Since it was first published in 2002, the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ flagship publication, Measures of Australia’s Progress (MAP), has been bringing together selected statistics about society, the economy and the environment to provide insight into national progress (ABS 2002).MAP is part of the ABS’s commitment to providing high quality, objective and responsive data to assist informed decision making, research and discussion. It aims to assist Australians to answer the question,‘Is life in Australia getting better?’. It does so by showing whether progress is being made across the social, economic and environmental domains of life and by encouraging progress in each domain to be considered side by side.
Figure 1.1: MAP 2012 dashboard (see ABS 2012).
Please visit: www.abs.gov.au/about/progress
Following the first release of MAP a decade ago, international and national interest in measuring societal progress in this integrated way has accelerated. Global conversations about defining and measuring progress were further encouraged in 2009 with the release of two notable reports: the ‘Report by the commission on the measurement of economic performance and social progress’ (Stiglitz, Sen, Fitoussi 2009) and the European Union’s ‘GDP and beyond: measuring progress in a changing world’ report (European Commission 2009). Both reports recommended a rethink of measurement systems and encouraged dialogue on what societies care about and whether these concerns are adequately addressed by official statistics.
During that year, the G20 Summit encouraged its member countries (including Australia) to develop measures that better take into account the social and environmental dimensions of economic development. In Australia, a 2020 Summit in 2008 reinforced the need for improved, broad indicators of progress.
Nationally, there has also been a surge of interest in broader measures of societal progress with many Australian communities and regions becoming interested in assessing the progress of their local area in this way. In addition, both state and federal government departments have seen the value of producing statistical profiles that reflect on social conditions, well-being and environmental sustainability, as well as economic growth.
In light of these developments, the ABS considered it was timely to review whether MAP is still measuring those aspects of life that matter most to Australians. In 2011-2012, we undertook a broad-ranging consultation that asked Australians ‘What is important to you for national progress?’The feedback the ABS received formed the basis of the aspirational statements provided in Section Two of this publication. Throughout the ABS’s conversations with individuals and organisations, many indicated support for the consultation process and the MAP product generally.
This publication,‘Measures of Australia’s Progress - aspirations for our nation: a conversation with Australians about progress’ provides an account of the consultation process and the aspirations that came from it. The next phase of the MAP review will be to use the consultation results, together with expert statistical advice, to develop a refreshed set of indicators for the next generation of MAP. A new version of MAP, based on the consultation results, will be released in the second half of 2013.