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1370.0.55.001 - Measures of Australia's Progress: Summary Indicators, 2011  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 06/10/2011   
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Society

A major driving force in human activity is the desire for optimal health, better living conditions and improved quality of life. Individuals seek to achieve these for themselves, for their family, and for the communities they are part of. A fundamental objective of government is to create better conditions of living for the population, and many community groups and private organisations also work towards this objective.

In this commentary, social progress involves increases in the wellbeing of the population; a reduction of threats to, and increases in, social cohesion; and protection and enhancement of democratic rights.

The headline dimensions that help Australians assess whether our society has progressed include:

People hope to have a long life, free from pain, illness or disability, and this also benefits society by reducing health care costs. Good health for all brings social and economic benefits to individuals, their families and the wider community.

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

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

Crime can have a major impact on the wellbeing of victims, their families and friends, and the wider community. Those most directly affected may suffer financially, physically, and emotionally, while the fear of crime can affect communities by restricting people's lives and reducing levels of trust and social cohesion. Other societal and economic costs include those associated with the provision of law enforcement and corrective services and with redressing damage to individuals, communities and public facilities.

Families and communities are the building blocks of society and national life. The quality and strength of people's relationships and bonds with others - their family, friends and the wider community - are important ingredients of a cohesive and inclusive society. Families generate care and guidance which support the development of healthy functioning individuals and the values underlying civil society. The vast range of services provided within communities by groups, clubs and charitable organisations are a crucial adjunct to support the role of the family.

Good, effective governance helps strengthen democracy and human rights, promote economic prosperity and social cohesion, reduce poverty, enhance environmental protection and the sustainable use of natural resources, and deepen confidence in government and administration. Supporting effective governance are many factors such as the fairness of our society, the health of our democracy and the extent to which the citizens of Australia actively participate in democracy and civic life.

While not given headline status, 'Culture and leisure', 'Communication', and 'Transport' are included as supplementary dimensions in MAP because of their relevance to whether life in Australia is getting better. For a discussion of these supplementary dimensions, please see the more comprehensive publication Measures of Australia's Progress, 2010 (cat. no. 1370.0).

 

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