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1383.0.55.001 - Measures of Australia's Progress: Summary Indicators, 2007 (Edition 2)  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 23/08/2007   
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This area of progress contains headline graphs and the following dimensions:


When measuring progress for individuals, we consider three headline dimensions: Health; Education and training; and Work. All three indicators for individuals suggest progress during the last decade.

Health, Life expectancy at birth

Graph: Health, Life expectancy at birth
For technical information see Endnote 1.
Deaths, Australia, 2005 (cat. no. 3302.0).

Education and training, Highest level of non-school qualification of people aged 25–64

Graph: Education and training, Highest level of non-school qualification of people aged 25-64
For technical information see Endnote 3.
Source: ABS data available on request, Survey of Education and Work.

Work, Unemployment and labour force underutilisation rates

Graph: Work, Unemployment and labour force underutilisation rates
For technical information see Endnote 4.
Labour Force, Australia, Spreadsheets (cat. no. 6202.0.55.001);
Underemployed Workers, Australia (cat. no. 6265.0).


Life expectancy at birth is a measure of how long someone born in a particular year might expect to live if mortality patterns for that year remained unchanged over their lifetime. It is one of the most widely used indicators of population health. It focuses on length of life rather than its quality, but it usefully summarises the health of the population.

Australian life expectancy improved during the decade 1995 to 2005. A boy born in 2005 could expect to live to be 78, while a girl could expect to reach 83 – increases of four and three years respectively. Women tend to live longer than men, and this is reflected in the differences in life expectancy throughout the 20th century. Although a girl born in 2005 could still expect to live around five years longer than a boy, in recent years life expectancy at birth has increased more quickly for males than for females.

While Australians are living longer than ever before, there is a good deal of debate about whether life expectancy will continue to increase. However, there is no doubt that there is more room for improvement among some groups of the population compared to others. In particular, life expectancy for Indigenous Australians, both male and female, is estimated to be about 17 years shorter than that of all Australians (see Endnote 2).


Education and training help people to develop knowledge and skills that may be used to enhance their own living standards and those of the broader community. For an individual, educational attainment is widely seen as a key factor to a rewarding career. For the nation as a whole, having a skilled workforce is vital to supporting ongoing economic development and improvements in living conditions.

The indicator measures the attainment of non-school qualifications, and is the proportion of the population aged 25–64 years with a non-school qualification (see Endnote 3). There has been a rise in the proportion of people with non-school qualifications over the last decade. Between 1996 and 2006, the proportion of 25–64 year olds with a non-school qualification rose from 48% to 59%, continuing a trend seen for many decades.

The increase in the proportion of people with non-school qualifications is mainly being driven by the substantial increase in the proportion of people with a higher education qualification (e.g. a Bachelor degree or above). Between 1996 and 2006, the proportion of people aged 25–64 with a Bachelor degree or higher level qualification increased from 15% to 24%. The proportion of people whose highest qualification was a vocational qualification (e.g. an Advanced diploma or diploma or below) was 34% in 2006, a similar level to a decade earlier (33%).


Paid work is the way most people obtain the economic resources needed for day to day living, for themselves and their dependants, and to meet their longer term financial needs. Having paid work contributes to a person’s sense of identity and self-esteem. People's involvement in paid work also contributes to economic growth and development.

The unemployment rate has been chosen as the headline indicator, because of its relevance to the economic and social aspects of work. This rate is the number of unemployed people expressed as a percentage of the labour force, and is a widely used measure of underutilised labour resources in the economy. The graph also includes the labour force underutilisation rate. This is the number of unemployed and underemployed people, expressed as a proportion of the labour force (see Endnote 4). The labour force underutilisation rate gives a broader view of labour underutilisation than the unemployment rate.

Measures of underutilised labour such as the unemployment rate are sensitive to changes in the economy. In 1996, the annual average unemployment rate stood at 8.2%. Since then it has generally fallen, to stand at 4.9% in 2006. The labour force underutilisation rate fell from 13.8% in 1996 to 9.8% in 2006.

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