Montreal possesses an enviable quality of life but its economic productivity leaves much to be desired, a situation caused in part by the fact comparatively few of its inhabitants have a university degree.
That conclusion was among the observations contained in “Comparer Montréal” a report produced by the Institut du Québec (IDQ) and made public Thursday. The study compared Quebec’s metropolis with 14 North American cities of similar scale including Toronto, Boston and San Francisco.
“Montreal stands out in multiple important elements such as quality of life, such as a the environment,” said IDQ director Emna Braham in an interview. “But it still has a way to go for two other fundamental elements — the level of wealth and its human capital.”
Montreal placed first in the study in the area of quality of life, scoring top marks for its comparatively low levels of poverty, fiscal inequalities, housing costs and homicide rate. The city came in second in the study when it came to life expectancy. The only stain on an otherwise sterling record was its 10th place finish when it came to hours wasted in traffic.
For this first time the IDQ also included environmental indicators in comparison. Montreal placed fifth when it came to air quality and public transportation.
Despite its performance in other categories, Montreal placed dead last in the areas of productivity and gross domestic product per capita.
Braham suggest the low productivity finding could be attributed to the fact a little over one third of Montrealers (36.5 per cent) possess a university degree. Out of the cities sampled, only Phoenix, Arizona scored lower.
The IDQ director admitted she was surprised by that result given the efforts made to reverse that trend.
“We see that university and college graduation rates have been increasing in Quebec,” said Braham. “Significant efforts have been made over the past few years. So it was still pretty surprising to see we are so far behind.”
Montreal’s showing when it came to innovation improved in the latest report, the IDQ putting it in sixth place this year compared with its 10th place finish in 2015.
“That is the result principally of the talent we have in Montreal, in the sectors of the future, of the graduates in the sectors of science and technology,” said Braham. “This is a very interesting point to attract businesses and investment.”
The report is more mixed when it comes to the wealth of Montrealers. They place well when it comes to the poverty rate and wealth inequality. However they place last when it comes to disposable income per capita, even when government transfer payments and the cost of living are taken into account.
The revenues of the wealthiest and the wealth gap influence that picture, however. In a reverse situation, San Francisco, with its high tech sector, placed first in the category of disposable income per capita but had the worst performance when it came to wealth inequality.
The low income rate of Montrealers must be understood as an example of the improvements that are possible to its economic fabric, where its cutting edge sectors have less weight: “There are some of these gaps that can be explained by what we are ultimately doing in an economy.”
Braham cited the example of Toronto, where the salaries paid in the financial services industry “push up total wealth.”
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