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1370.0 - Measures of Australia's Progress, 2013  
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Measures of Australia's Progress

Rural and regional progress

Australians aspire to understand if their local region is heading in the right direction

          Is my region making progress?

          In a vast and diverse nation such as Australia, it’s not surprising that people have expressed a strong desire to know whether life in their local area is getting better.

          There are important differences between measuring regional progress and measuring the overall progress of the nation. Although people across Australia tend to agree on overall measures of social, economic and environmental progress, and on the importance of good governance, the aspirations of people in different regions throughout Australia may vary and can change over time.

          Rural areas that are experiencing an extended period of drought, or the loss of a significant industry, or the discovery of a new mineral resource, are all facing different challenges and different indicators may best measure their progress. For example, communities in Queensland affected by major flooding in 2010, and communities in Victoria affected by the 2009 major bushfires, want to monitor progress in the physical reconstruction of their communities, as well as their economic recovery and wellbeing. (Endnote 1, Endnote 2)

          Major cities face different challenges as they continue to grow by extending their boundaries or by increasing their population density with more consolidated housing developments. In 2012, close to two-thirds of Australia's population resided in a capital city. These cities grew by 10% from 2007 to 2012, faster than the rest of Australia (7%). In 2012, seven out of ten Australians lived in a major city. (Endnote 3) Unlike rural areas, the rapid increase in international student numbers in capital cities since 2000 may have contributed to accommodation and transport demands particularly for Melbourne and Sydney. (Endnote 4) While it is not possible to clearly identify overseas students in the Census, 2011 data shows that one in every fifteen (7%) people aged fifteen years and over living in the City of Sydney (Local Government Area - LGA) attended a Tertiary Institution and was born overseas. In the City of Melbourne (LGA) the equivalent figure was about one in six residents (17%). (Endnote 5)

          This chapter discusses progress indicators at the regional level for each broad area of MAP, i.e. society, economy, environment and governance.

          This chapter also includes a reference datacube available via the Downloads and data page, that details the availability of MAP indicators at the regional level.

          Check out the further info tab on this page for useful links, a glossary and references relating to this chapter.

What are regions?

A region does not exist in isolation. The term 'region' can be used in many different ways. In this chapter, it is used to refer to geographic areas that are smaller than states or territories. Such regions can include:
      • statistical areas, such as Greater Capital City Statistical Areas and Statistical Area Levels 1, 2, 3, and 4, which are defined in the ABS Australian Statistical Geography Standard;
      • administrative regions, such as Local Government Areas;
      • environmental regions, such as Natural Resource Management Regions;
      • service regions, such as Medicare Local Areas.

In determining the progress of regions, it’s important to consider the relationships between regions. Regions are connected, as people travel between them, perhaps living in one region and working in another, socialising and spending money, accessing services (such as education and health) or enjoying the natural environment in other regions. Thus, the social, economic and environmental progress in one region can be related to, and affected by, what happens in other regions. When looking at different regions it is important to consider the jurisdictional boundaries, links between regions, relationship and dependencies between different regions, and the movement of people across boundaries.

Local Governments need to plan services for their regions based not only on the population who live in the region but also for those who regularly visit, or move in and out of their region. Between 2006 and 2011, 38% of Australians changed their place of permanent residence. (Endnote 6) Therefore, analysis of population growth and turnover for Local Government Areas can be a useful aid for decision making. (Endnote 7)

In looking at the progress of different regions, it is most appropriate to choose a regional scale which reflects both the area you are interested in and the question about progress you want to answer. For example, if you want to know about the labour force in your area, then choose the Statistical Area Level 4 where you live, because these regions were specifically designed for the output of labour force statistics and reflect labour markets.

Check out the further info tab on this page for useful links, a glossary and references relating to this chapter.
Graph Image for Society

Footnote(s): (a) Includes Outer Regional and Remote areas. (b) Persons aged 18 years and over.;(a) Persons aged 25-64 years with a vocational or higher education qualification. (b) Total with vocational or higher education qualification includes level of education inadequatly described.

