1370.0 - Measures of Australia's Progress, 2004  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 21/04/2004   
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Contents >> Appendix 2: Other initiatives

Many different approaches are used to measure progress and kindred concepts. Some are outlined here, together with some of the more significant measurement projects underway in Australia and overseas.

Pressure-State-Response model

Some analysts categorise their indicator sets according to the Pressure-State-Response (PSR) model. This model is often referred to in the environmental literature. It was developed primarily for considering sustainable development and the interactions between the environment and the economy - so it is less suited to Measuring Australia's Progress which focuses on progress in the economic, social and environmental domains, rather than on environmental sustainability.

Under this approach, indicators are classified according to whether they signal:

    • a pressure on the natural environment
    • the state or condition of the environment
    • the extent of society's response.

The United Nations (UN) has replaced the term 'pressure' with 'driving force', though the UN's model is essentially the same.

The PSR framework implies causality: a pressure modifies the state of the environment and this triggers a response from society. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) warns that a PSR framework:

      'tends to suggest linear relationships in the human activity-environment interaction. This should not obstruct the view of more complex relationships in ecosystems and in environment-economy interactions.'
Aggregated indicators

Aggregated indicators seek to combine disparate measures of progress into just one number.

For example, to measure the quality of life in a nation, the United Nations Development Program started compiling a Human Development Index (HDI). It is presented as an alternative to national accounting measures such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for measuring the relative socioeconomic progress of nations. The HDI is aimed primarily at measuring change in developing countries. A country's HDI is composed of life expectancy, educational standards and average incomes. Each of the components is given equal weight.

Other approaches, such as the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI), attempt to adjust traditional measures of economic activity, such as GDP, to account for changes to environmental and social capital. For example, a GPI might begin with GDP, then make allowances such as:

    • Spending to offset social and environmental costs ('defensive expenditure') is taken out.
    • Longer term environmental damage and the depreciation of natural capital are accounted for.
    • Changes in income distribution are included (reflecting the view that an additional dollar means more to the poor than to the rich).
    • Estimates of the costs (financial, social and psychological) of unemployment, underemployment and overwork might be included.
    • A value for household labour is included.

There is not yet a consensus on how many of these things should be valued in dollar terms.

The Australia Institute has calculated a Genuine Progress Indicator for Australia. Details are at:

A national accounting framework

The System of National Accounts (SNA 1993) provides an international framework for economic accounting. Australia's national accounts record the essential elements of the Australian economy: production; income; consumption; accumulation of assets and liabilities; and wealth.

Some countries, including Australia, are beginning to explore ways of incorporating environmental and social effects into a national accounting framework.

The Dutch Government has also made progress in compiling a System of Economic and Social Accounting Matrices and Extensions (SESAME). This system is an extension to the standard national accounts framework. For each variable, it permits analysis of both the national total value and its distribution among socioeconomic groups (categories of employed persons etc.) Key features in a system of accounting matrices are data integration and multiple classifications, which provide links (both conceptual and numerical) between monetary and non-monetary units. Such a system can be used to analyse the links between the structure of an economy, people and the environment.

The Ecological Footprint

The Ecological Footprint measures the land area and other resources affected by a population - both the land occupied directly by housing and the like, and the land and other resources used to produce goods and services, to take in the waste generated, and so on.

Growing Victoria Together

In November 2001, the Hon. Steve Bracks M.P., Premier of Victoria, launched Growing Victoria Together,
a document that expresses a broad vision for the future of Victoria through a list of goals and priority actions. This Victorian State Government document also lists indicators or targets that will be used to demonstrate progress towards the articulated goals.

The ABS has been assisting the Victorian State Government with identifying priorities for indicator production through the Indicators of Wellbeing in Regional and Rural Communities project, which began in 2000. This consultancy had a particular focus on wellbeing indicators at the sub-State level and culminated in the delivery to the State Government of a Victorian Framework for Indicators of Regional Wellbeing in March 2002.

Some indicators identified in these two projects are already published by the ABS. The ABS expects to continue assisting the Victorian State Government in the further development of indicators and progress measures.

