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Another dimension of the framework focuses on a variety of population groups which are of special interest to the community and to governments. These groups include, for example, older people, children, youth, families with children, the unemployed, lone parents, people with disabilities, carers, recipients of various government benefits, low income earners, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and people whose language background is other than English.
These two basic dimensions of the framework are brought together in the form of a matrix showing areas of social concern by population groups. The diagram above illustrates this matrix, showing how each area of concern can be related to selected population groups and how different areas of concern can be interconnected. The scope of social statistics in Australia is broadly defined by reference to this matrix and the relationship of its elements to various aspects of human wellbeing, both at the level of the individual and for society as a whole. The ABS aims to provide information about the elements of this matrix over time through its work program activities.
Application of the framework in Australian Social Trends
Australian Social Trends (AST) is structured according to the framework’s areas of concern. It draws on a wide range of data, sourced both from ABS and other agencies, to present a contemporary picture of Australian society. For each area of concern it provides a set of national and state/territory indicators which describe how key aspects of wellbeing in that area have been changing over time and how circumstances differ between states/territories. It also provides comparisons with other countries.
AIMS OF AUSTRALIAN SOCIAL TRENDS
AST aims to:
AST aims to increase the accessibility of information on important social issues and so a key aspect of the publication is its readability. Information is deliberately presented in non-technical language that can be readily understood by the general reader. Statistics are organised to illustrate specific issues, and to highlight the meaning behind the data and the main patterns and exceptions. As far as possible, technical terms are defined separately from the flow of the main story, but are included within each article, so each article can stand alone.
In keeping with these aims, AST articles focus strongly on people and social issues. Each article aims to tell a story, providing a sense of the social and historical context in which a particular issue is embedded, moving from the general to the specific, and using statistics to bring light to the issue. Articles aim to balance ‘what’ analysis (relating the relevant statistical facts surrounding the issue, e.g. number, characteristics, change over time, sex, age and other differences), with ‘why’ analysis (providing context and explanation through highlighting relevant social changes and events and the chronologies of these). For example, each article may examine current circumstances, how circumstances have changed over time, how different groups of people have been affected, and how various factors may be linked to observed trends.
SOCIAL INDICATORS AND PROGRESS
AST complements the three-yearly ABS publication, Measures of Australia's Progress (MAP) (ABS cat. no. 1370.0), and the annual electronic publication, Measures of Australia's Progress: Summary Indicators (ABS cat. no. 1383.0.55.001). MAP presents a suite of indicators for reporting on economic, social and environmental progress and considers the interrelationships between these aspects of life. Three headline dimensions are used to discuss progress in the wellbeing of individuals: health; education and training; and work. Three further headline dimensions are used to measure progress in the way we live together as a society: family, community and social cohesion; crime; and democracy, governance and citizenship. Headline dimensions in the economy and economic resources domain include national income, national wealth, productivity, economic hardship and housing. The national income and wealth dimensions include information on the distribution of economic resources across households, while the economic hardship dimension includes information about people living in households with low economic resources. MAP focuses on progress, while AST presents a detailed set of social indicators and profiles diverse aspects of society in short articles.
FEATURES OF AUSTRALIAN SOCIAL TRENDS
Seven core areas of social concern form the chapters of each edition: population, family and community, health, education and training, work, economic resources, and housing. An additional chapter covers other areas of social concern or interest, such as culture and leisure, transport, crime and justice, and the environment. Occasionally an AST edition will focus on a theme. Past themes have included a regional issues theme (2003) and the wellbeing of older Australians (1999).
Summary tables — The summary tables at the beginning of each chapter are a fundamental element of AST. They present a range of statistics that summarise the key aspects of each area. They show at a glance changes that have taken place at a national level over a decade, and differences across states and territories for the most recent year. Each set of tables is accompanied by a summary of key points and graphs for selected indicators. AST on the ABS website contains spreadsheets of national as well as state and territory data for a 10 year period.
Articles — Each chapter contains several articles, each 3–7 pages long. The articles focus on specific social issues or population subgroups. They are designed to stand alone, while complementing one another in terms of content. Most articles contain references to other AST articles that provide more background or in-depth discussion of a topic. Endnotes at the end of each article direct readers to further Australian and international references on specific issues.
Sources and definitions — The main data sources used in an article, and definitions of key terms used, generally appear on the first page of the article, in the upper right hand corner. Data sources and definitions for the summary tables are provided directly following these tables.
International comparisons — A set of international summary tables covering the areas of population, health, education and work are located towards the end of the publication. These tables enable the reader to consider Australia's international standing in relation to various key social indicators.
Cumulative topic list — This index lists all articles, from all AST editions, under topic subheadings.
AST seminars — The dissemination of AST includes two-yearly seminars held in most states and territories (next planned for 2009). These are based on articles from the most recent edition supported by related statistics, with a state or territory focus where feasible. For information contact the client liaison area in ABS Regional Offices.
Access — All editions of AST can be accessed via the ABS website. The website version includes Excel spreadsheet versions of the summary tables. Hard copies of the publication are available from ABS state and territory offices.