Source(s): ABS National Health Survey, 2001 (cat no. 4364.0); ABS National Health Survey, 2004-05 (cat no. 4364.0); ABS National Health Survey, 2007-08 (cat no. 4364.0); ABS Australian Health Survey: Updated Results, 2011-12 (cat no. 4364.0.55.003) ; Data available on request, ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2011

Society

There are many important aspects to the measurement of social progress in Australia. Being healthy, having a home and adequate living conditions, the opportunity to participate in learning, as well as, having the time and opportunity and support to maintain close relationships are some of those aspects. Also considered important is the uniquely Australian ethos of a 'fair go', embracing diversity, building strong connections within our communities, and feeling and being safe in the environments in which we live. Local communities also want to know about how they are faring on these areas of progress and there can be significant differences across the country.

The national headline progress indicator for health is life expectancy. In 2011, the region of Sydney - North Sydney and Hornsby (Endnote 8) had the highest life expectancy for both males and females, 83.9 years for males and 86.5 years for females. Northern Territory - Outback had the lowest life expectancy for both males and females; 72.3 years and 76.1 years respectively. This compares with 79.7 years for males and 84.2 years for females nationally. (Endnote 9)

A healthy lifestyle can contribute to a longer life expectancy. Smoking rates for current daily smokers in Australia have consistently decreased between 2001 and 2011-12, decreasing from 22% in 2001 to 16% in 2011-12 (see healthy lifestyles in health for more information). However, this is an example of averaged national data hiding the outcome for smaller areas. Differences exist across areas of Australia, with smoking rates higher in regional and remote areas of Australia than in major cities. While rates have decreased in recent years in regional and remote areas, improvements have been greater in major cities.

The educational attainment of the population is a critical part of the skills available in regional labour markets and is an important component of human capital in regions. At the regional level, age structures can affect the attainment rate, such as, the higher the proportion of young people in the population, the higher the proportion of attainment. Generally this pattern is not seen in the state and territory and national data where these differences are smoothed out.

The national headline progress indicator for learning and knowledge, the proportion of people aged 25-64 years with a vocational or higher education qualification, is available from the ABS Survey of Work and Education (see learning and knowledge for more information).The lowest level of geographic output is at the state and territory level. However, similar data can be sourced from the Census of Population and Housing for smaller areas.

When looking at educational attainment by regions, it shows that regional education indicators can vary across Australia. In 2011, the region with the highest proportion of persons aged 25-64 years with a vocational qualification was the Hunter Valley (excluding Newcastle) with 41% compared to 33% for Australia. Sydney - North Sydney and Hornsby had the highest proportion of persons aged 25-64 years with a higher education qualification (57%), more than double that of Australia (27%).

As we have chosen to present two progress indicators for the society element of rural and regional progress, you can use the drop down menu on the graph to look at graphs relevant to each of these indicators (graphs are also available on the further info tab).

Volunteering data is particularly important for regions, given the key roles volunteers play in the establishment and ongoing operations of sporting groups, fire services and local social services. According to 2011 Census data, the proportion of Australians aged 15 years and over that volunteered for an organisation or group in the previous twelve months was 18%. The top three regions were all rural:
      • Barossa - Yorke - Mid North in South Australia with 29%;
      • Western Australia - Wheat Belt with 28%;
      • Warrnambool and South West in Victoria with 28%.

Check out the further info tab on this page for useful links, a glossary and references relating to this chapter.
Graph Image for Economy - Unemployment rate

Source(s): Data available on request, ABS Censuses of Population and Housing

Economy

Australia's regional economies vary greatly in size, in the age of their populations, in their major industries, businesses, natural resources, built environment and infrastructure. Regional economies are important because they influence Australia's overall economic progress.

Regional economies can be affected in different ways by national economic influences. For example, an increase in the Australian dollar exchange rate may result in decreased income in regions which depend on exports, such as agriculture or tourism. Conversely, this may contribute to reduced costs in regions where businesses import a lot of goods, such as retail trade businesses.

