1370.0.00.002 - Measures of Australia's Progress - Aspirations for our Nation: A Conversation with Australians about Progress , 2011-12  
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There are many statistical initiatives underway globally that aim to bring together broader measures of societal well-being or progress. Figure 5.2 provides an indication of some of that activity, although this account is by no means comprehensive. The following section provides a broad overview of the kinds of activities taking place across a diverse range of countries, sectors, purposes and scales.

Figure 5.2: International indicator projects.
Please note this map is not a comprehensive account of projects occurring. Its inclusion is to indicate the extent of the initiatives occurring internationally. Visit an interactive version of the map here: blog.abs.gov.au/Blog/mapblog2010.nsf\
Figure 5.2: International indicator projects - part A
Figure 5.2: International indicator projects - part B

The summaries below are set out in a way that aims to help readers see how the central ideas of each initiative relate to the MAP domains of society, economy, environment and governance. This arrangement is for comparative purposes only. In some cases, areas have been repeated if they relate to more than one MAP domain.

A selection of quotes have been included (where available) to provide a sense of the aspirational nature of the initiatives. The quotes are examples only and do not reflect the breadth of each project.

Hong Kong Quality of Life Index – 2003

The Hong Kong Quality of Life Index was first developed by the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2003 (Centre for Quality of Life 2012). It aims to track the well-being of the people of Hong Kong, using 21 indicators across three areas of social, economic and environmental well-being. The table below identifies the themes relating to Governance from their social domain:



Life satisfaction




Economic conditions


Air + water quality


Freedom of press / criticism of press

Government performance

Note: grouping into society, economy, environment and governance is to allow for comparisons with MAP only.

Monitoring Sustainable Development in Switzerland (MONET) – 2003

‘Health must be maintained and promoted.’ – Swiss Federal Statistical Office 2010.

‘Every individual should earn enough to secure vital necessities and have discretionary disposable income.’ – Swiss Federal Statistical Office 2010.

The Swiss Government developed MONET as a tool for assessing whether Switzerland is ‘on the road to sustainable development’ (Swiss Federal Statistical Office 2010).Using a traffic-light approach, the initiative displays 16 indicators (see table below) to determine whether the country is making improvements under the following headings:
  • Meeting needs: how well do we live?
  • Preservation of resources: what are we leaving behind for our children?
  • Decoupling (efficient use of resources): how efficiently are we using our national resources?
  • Fairness: how well are resources distributed?


Physical safety

Teenage reading skills
Public debt


Innovation and technology


Freight transport

Passenger transport

Energy consumption

Consumption of raw materials


Built–up areas
Official Development Assistance


Note: grouping into society, economy, environment and governance is to allow for comparisons with MAP only.

Gallup World Poll – 2005

Active in more than 140 countries, the Gallup World Poll tracks public attitudes towards political, social and economic issues (see Gallup 2012). The Gallup world path (see Figure 5.3) uses the poll responses to measure progress towards national well-being. The seven components of the world path are informed by the poll responses.

Figure 5.3: Gallup World Path to Progress, Gallup website
Figure 5.3: Gallup World Path to Progress, Gallup website



Food and shelter

Beyond the path

Brain gain
Quality GDP growth

Good jobs

Institutions and infrastructure
Institutions and infrastructureLaw and order

Institutions and infrastructure

Note: grouping into society, economy, environment and governance is to allow for comparisons with MAP only.

Happy Planet Index – 2006

The Happy Planet Index was released in 2006 as a new approach to comparing nations’ progress by taking sustainability into account (see new economics foundation 2010). Developed by Nic Marks of the new economics foundation, the ‘Happy Planet Index’ ranks nations according to how well they are doing in terms of supporting their people to live long and happy lives, while ensuring that future generations can do the same. It combines environmental impact with well-being to assign each country with an index, based on three measures:
  • Subjective life satisfaction;
  • Life expectancy at birth; and
  • Ecological footprint per capita.
Gross National Happiness Index, Bhutan – 2007

‘Psychological well-being leads to desirable outcomes, even economic ones, and does not necessarily follow from them.’ – Centre for Bhutan Studies 2012.

