Some room for improvement in creativity

The World Economic Forum, a very highly regarded (maybe slightly liberal) body, has published an interesting report which you can download as the Global Creativity Index 2015.

At first glance we should be pretty chuffed, we’re 4th out of the 135+ countries measured.

At the risk of grossly oversimplifying, the study assesses three factors:

1. Technology – Research and development investment, and patents per capita
2. Talent – Share of adults with higher education and workforce in the creative class
3. Tolerance – Treatment of immigrants, racial and ethnic minorities, gays and lesbians.

Canada scores highest in the world in Tolerance, which the study measures, somewhat subjectively, as “openness” to e.g. immigrants, minorities, etc. And those, being “open” and “tolerant,” are good things in economic terms: it means that we are allowing everyone to bring all their talents and skills into the market. It’s why, as a general rule, excluding people from the general workforce based on race, sexual orientation, gender or language is foolish. (Of course there are exceptions to every general rule.)

But we only finish 13th and 14th in Technology and Talent, behind, in both categories: Australia, Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, Singapore, Sweden and the USA.

But, although Tolerance is somewhat subjectively measured it ends up being the quantitative measure, while Talent and Technology, despite being more objectively measured, are somewhat qualitative indices. That is to say: thanks to our high Tolerance, we have the greatest proportion, the highest quantity of people “open” or “able” to enter the Talent or Technology areas and we should, therefore expect to have very high scores there, if the quality of our education system and our industrial base are comparable to the quality of our own social attitudes. But our scores are, relatively, low ~ in the bottom half of the top 25 …

GlobalCompetitivenessIndex2015

… indicating that we’re doing something different, somehow being less creative, on a macro level, than, say, Australia, a country to which we are often compared.

There are two factors in Talent: share of adults with higher education and share of the workforce in the “creative class” which is described as spanning “science and technology; arts and culture; and business, management, and the professions.” Now we beat the USA in our share of people in the creative class but the USA scores higher, overall, because of it’s much, much higher share of the population with higher education. I would be more worried about that is I though that everyone in the USA graduated from Berkley, Brown Cal Tech, Chicago, Columbia Harvard, MIT, Princeton or Yale, but we know that there are an awful lot of less than adequately educated Americans running around with college degrees, even advanced degrees, so that may be a wash. But we also know that universities an colleges in Australia, which scored first in Talent, and in Finland, New Zealand and Singapore are on a par with our own, at least, so our place, out of the “top ten” is a bit of a worry.

In Technology, South Korea leads, Japan is second, Israel third, the United States fourth, and Finland is fifth. Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Singapore, and Denmark round out the top ten. Once again we are out of the top then and that should be a worry, too.

Now, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made much, in a thinly veiled attack on Prime Minister Harper, of wanting our trading partners to value us for our resourcefulness rather for just our resources: it was neat rhetoric but it highlights two points:

First: lie it or not, we are a resource economy and a lot of Canadians are employed in the (not very creative) resource industries; but then so is Australia. Eight years ago our economies were very much alike …

canada-vs-australia-economy.JPG

… and I doubt that things have changed a whole lot since then.

So the question is why is Australia 1st in Talent and 7th in Technology when we are 14th and 13th, respectively, in those same sectors?

Second: our resourcefulness does not appear to be as noteworthy as our prime minister might like to believe.

This is not just a federal government problem. But it is tied to two subjects which have worried me of late:

  1. Our health care system, which I likened to a dozen or more 800 pound gorillas, consumes a constantly growing share of provincial government revenues which cannot, then, be spent on education, which pulls us lower and lower down the Talent ladder; and
  2. Our social welfare systems may be creating a permanent underclass which will, also, of necessity make us weaker in both Talent and Technology.

What can or should be done to help us climb up in both the Talent and Technology indices is certainly debatable but that we should want to do better, in both, ought not to be.

I have made a small handful of suggestions, none of them terribly original and all, I suspect, a bit controversial. They do not include lowering the standards for education, anywhere.

But, improving our competitiveness, and I assume that creativity is one factor in making us more or less competitive, in the global marketplace ought to be a core Conservative value and conservatives should also be interested in improving the effectiveness of our social programmes … and that includes changing those, like the Canada Health Act, which actually weaken our education system. The first step, and a real test of Conservative leadership, is to explain to Canadians that our beloved healthcare system, that “sacred trust” as Brian Mulroney dubbed it, is not doing what we want and need it to do.

I will be watching our prospective leaders closely to see how they aim to make Canada more competitive in the world.

A hint … I think it involves less government, not more.

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