Australian Bureau of Statistics
1370.0 - Measures of Australia's Progress, 2004
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 21/04/2004
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Many different approaches are used to measure progress and kindred concepts. Some are outlined here, together with some of the more significant measurement projects underway in Australia and overseas.
Some analysts categorise their indicator sets according to the Pressure-State-Response (PSR) model. This model is often referred to in the environmental literature. It was developed primarily for considering sustainable development and the interactions between the environment and the economy - so it is less suited to Measuring Australia's Progress which focuses on progress in the economic, social and environmental domains, rather than on environmental sustainability.
The United Nations (UN) has replaced the term 'pressure' with 'driving force', though the UN's model is essentially the same.
The PSR framework implies causality: a pressure modifies the state of the environment and this triggers a response from society. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) warns that a PSR framework:
Aggregated indicators seek to combine disparate measures of progress into just one number.
For example, to measure the quality of life in a nation, the United Nations Development Program started compiling a Human Development Index (HDI). It is presented as an alternative to national accounting measures such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for measuring the relative socioeconomic progress of nations. The HDI is aimed primarily at measuring change in developing countries. A country's HDI is composed of life expectancy, educational standards and average incomes. Each of the components is given equal weight.
There is not yet a consensus on how many of these things should be valued in dollar terms.
The Australia Institute has calculated a Genuine Progress Indicator for Australia. Details are at:
The System of National Accounts (SNA 1993) provides an international framework for economic accounting. Australia's national accounts record the essential elements of the Australian economy: production; income; consumption; accumulation of assets and liabilities; and wealth.
Some countries, including Australia, are beginning to explore ways of incorporating environmental and social effects into a national accounting framework.
The Dutch Government has also made progress in compiling a System of Economic and Social Accounting Matrices and Extensions (SESAME). This system is an extension to the standard national accounts framework. For each variable, it permits analysis of both the national total value and its distribution among socioeconomic groups (categories of employed persons etc.) Key features in a system of accounting matrices are data integration and multiple classifications, which provide links (both conceptual and numerical) between monetary and non-monetary units. Such a system can be used to analyse the links between the structure of an economy, people and the environment.
The Ecological Footprint
The Ecological Footprint measures the land area and other resources affected by a population - both the land occupied directly by housing and the like, and the land and other resources used to produce goods and services, to take in the waste generated, and so on.
Growing Victoria Together
In November 2001, the Hon. Steve Bracks M.P., Premier of Victoria, launched Growing Victoria Together,
The ABS has been assisting the Victorian State Government with identifying priorities for indicator production through the Indicators of Wellbeing in Regional and Rural Communities project, which began in 2000. This consultancy had a particular focus on wellbeing indicators at the sub-State level and culminated in the delivery to the State Government of a Victorian Framework for Indicators of Regional Wellbeing in March 2002.
Some indicators identified in these two projects are already published by the ABS. The ABS expects to continue assisting the Victorian State Government in the further development of indicators and progress measures.
The Charter of Budget Honesty Act 1998 requires the Treasurer to publish an Intergenerational Report (IGR) at least once every five years, assessing the sustainability of current government policies for the following 40 years, including taking into account the financial implications of demographic change. The first IGR was released in May 2002 with the 2002-03 Federal Budget, see Budget Paper No. 5 at:
Are we sustaining Australia
The Australian Government's report Are We Sustaining Australia: A Report Against Headline Sustainability Indicators for Australia is Australia's first report against a set of 24 headline sustainability indicators. The indicators have been selected to collectively measure national performance against the core objectives of the National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development (NSESD).
The Report, and the indicators against which it reports, have been developed in consultation with all Australian Government agencies, other jurisdictions, key stakeholders and the general public. The Report is not intended to be comprehensive, but rather to give a broad view, reflecting on a wide range of issues with a relatively small amount of information.
It is not possible from this first report to assess whether or not our way of life is sustainable. This is because there are no time series data as yet for several of the indicators of ecological integrity and biodiversity. In addition, there are limited time series data for the indicators of natural resource management and for the environmental and some of the social aspects of individual and community wellbeing. Rather, this Report provides a snapshot against which future trends can be seen.
A table on the next page compares the ABS Measures of Australia's Progress with Are We Sustaining Australia.
The Report is available at:
Comparing dimensions and indicators, MAP and Are We Sustaining Australia
Tasmania Together is a long-term social, environmental and economic plan for the Tasmania's development for a period of 20 years. It provides an overarching framework for planning, budgeting and policy priorities for the government and non-government sectors.
The process of creating Tasmania Together was driven by the Community Leaders' Group (CLG), a 22 member group of Tasmanians representing a broad cross-section of the community. The role of the CLG was to consult widely with the Tasmanian community to identify their vision and goals and to oversee the development of benchmarks. The process was completed and the Tasmania Together document launched in September 2001.
The Tasmania Together document contains:
For example, Goal 2 in the area of Community is that by the year 2020 Tasmania will 'have a community where people feel safe and are safe in all aspects of their lives'. During the community consultations on this goal, a key issue was the greater risk of harm borne by younger people. As a result, one of the benchmark standards for this goal is to 'support young people who have challenging behaviour or who are at risk'. A benchmarking committee identified two key indicators of progress. One of these indicators is the number of deaths of people aged 29 or younger due to external causes. For this indicator, a target has been set for a 15% annually compounding reduction up until the year 2020. Other indicators of progress towards this goal include crime rates and people's perceptions of personal safety.
In October 2001, a nine-member Tasmania Together Progress Board was established to monitor, promote and report on Tasmania Together. The Tasmania Together Goals and Benchmarks are now integral to the State's budget process and the Board has been active in fostering initiatives by government, business and the general community. To date, two Progress Reports (August 2002 and August 2003) have been tabled.
More information on Tasmania Together is available at:
There are countless initiatives at the international, national and sub-national level around the world.
A selection is mentioned below.
A table on the next page compares the ABS Measures of Australia's Progress with the UK publication.
Comparing dimensions and indicators, Measures of Australia's Progress and the UK's Quality of Life Counts
This page last updated 17 September 2008
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