Regional economies are also influenced by local factors that may not be reflected in national and international indicators. For example, the closure of a local firm may have a substantial impact on employment in a region, without having a noticeable national impact.

The graph on this tab, presents regional unemployment rates in 2001, 2006 and 2011, demonstrates how regional economic indicators can vary within Australia across the 106 large labour market regions (Statistical Area Level 4). The region of Wide Bay in Queensland had the highest unemployment rate in 2011 of 8.8% according to Census data. While the Sydney - Northern Beaches and Sydney - Sutherland regions in New South Wales had the lowest unemployment rate of 3.5%. This compares with the national unemployment rate of 5.6% (Census 2011).

Measuring regional economies is challenging and involves significant conceptual and practical issues, including the availability of data.

Many national economic indicators are derived from Australia's National Accounts, including Gross Domestic Product (GDP), national disposable income, real net worth, and labour productivity. While some of these data are available at the state and territory level, it is not currently feasible to produce complete regional accounts. This is due to conceptual issues, such as, allocating the economic activity of businesses and governments to regions, and practical issues, such as, obtaining the necessary data, for example, data about the trade of goods and services between regions. For more information, see the Australian System of National Accounts (cat. no. 5204.0), the Australian System of National Accounts: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 5216.0) and the Australian National Accounts: State Accounts (cat. no. 5220.0).

Our analysis has found that there were a high proportion of business owners in regions outside of Australian greater capital cities, with almost one in five income earners outside the capital cities being business owners. While one in every seven Australians received income from running their own unincorporated business. The majority of Australian business owners were male (66%), older than the general working population (median age of 47 years compared to 40 years for the average worker), and working in the three main industries of construction; agriculture, forestry and fishing; and professional, scientific and technical services.

The region of Darling Downs - Maranoa, a rural region in south-eastern Queensland, had the highest proportion of business owners with almost a third (32%) of income earners there receiving income from an unincorporated business. This was closely followed by the Wheat Belt region of Western Australia, where 31% of income earners were business owners.

Further information can be found in Perspectives on Regional Australia: Business Owners in Regions, 2011 (cat. no. 1380.0.55.008).

Despite some data gaps, which include non-agricultural regional production, investment, and prices, proxy regional indicators can be derived from the census (as shown above) and other regional datasets, such as Counts of Australian Business Entries and Exits (cat. no. 8165.0) and Building Approvals (cat. no. 8731.0).

We are working towards improving the availability and use of regional economic data, as part of a long-term regional economic data development project. For more information about this work, see the regular updates in What’s New in Regional Statistics (cat. no. 1386.0) or email regional.statistics@abs.gov.au.

Check out the further info tab on this page for useful links, a glossary and references relating to this chapter.
Graph Image for Environment - Agricultural water use - 2011-12

Footnote(s): Note: MDB = Murray-Darling Basin (a) A tetralitre is a million times a million litres (1,000,000,000,000 litres).

Source(s): ABS Water Use on Australian Farms, 2011-12 (cat. no. 4618.0)

Environment

Australia's natural environment is fundamental to the quality of life and wellbeing of Australians, as well as providing key inputs to the economy. Until recently there has been a tendency to take clean water, clean air and Australia's natural resources and attractions for granted. However, with increasing population and economic pressures, many people are increasingly concerned about the state of their local, state and Australian environments.

As a country, Australia exhibits extraordinary environmental diversity, which means that the environmental challenges and opportunities facing regional areas are complex and differ markedly from one area to another. (Endnote 10)

One of the key challenges facing Australia is the need to create economic growth whilst managing impacts to the environment. This is particularly important for regional areas where there is a need to understand local environmental issues to develop and implement effective local solutions.

One significant area that is balancing sustainable water resource use with the social and economic needs of the community is the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB). The Murray-Darling Basin Authority was created to undertake activities that support the sustainable and integrated management of the water resources of the MDB in a way that best meets the social, economic and environmental needs of the Basin and its communities.

