1383.0.55.001 - Measures of Australia's Progress: Summary Indicators, 2009  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 30/04/2009   
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In the 10 years to June 2008, GDP per person grew from $41,000 to $51,000 in real terms, an increase of 2.2% per year on average. GDP is certainly an important signal about the health of our economy. But what happened to the state of our society, other aspects of the economy and the environment over that period?

This publication is about Australia's progress. It is intended to help Australians address the question, 'Is life in our country getting better, especially over the most recent decade?'

Answering the question is not easy. Indeed there can be no definitive answer, because we all have our own views about what is most important to individual and national life. The ABS hopes that Australians will use these indicators to form their own views of how our country is progressing.


The suite of indicators presented in this publication suggests progress in some areas of Australian life and regress in others. What follows is a brief summary of information from the headline indicators. Overall progress should not be assessed by simply counting the numbers of areas getting better and subtracting those getting worse. There are a number of factors that affect any assessment of progress:

  • some aspects of progress (e.g. national income and national wealth) are more easily encapsulated in a small number of indicators than others (e.g. social and environmental aspects)
  • some people may give greater importance to some progress indicators than others
  • the strength of progress or regress in each dimension may influence the assessment
  • patterns that underlie the national trends may affect views of progress - so it might be important to know not just whether health is improving for the Australian population overall, but also whether it is improving for particular groups of Australians (such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples).

IndividualsThe economy and
economic resources
The environmentLiving together

During the past decade, life expectancy increased – children born in 2007 were expected to live three years longer than those born in 1997.

Education and training:
During the past 10 years the proportion of people aged 25–64 years with a vocational or higher education qualification rose from 47% to 61%.

In 1998 the unemployment rate was 7.7%. Since then it has generally fallen and the average annual unemployment rate in 2008 was 4.2%.
Between 1997-98 and 2007-08, GDP per person grew by 2.2% a year on average.

National income:
Between 1997-98 and 2007-08, real net national disposable income per person grew by 2.8% a year on average.

Economic hardship:
Between 1994–95 and 2005–06 the real income of less well-off Australians (those in the second and third lowest deciles of the income distribution) grew by 31% overall or 2.7% per year on average. The incomes of Australians in the middle income group grew by a similar amount.

National wealth:
Real national net worth per capita increased by 0.9% a year on average between 1997-98 and 2007-08.

In the 10 years to June 2008, around $603 billion (in real terms) was invested in dwellings (excluding land) with investment exceeding $60 billion in each year since 2003.

During the decade 1997-98 to 2007-08, Australia experienced improved productivity growth, and multifactor productivity rose by 0.8% per year on average.
Between 2000 and 2008, the number of terrestrial bird and mammal species assessed as extinct, endangered or vulnerable rose by 14% from 154 to 175. Land clearance, one influence thought to be reducing biodiversity, increased by about 6% overall, or 0.5% per year on average, between 1995 and 2005.

In 2000, about 5.7 million hectares of land (not all of it agricultural land) were affected by, or at high risk of developing, dryland salinity, a widespread form of land degradation.

Inland waters:
In 2005 about one-quarter of Australia's surface water management areas were classed as highly used or overused.

Air quality:
Between 1997 and 2007 urban air quality has generally been good, even though bushfires have obscured this trend.

In 2006,
Australia's total net greenhouse gas emissions were 1% below 2005 levels and 4.2% higher than they were in 1990.

Oceans and estuaries:
Between 1997 and 2007 there was an increase in the number of fish species in Commonwealth fisheries classified as overfished.
Family, community and social cohesion:
Since the mid-1990s, the proportion of children aged under 15 years living without an employed parent in the same household has varied between 15% and 19%, and has been 16% or less since 2002-03.

Between 1998 and 2005, the victimisation prevalence rates for personal crimes increased slightly, from 4.8% to 5.3%, the same level as in 2002. Between 1993 and 2005, the proportion of households that were the victim of a household crime (an actual or attempted break-in or motor vehicle theft) fell from 8.3% to 6.2%, after remaining at about 9% in 1998 and 2002.

Democracy, governance and citizenship:
Over the past 10 years, the proportion of women in the Parliament of Australia increased from 22% to 27% in the House of Representatives and from 32% to 36% in the Senate.