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2. Socio-Economics in British Columbia

Quality-of-Life Measures

Generalizations of the divide between core and periphery, Global South and Global North, and Third World and First World, often lead to representing the different countries as poor and rich countries. This is a very general description with poor countries regarded as ones where the standard of living is lower than those regarded as rich. Usually this means that people in rich countries have higher incomes that allow them access to better living conditions, health and education. GNI in rich and poor countries is therefore a measure of economic performance, but it is also used as a reliable macro measure of social development. However, many believe that these statistics are not a good measure of general social well-being as they do not take into account the spatiality of economic distribution.

And what about the uneven income distribution and different opportunities within the cities of the Global North? For example, Vancouver, as the largest city in British Columbia, is ranked among the top most livable cities in the world. BC, as a province, is a destination for people from all over Canada as well as the world as a very desirable place to live and work. Large numbers of good schools and a comprehensive health-care system, among other factors, make BC an attractive location. But is that all good news for BC and its residents?

Quality of Life

Quality-of-life (QOL) surveys are another tool that are used globally to measure standards of living based on indicators other than economic ones. Introduced as a concept to Geography in the 1970s, quality of life is the general well-being of individuals and societies. It was originally used in studies of territorial spatial indicators (Knox, 1975; Smith, 1973), and is now used as a measurement in many fields including international development, health care, politics and employment. 

Today, QOL is used to measure more than GDP or GNI (which are based only on income as discussed abovein the previous paragraph). QOL includes not only wealth and employment but also the built environment, physical and mental health, education, recreation and leisure time, and social belonging.

There are a number of quality-of-life surveys including the OECD Better Life Index [1] and the Mercer Quality of Living Survey [2] In both these surveys Canada rates very highly, with four Canadian cities (Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto), dominating the list of top places to live in North America. The OECD Better Life Survey puts Canada as third overall in the world as the best place to live after Australia and Sweden.


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