The MDB is a regional area of national significance for social, cultural, economic and environmental reasons. It covers 14% of Australia's land area, contains Australia's three longest rivers (the Darling, the Murray and the Murrumbidgee), and is home to 10% of the Australian population. Significant proportions of the Basin's area are comprised of agricultural land (67%) and native forest (32%). (Endnote 11). Most of the water used in the MDB is for agriculture, and this represents around two thirds of Australia's total agricultural water use.

Australians are generally concerned about progress having a negative impact on their local environment. During the 12 months to March 2012, 98% of Australian households residing in capital cities participated in some form of recycling, along with 95% of households in the balance of state/territory. (Endnote 12) Rainwater tanks were the most popular source of water for South Australians residing outside of Adelaide (83%). Victorian households residing outside of Melbourne also had a high prevalence of rainwater tanks (47%). (Endnote 13)

Check out the further info tab on this page for useful links, a glossary and references relating to this chapter.
Graph Image for Governance - Local Government Areas - 2013

Footnote(s): (a) There are no Local Government Areas in the Australian Capital Territory.

Source(s): ABS Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS): Volume 3 - Non ABS Structures, July 2013 (cat. no. 1270.0.55.003)

Governance

Governance gives communities the ways and means to organise themselves to manage affairs, make decisions and achieve the things that matter to them. In Australia, we have three tiers of government working together to ensure a fair, equitable and functioning society. Australian citizens vote to elect representatives to each of these levels: federal, state or territory and local. The idea of governance goes beyond the functions of Government; however, this chapter focusses on the government aspect of governance.

At the regional level, local government is the tier of government that is most connected to our neighbourhood, and is the relevant administrative arm at the local level. Councils are the decision-making bodies for local government and are established by state governments to look after particular needs of a city or local community. Within each Local Government Area (LGA), various services are provided, though there are many variations between states as well as between urban and rural councils. Local maintenance responsibilities may include sanitary and garbage services; road, street and bridge construction; water supply and sewerage; local libraries and museums; fire brigades; harbour services; town planning, and some local health and welfare services.

Each state and the Northern Territory has a number of LGAs, known variously as cities, towns, municipalities, boroughs, shires or districts. The main variation is the existence of various councils in the Northern Territory that are based on rural Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. There are approximately 560 local councils in Australia. Councillors and aldermen are elected by local residents. There are no local councils in the Australian Capital Territory, where the territory government has direct responsibility for local services.

We form LGA boundaries by approximating officially gazetted LGAs as defined by each state and territory local government departments, using Statistical Area Level 1s. Our approximated LGAs cover incorporated areas of Australia. Incorporated areas are legally designated parts of states and territories over which incorporated local governing bodies have responsibility. The major areas of Australia not administered by incorporated bodies are the northern parts of South Australia and all of the Australian Capital Territory and the Other Territories. These regions are identified as 'Unincorporated' in the ABS LGA structure. Further information about LGAs can be found in Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS): Volume 3 - Non ABS Structures, July 2011 - Chapter 2 Local Government Areas (cat. no. 1270.0.55.003).

In New South Wales and Victoria, voting in the local government elections is compulsory and the turnout rates in these states are reasonably high. In 2008, the turnout rate in New South Wales was 83%, while in 2012 the turnout rate in Victoria was 73%. (Endnote 14; Endnote 15) However, in other states where voting is not compulsory, turnout rates were much lower. For example, about 54% of enrolled people voted in Tasmania's 2011 local government elections (Endnote 16), and 31% did so in Western Australia's 2011 local government elections.
(Endnote 17).

The Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) is the national voice of local government, and has a membership made up of state and territory local government associations.

Local councils are interested in measuring performance and monitoring wellbeing for their community. Research has been undertaken by the Australian Centre for Excellence in Local Government (ACELG) and results released in Community Wellbeing Indicators: Measures for Local Government to create a set of 'fit for purpose' indicators to measure, analyse and assess the progress of community wellbeing. ACELG have also undertaken research on livability indicators, published in Options for a Local Government Framework for Measuring Liveability.

Check out the further info tab on this page for useful links, a glossary and references relating to this chapter.

