Increasingly there has been demand from analysts and researchers for a more comprehensive view of national progress. Gross domestic product is generally regarded as an important or even essential element of progress but it is not sufficient to capture all aspects of interest. This entails understanding the interrelationships between the economic, social and environmental aspects of national life. In response, many statistical agencies are developing new suites of indicators and other approaches to provide a more holistic understanding of progress. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development has been doing work in this area but has not reached any definitive conclusions.
The ABS mission is to assist and encourage informed decision making and the development of Measuring Australia’s Progress was seen as a significant step in achieving that outcome, with the expectation that it will enhance Australians’ discussion of national progress. Its intent was to encourage discussion and analysis based on evidence rather than anecdote.
Of course, for almost a hundred years the ABS has been publishing a multitude of statistics about Australia’s economy, society and environment. Three of our annual flagship publications - the Australian System of National Accounts (cat. no. 5204.0), Australian Social Trends (cat. no. 4102.0) and Australia’s Environment: Issues and Trends (cat. no. 4613.0) - draw the available statistics together with supporting analyses and interpretation. But, for the most part, these publications have focussed on the economic, social or environmental aspect of national life in isolation.
It is within this context that the ABS developed Measuring Australia’s Progress.