, after Denmark and Finland.

However, the report noted that the latest available internationally comparable data for the poverty indicator was 2013 — before oil prices plummeted and Alberta went into recession.

"So, when more current data become available, there may be some deterioration and potential change in the rankings," the report said. 

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