Need some more info on rural and regional progress? Hopefully this tab can point you in the right direction

This tab contains the following further information for rural and regional progress:


USEFUL LINKS

ABS National Regional Profile (NRP)
ABS Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS)
ABS Topics @ a Glance - Regional @ a Glance
ABS Topics @ a Glance - States and Territories - New South Wales
ABS Topics @ a Glance - States and Territories - Victoria
ABS Topics @ a Glance - States and Territories - Queensland
ABS Topics @ a Glance - States and Territories - South Australia
ABS Topics @ a Glance - States and Territories - Western Australia
ABS Topics @ a Glance - States and Territories - Tasmania
ABS Topics @ a Glance - States and Territories - Northern Territory
ABS Topics @ a Glance - States and Territories - Australian Capital Territory
ABS Census of Population and Housing
ABS Perspectives on Regional Australia: Business Owners in Regions, 2011 (cat. no. 1380.0.55.008)
ABS What's new in Regional Statistics, 2013 (cat. no. 1386.0)
ABS Australian System of National Accounts (cat. no. 5204.0)
ABS Australian System of National Accounts: Concepts, Sources and Methods, Edition 3 (cat. no. 5216.0)
ABS Australian System of National Accounts: State Accounts, 2011-12 (cat. no. 5220.0)
ABS Counts of Australian Businesses, including Entries and Exits, Jun 2008 to Jun 2012 (cat. no. 8165.0)
ABS Building Approvals, Australia, August 2013 (cat. no. 8731.0)
Australian Local Government Association (ALGA)
Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government (ACELG) - Community Wellbeing Indicators: Measures for Local Government
Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government (ACELG) - Options for a Local Government Framework for Measuring Liveability.
Murray-Darling Basin Authority



          GLOSSARY

          Employed

          All persons aged 15 years and over who, during the reference week:
              • worked for one hour or more for pay, profit, commission or payment in kind in a job or business, or on a farm (comprising employees, employers and own account workers);
              • worked for one hour or more without pay in a family business or on a farm (i.e. contributing family workers);
              • were employees who had a job but were not at work and were:
                • away from work for fewer than four weeks up to the end of the reference week;
                • away from work for more than four weeks up to the end of the reference week and received pay for some or all of the four week period to the end of the reference week;
                • away from work as a standard work or shift arrangement;
                • on strike or locked out;
                • on workers' compensation and expected to return to their job;
              • were employers or own account workers, who had a job, business or farm, but were not at work.

          Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

          Is the total market value of goods and services produced in Australia within a given period after deducting the cost of goods and services used up in the process of production but before deducting allowances for the consumption of fixed capital. Thus gross domestic product, as here defined, is 'at market prices'. It is equivalent to gross national expenditure plus exports of goods and services less imports of goods and services. Farm product is that part of gross domestic product which arises from production in agriculture and services to agriculture. It is equivalent to the value added of ANZSIC 06 subdivision 01 'Agriculture' plus taxes less subsidies on products primary to this subdivision. Non-farm product arises from production in all other industries.

          Higher education qualifications

          Includes Postgraduate Degree, Master Degree, Graduate Diploma, Graduate Certificate and Bachelor Degree.

          Labour force

          For any group, persons who were employed or unemployed, as defined.

          Labour force status

          A classification of the civilian population aged 15 years and over into employed, unemployed or not in the labour force, as defined. The definitions conform closely to the international standard definitions adopted by the International Conferences of Labour Statisticians.

          Labour productivity

          Labour productivity estimates are indexes of real GDP per person employed or per hour worked. They have been derived by dividing the chain volume measure of GDP by employment (or hours worked). Estimates are also made using labour inputs adjusted for the quality and composition of labour input. Labour productivity indexes reflect not only the contribution of labour to changes in product per labour unit, but are also influenced by the contribution of capital and other factors affecting production.

          Life Expectancy

          Life expectancy refers to the average number of additional years a person of a given age and sex might expect to live if the age-specific death rates of the given period continued throughout his/her lifetime.