Gross National Happiness (GNH) is a philosophy that assists thinking about progress and advancing national happiness in Bhutan. Observing the effect of economic development on the cultural fabric of other nations, it was conceived of in the 1970s by then King Jigme Signye Wangchuck as a way of thinking about progress in terms wider than economic development. Practically, this has resulted in an approach to measuring national progress that looks at whether both material needs are being met, as well as the spiritual, emotional and cultural needs of Bhutanese society. This approach heralded a new way of thinking about progress, garnering international attention and directing thinking about progress towards the effect of growth on individual happiness and well-being.

‘Governance cuts across all domains/sectors and therefore, its effect on the society at large arises from the cumulative efforts of all sectors’ – Centre for Bhutan Studies 2012.

The Centre for Bhutan Studies produced an index using responses from their Gross National Happiness Survey. The nine domains of gross national happiness are:


Community vitality

Cultural diversity and resilience



Psychological wellbeing

Time use
Living standardsEcological diversity and resilienceGood governance

Note: grouping into society, economy, environment and governance is to allow for comparisons with MAP only.

Quality of Life recommendations, Commission on Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress – 2009

The Stiglitz-Sen-Fitoussi report highlighted the limitations of using GDP to describe societal well-being and outlined 30 recommendations to better measure progress and related ideas. The report outlined three areas that should be considered: economy, quality of life, and sustainability. With regard to measuring quality of life, the report recommended focusing on eight areas:




Personal activities (including work)

Social connections and relationships
Material living conditions (income, consumption and wealth)

Insecurity (economic and physical condition
Environment (present and future conditions)Political voice and governance

Note: grouping into society, economy, environment and governance is to allow for comparisons with MAP only.

Measuring New Zealand’s Progress Using a Sustainable Development Approach – 2009

In 2009, Statistics New Zealand released its report ‘Measuring New Zealand’s progress using a sustainable development approach: 2008’ (Statistics New Zealand 2009). Their approach was to look at national progress through the lens of sustainability, asking the question: ‘How is New Zealand progressing towards or away from sustainable development?’ The most recent update presents 16 key indicators (see table below), answering four key questions:
  • Meeting needs: How well do we live?
  • Fairness: How well are resources distributed?
  • Efficiency: How efficiently are we using our resources?
  • Preserving resources: What are we leaving behind for our children?

Health expectancy

Physical safety

Access to childhood education

Adult educational attainment

Speakers of te reo Maori
Unemployment rate

Disposable income

Income inequality

Economic hardship

Labour productivity
Greenhouse gas intensity

Energy intensity

Distribution of selected native species

Greenhouse gas emissions

Nitrogen in rivers

Assets and infrastructure
Good governance

Note: grouping into society, economy, environment and governance is to allow for comparisons with MAP only.

Canadian Index of Well-being – 2009

‘Individuals’ relationship to their community – both in terms of the stock and flow of resources and opportunities available to people and in terms of the strength and quality of relationships that people enjoy – is inextricably linked to well-being.’ – Canadian Index of Well-being (2011: 2).

The University of Waterloo, together with many other organisations, has developed the Canadian Index of Well-being to ‘measure what matters’ most to Canadians (see Michalos et al. 2011). To describe the index the ‘Mandala of well-being’ (see Figure 5.4.) for thinking about how various aspects of society relate to well-being. The index uses an array of indicators taken from survey responses and national data. The indicators are organised into eight domains:

Figure 5.4: Mandala of well-being, Canadian Index of Well-being (see Michalos et.al. 2011: 7)
Figure 5.4: Mandala of wellbeing, Canadian Index of Wellbeing


Community vitality


Healthy populations

Leisure and culture

Time use
Living standardsEnvironmentDemocratic engagement

Note: grouping into society, economy, environment and governance is to allow for comparisons with MAP only.

Europe 2020 Strategy, European Union – 2010

Europe 2020 is a strategy aimed at developing ‘a smarter, knowledge based, greener economy, delivering high levels of employment, productivity and social cohesion’ within the European Union (see European Commission 2012).The strategy uses five headline targets, comprising indicators which stand as national goals. The targets are:


Reducing school drop-out rates below 10% at least 40% of 30-34–year-olds completing third level education

At least 20 million fewer people in or at risk of poverty and social
75% of the 20-64 year-olds to be employed

3% of the EU’s GDP to be invested in Research and Development
Reduce greenhouse gas emissions 20% (or even 30%, if the conditions are right) lower than 1990

20% of energy from renewables and 20% increase in energy efficiency

Note: grouping into society, economy, environment and governance is to allow for comparisons with MAP only.

