Measuring distance to the SDG targets – Canada

Canada has already achieved 25 of the 128 SDG targets for which comparable data are available and, based on most recent trends, it is expected to meet 12 additional targets by 2030 (Figure 1). As virtually all OECD countries, Canada has already met (or is close to meeting) most Targets related to securing basic needs and implementing the policy tools and frameworks mentioned in the 2030 Agenda (see details in Table 1). Canada’s main strengths are within the “People” category, yet challenges remain. There is room for improvement in terms of workforce inclusion and productivity (mainly in the “Prosperity” category), and Canada remains far away from many Targets of the “Planet” category.

This country profile provides a high-level overview of some of Canada’s strengths and challenges in performance across the SDG Targets. As such, it differs from Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) or other reporting processes. To ensure international comparability, this assessment draws on the global indicator framework and relies on data sourced from the SDG Global Database and the OECD. VNRs typically use national indicators that reflect national circumstances and are more up-to-date (See section How to read this country profile that provides some methodological details on country profiles).

Canada shows good performance on health (Goal 3). Canada’s distances to targets on health status are rather small – it is ahead of the OECD average on premature mortality (Target 3.4). With the exception of overweight and obesity (Target 2.2), risk factors are also below the OECD average; tobacco consumption (Target 3.a), while still common, is 6 percentage points below the OECD average, while air pollution in cities (Target 11.6) is below the WHO-recommended limit. Access to health care is also very good; Canada combines high levels of health service coverage and private health expenditures that do not exceed 10% for 97% of the population (Target 3.8). Canada also has high immunisation rates (Target 3.b). While data for assessing health emergency preparedness (Target 3.d) have limitations, they show Canada as the only OECD country that has met this target so far.

Besides health, in the “People” category, Canada also reports several strengths on education (Goal 4). Canada has already met Targets on pre-primary education (Target 4.2) and qualification of teachers (Target 4.c) and has a small distance to achieve the target on lifelong learning (Target 4.3). Canada also reports one of the lowest levels of violence against women (Target 5.2).

Despite some strength, Canada could improve inclusion. 90% of the population believe that Canada is a good place to live for ethnic and racial minorities (proxy indicator for Target 10.3) and Canada is close to meeting targets relating to migration policies to facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration (Target 10.7). However, while the share of women in managerial positions is slightly below 40%, it remains around 30% in the local and national parliaments (Target 5.5). Both the proportion of youth not in education, employment or training, at 14% in 2020 (Target 8.6) and relative income poverty rate, at 12% in 2019, remain stubbornly high (Target 10.2).

Where data is available, Canada appears to be far away from many targets within the “Planet” category, notably for Goals 13 on climate action and 14 on life below water. More than 65% of Canada’s electricity generation depends on renewables (Target 7.2) but energy efficiency is low (Target 7.3) and decreasing, Canada still features high intensity of greenhouse gas emissions (Target 13.2) and domestic consumption of natural resources per capita (Target 12.2). On Goal 14 on life below water, Canada’s performance is poor on the policy indicators regarding overfishing and IUU fishing (available measures only focus on a specific aspect of Target 14.4), as well as on the protection of access rights of small-scale fisheries (Target 14.b). With large amounts of beach litter, Canada is also far from achieving Target 14.1 on marine pollution. While Canada appears to be meeting Target 14.5 on marine protected areas, there is still scope for progress: the share of protected land is at 12% (below the 2020 Aichi Target of 17%) and Canada appears to be behind the OECD average when it comes to the protection of marine (Target 14.5), terrestrial (15.1), freshwater (15.1) and mountain (15.4) areas that are considered to be key for biodiversity.

Like in many other OECD countries, data availability remains a challenge when measuring distances to targets (see the Overview chapter for details). For Canada, available data on the level of the different indicators allow covering 128 of the 169 targets. As shown in Figure 2 below, indicator coverage is uneven across the 17 goals. While nine goals have most of their targets covered (the indicator coverage exceeds 80%), coverage is much lower for Cities (Goal 11) with only half of its targets covered – Canada is a federation of provinces and given cities are often the subject of provincial laws, some Goal 11 Targets may not apply. Data gaps become starker when focusing on performance indicators, excluding those providing contextual information. In this case, coverage exceeds 80% only for Goals 3 on health and 10 on inequalities. Moreover, for eight Goals – mostly within the “Planet” category (Goals 12, 13, 14 and 15) but also on quality education (Goal 4), gender equality (5), cities (11) and partnerships (17), data do not allow monitoring changes over time for more than two in three targets.

While some SDG Targets are, on average, close to being met, performance is very uneven across the 17 Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Table 1 presents an overview of Canada’s progress towards targets based on available data for each of the 17 Goals. It shows that distances to Targets and trends over time differ significantly even when considering a specific goal.