          Local Government Area (LGA)

          A Local Government Area (LGA) is a geographical area under the responsibility of an incorporated local government council, or an incorporated Indigenous government council. The LGAs in Australia collectively cover only a part of Australia. The main areas not covered by LGAs are northern parts of South Australia, a large part of the Northern Territory, the western division of New South Wales, all of the Australian Capital Territory and the Other Territories.

          The number of LGAs and their boundaries can change over time. Their creation and delimitation is the responsibility of the respective state/territory governments, and are governed by the provisions of state/territory local government and other relevant Acts.

          Net worth

          In the national and sectoral balance sheets, net worth represents the difference between the stock of assets (both financial and non-financial) and the stock of liabilities (including shares and other equity). Because it is derived residually, it can be negative.

          Not in labour force

          Persons who were not in the categories employed or unemployed, as defined.

          People with a vocational or higher education qualification

          Proportion of people with either a vocational or higher education qualification (includes those whose level could not be determined).

          Qualification

          Formal certification, issued by a relevant approved body, in recognition that a person has achieved an appropriate level of learning outcomes or competencies relevant to identified individual, professional, industry or community needs. Statements of attainment awarded for partial completion of a course of study at a particular level are excluded.

          Real

          Real incomes payable and receivable are calculated by dividing the nominal (current) income flows by the implicit price deflator for gross national expenditure.

          Real net national disposable income (RNNDI)

          Calculated by:
              • taking real gross domestic income;
              • deducting real incomes payable to the rest of the world;
              • adding real incomes receivable from the rest of the world;
              • deducting the volume measure of consumption of fixed capital.

          Real incomes payable and receivable are calculated by dividing the nominal income flows by the implicit price deflator for gross national expenditure. In the derivation of the aggregate, all of the adjustments are made using the chain volume aggregation method used to derive all of the ABS chain volume estimates.

          Region

          The term 'region' can be used in many different ways. In this chapter, it is used to refer to geographic areas that are smaller than states or territories. Such regions can include:
              • statistical areas, such as Greater Capital City Statistical Areas and Statistical Areas level 1, 2, 3, and 4, which are defined in the ABS Australian Statistical Geography Standard;
              • administrative regions, such as Local Government Areas;
              • environmental regions, such as Natural Resource Management Regions;
              • service regions, such as Medicare Local Areas.

          Remoteness structure

          The Remoteness Areas (RAs) divide Australia into broad geographic regions that share common characteristics of remoteness for statistical purposes. The Remoteness Structure divides each state and territory into several regions on the basis of their relative access to services. There are six classes of RA in the Remoteness Structure: Major Cities of Australia, Inner Regional Australia, Outer Regional Australia, Remote Australia, Very Remote Australia and Migratory. RAs are based on the Accessibility and Remoteness Index of Australia (ARIA) produced by the Australian Population and Migration Research Centre at the University of Adelaide.

          Statistical Area Level 1 (SA1)

          SA1s have been designed as the smallest unit for the release of Census data. SA1s generally have a population of 200 to 800 persons, and an average population of about 400 persons. They are built from whole Mesh Blocks and there are approximately 55,000 SA1s covering the whole of Australia. See the Australia Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) for more information.

          Statistical Area Level 4 (SA4)

          SA4s are the largest sub-State regions. They are designed for the output of Labour Force Survey data and reflect labour markets within each state and territory within the population limits imposed by the Labour Force Survey sample. SA4s provide the best sub-state socio-economic breakdown in the ASGS. SA4s are built from whole SA3s and cover the whole of Australia. There are 88 SA4s. See the Australia Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) for more information.

          Unemployed

          People aged 15 years and over who were not employed during the reference week, and:
              • had actively looked for full-time or part-time work at any time in the four weeks up to the end of the reference week and were available for work in the reference week;
              • were waiting to start a new job within four weeks from the end of the reference week and could have started in the reference week if the job had been available then.

          Vocational education training

          Post-compulsory education and training, excluding degree and higher level programs delivered by higher education institutions, which provides people with occupational work related knowledge and skills. Vocational education and training also included programs which provide the basis for subsequent vocational programs.



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