Better Life Initiative, OECD – 2011

‘The frequency of contact with others and the quality of personal relationships are crucial determinants of people’s well-being.’ – OECD (2011b: 170).
‘Having a job that matches one’s aspirations and competencies and that pays adequate earnings is a universal aspiration of people around the globe.’ – OECD (2011b: 57).

The Better Life Index, accompanied by the ‘How’s life?’ report, is part of the OECD’s commitment to answering the question ‘Is life getting better?’ (OECD 2011b).The initiative is centred on individual well-being, tracking the improvement of people’s lives. It organises indicators under two major domains: material living conditions and quality of life. Complementary to these domains is a third domain – Sustainability of well-being over time, though this is out of the scope of the Better Life Index (see OECD 2011a). Within the domains are the following eleven themes:

Figure 5.5:The ‘How’s Life?’ framework for measuring well-being and progress (OECD 2011b: 19).
Figure 5.5: The ‘How’s Life?’ framework for measuring wellbeing and progress


Education and skills



Personal security

Social connections

Subjective wellbeing

Work–life balance
Income and wealth

Jobs and earnings
Environmental qualityCivic engagement and governance

Note: grouping into society, economy, environment and governance is to allow for comparisons with MAP only.

The Oxfam Humankind Index, Scotland – 2012
‘A stable network of supportive, caring, loving relationships to encourage, console, enthuse and otherwise support people through...life and living [sic.] it to the full.’ Participant response – Oxfam Scotland (2012: 8).

‘The environment’s important to me, it makes me happy. It affects my mental health, it’s inspirational, it supports my income and my family’s income.’ Participant response – Oxfam Scotland (2012: 8).

The Oxfam Humankind Index aims to assess Scotland’s prosperity through a holistic and representative measure of progress, taking into account what really matters to the people of Scotland (see Oxfam Scotland 2012). Like the ABS, Oxfam Scotland has undertaken a consultation with the public to develop the index. Their aim is for policy makers and the community to use the index to make informed decisions based on the aspirations of the people of Scotland – whether they relate to their own well-being, the economy, governance or the environment. The index is organised into the following sub-domains:


Affordable, decent and safe home
Physical and mental health

Having good relationships with family and friends

Feeling that you and those you care about are safe

Access to arts hobbies and leisure activities

Getting enough skills and education to live a good life

Being part of a community

Being able to access high quality services
Feeling good
Having satisfying work to do (whether paid or unpaid)

Secure work and suitable work

Having enough money to pay the bills and buy what you need

Having a secure source of money
Living in a neighbourhood where you can go outside and enjoy having a clean and healthy environment

Access to green and wild spaces; community spaces and play areas

Having good transport to get to where you need to go

Having facilities you need locally
Human rights, freedom from discrimination, acceptance and respect

Note: grouping into society, economy, environment and governance is to allow for comparisons with MAP only.

Measuring National Wellbeing, United Kingdom – in development

‘People’s economic well-being is determined by their wealth as well as their income.’ – Office of National Statistics (2011: 18).

‘Having family around brings esteem, value, hope and love.’ Participant response – Office of National Statistics (2011: 21).

In 2010, British Prime Minister David Cameron asked the Office of National Statistics (ONS) to measure national well-being as a basis for new policy. As a result, the ONS has developed the ‘Measuring national well-being’ initiative, aimed at capturing well-being, the performance of the economy and the quality of the environment (see Office of National Statistics 2011).The ONS has been undertaking a similar consultation process to MAP. This has involved consultation with experts and a ‘national debate’ which aimed to gather the views of what really matters most for national progress to the people of the United Kingdom. The ONS has proposed the following ten key themes or ‘domains’ for measuring progress, which have been used as tools for discussion through the consultation.


Individual wellbeing

Our relationships


What we do

Where we live

Education and skills
Personal finance

The economy
The natural environmentGovernance

Note: grouping into society, economy, environment and governance is to allow for comparisons with MAP only.