The OECD report The Short and Winding Road to 2030: Measuring Distance to the SDG Targets evaluates the distance that OECD countries need to travel to meet SDG targets for which data are currently available. It also looks at whether countries have been moving towards or away from these targets, and how likely they are to meet their commitments by 2030, based on an analysis of recent trends and the observed volatility in the different indicators.

As most authors and international organisations, this report adopts a rather simple geometric growth model for assessing the direction and pace of recent changes in the context of the SDGs. Yet, instead of making direct estimates of the value of the indicator by 2030, it models the likelihood of achieving a specific level using Monte Carlo simulations.

While the report provides an overview of where OECD countries, taken as a whole, currently stand, country profiles provide details of the performance and data availability of individual OECD countries.

Progress on SDGs requires a granular understanding of countries’ strengths and weaknesses based on the consideration of the 169 targets of the 2030 Agenda. Figure 1 shows both current achievements (in the inner circle; the longer the bar, the smaller the distance remaining to be travelled) as well as whether OECD countries are on track (or are at least making progress) to meet their commitments by 2030 (in the outer circle).

The length of each bar shows current level of achievement on each target. As detailed in the Methodological Annex, countries’ distance to target is measured as the “standardised difference” between a country’s current position and the target end-value. For each indicator, the standardised measurement unit (s.u.) is the standard deviation observed among OECD countries in the reference year (i.e. the year closest to 2015). Therefore, the longer the bar, the shorter the distance still to be travelled to reach the target by 2030. The colours of the bars applied to the various targets refer to the goals they pertain to.

The outer ring shows how OECD countries are performing over time and how likely they are to meet the different targets by 2030 based on the observed trends of the various indicators. It uses stoplight colours to classify the progress towards the target:

  • green is used to indicate those countries that (based on the change in the different indicators over a recent period) should meet the target in 2030 just by maintaining their current pace of progress (i.e. more than 75% of (randomised) projections meet the target);

  • yellow for those countries whose current pace of progress is insufficient to meet the target by 2030 (i.e. less than 75% of randomised projections meet the target, while the correlation coefficient between the indicator and the year is high and statistically significant, implying that a significant trend could be detected); and

  • red for those countries whose recent changes have been stagnating or moving them further away from the target (i.e. less than 75% of randomised projections meet the target and the correlation coefficient between the indicator and the year is low or statistically insignificant, implying that no statistical trend could be identified).

With the aim of helping its member countries in navigating the 2030 Agenda and in setting their own priorities for action, this report relies on a unique methodology for measuring the distance that OECD countries have to travel to achieve SDG targets. The identification of the main strengths and challenges proposed in this report relies on current performances only:

  • A target is considered to be a strength when the distance to the target end-value is lower than 0.5 s.u. (i.e. the distance is deemed to be small) or when the country is closer to the target than the OECD average. For instance, while Korea's distance to Target 2.2 on malnutrition is 1.4 s.u. (i.e. classified as medium distance), the average OECD distance is 2.5 s.u. Therefore, Target 2.2 is categorised as being a strength for Korea.

  • A target is considered to be a challenge when the distance to target is greater than 1.5 s.u. (i.e. distance is deemed to be long) or when the country is further away from the target than the OECD average. For instance, Estonia's distance to Target 4.2 on pre-primary education is 1.1 s.u. (i.e. medium distance), which is higher than the 0.24 s.u. distance for the OECD average. Target 4.2 is therefore classified as a weakness for Estonia.

While the lack of consistent time series often prevents an exhaustive assessment of trends, they are discussed when available and relevant in nuancing the assessment of current performance.

In total, this report relies on 537 data series supporting 183 of the 247 indicators listed in the global indicator framework (or for close proxies of these indicators). These indicators cover 134 of the 169 SDG targets. Yet, target coverage is uneven across the 17 goals and among OECD member countries.

Figure 2 summarises data availability:

  • darker blue bars indicate the share of targets for which at least one indicator (including indicators providing context information) is available

  • lighter blue bars indicate the share of targets for which the available indicator(s) include those having a clear normative direction (i.e. allowing to distinguish between good and bad performance), which are the only ones used to measure distances to target levels.

  • medium blue bars indicate the share of targets for which progress over time can be gauged (i.e. at least three observations are available over a five-year period).

All methods and concepts are further detailed in the Methodological Annex.

Metadata, Legal and Rights

This document, as well as any data and map included herein, are without prejudice to the status of or sovereignty over any territory, to the delimitation of international frontiers and boundaries and to the name of any territory, city or area. Extracts from publications may be subject to additional disclaimers, which are set out in the complete version of the publication, available at the link provided.

© OECD 2022

The use of this work, whether digital or print, is governed by the Terms and Conditions to be found at