SECTION ONE: MEASURING PROGRESS
The idea of progress as societal improvement has a long history. Throughout the twentieth century, economic development was understood as a key goal for governments across the world and as a result, perhaps the most common lens through which national progress was measured. Over time, more complex measures were introduced, such as labour force measures and economic accounting, in response to social and economic disruption following the First and Second World Wars. In recent decades, there has been a growing view that understanding progress involves bringing together measures from across the areas of social, economic and environmental activity.
More recent global interest in defining and measuring progress came to a head in 2009 when the G20 Summit encouraged work on measures that appropriately take into account the social and environmental dimensions of development. During the same year the report by the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress (Stiglitz, Sen, Fitoussi 2009) was published. The authors recommended governments and National Statistical Organisations reconsider what official statistics measured and that governments and citizens should discuss what matters most to societies, and whether these concerns are adequately addressed by official statistics.
Within Australia, there has also been a surge of interest in broader measures of progress. Many communities and regional areas are interested in assessing the holistic progress of local areas. In addition, both state and federal government departments and agencies have seen the value of producing more sophisticated statistical profiles that reflect on social conditions, wellbeing and environmental sustainability, as well as more traditional measures of economic growth and performance.
As global and national initiatives continue to focus conversations about progress upon the consideration of broader economic, social and environmental dimensions, it is the work of official statistical organisations to ensure we measure what matters most to citizens for national progress.