More information on Growing Victoria Together can be accessed on

The Intergenerational Report

The Charter of Budget Honesty Act 1998 requires the Treasurer to publish an Intergenerational Report (IGR) at least once every five years, assessing the sustainability of current government policies for the following 40 years, including taking into account the financial implications of demographic change. The first IGR was released in May 2002 with the 2002-03 Federal Budget, see Budget Paper No. 5 at:

The next IGR is to be published not later than the time of the 2007-08 Budget, reflecting its focus on long-run issues.

Are we sustaining Australia

The Australian Government's report Are We Sustaining Australia: A Report Against Headline Sustainability Indicators for Australia is Australia's first report against a set of 24 headline sustainability indicators. The indicators have been selected to collectively measure national performance against the core objectives of the National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development (NSESD).

The Report, and the indicators against which it reports, have been developed in consultation with all Australian Government agencies, other jurisdictions, key stakeholders and the general public. The Report is not intended to be comprehensive, but rather to give a broad view, reflecting on a wide range of issues with a relatively small amount of information.

It is not possible from this first report to assess whether or not our way of life is sustainable. This is because there are no time series data as yet for several of the indicators of ecological integrity and biodiversity. In addition, there are limited time series data for the indicators of natural resource management and for the environmental and some of the social aspects of individual and community wellbeing. Rather, this Report provides a snapshot against which future trends can be seen.

A table on the next page compares the ABS Measures of Australia's Progress with Are We Sustaining Australia.

The Report is available at:

Comparing dimensions and indicators, MAP and Are We Sustaining Australia

Measures of Australia’s Progress
Are We Sustaining Australia

Headline dimensionHeadline indicatorDimensionIndicator

HealthLife expectancy at birthHealthy livingDisability adjusted life years

Education and trainingPercentage of people aged
25-64 with a non-school
Education and skillsPercentage of people aged
25-64 with non-school and/or
upper secondary qualifications

WorkUnemployment rate

IncomeReal net national disposable
income per capita
Industry performanceReal GDP per capita

Financial hardshipEquivalised average weekly
disposable income of low income
Living standards and
economic wellbeing
Gross per capita disposable
income; Gross National Income
per capita

National wealthReal net national worth per
Economic securityNational net worth (absolute and
per capita)

HousingNo headline indicator

ProductivityMultifactor productivityEconomic capacityMultifactor productivity

The natural landscape
Threatened species; Annual area
of land cleared
Biolodiversity and
ecological integrity
Threatened species and
endangered ecological
communities; Proportion of
sub-regions with a) greater than
30% of original vegetative cover;
and b) greater than 10%

The natural landscape
(inland waters)
Water management areas,
proportion where use exceeded
70% of sustainable yield
management of water

Freshwater health
Water management areas,
proportion where use exceeded
70% of sustainable yield
Sites with high in-stream

The natural landscape
Salinity, assets at riskLand health

management of forests
management of
Catchment condition index

Total area of all forest type

Net value of rural land

Human environmentsFine particles, days health
standards exceeded in major
urban areas
Air qualityAir pollutants, days health
standards exceeded in major
urban areas; SOx, NOx and
particulate emissions

Oceans and estuariesNo headline indicatorCoastal and marine
management of fish
Estuarine condition index
Percentage of major
Commonwealth harvested fish
species classified as fully or

environmental concerns
Total net greenhouse emissionsClimate change

Management of energy
Total net greenhouse emissions

Renewable energy use as a
proportion of total

Governance and
No headline indicator
Family, community and
social cohesion
No headline indicator

CrimeVictims of household and
personal crimes
Economic and gender

Economic and
educational equity

Economic and health

Locational equity
Ratio of female to male full-time
weekly earnings

Year 12 completions: top and
bottom socioeconomic deciles

Life years lost: top and bottom
socioeconomic quintiles

Year 12 completions: urban and
Tasmania Together

Tasmania Together is a long-term social, environmental and economic plan for the Tasmania's development for a period of 20 years. It provides an overarching framework for planning, budgeting and policy priorities for the government and non-government sectors.

The process of creating Tasmania Together was driven by the Community Leaders' Group (CLG), a 22 member group of Tasmanians representing a broad cross-section of the community. The role of the CLG was to consult widely with the Tasmanian community to identify their vision and goals and to oversee the development of benchmarks. The process was completed and the Tasmania Together document launched in September 2001.

The Tasmania Together document contains:

    • A vision, 'Together we will make Tasmania an icon for the rest of the world by creating a proud and confident society where our people live in harmony and prosperity.'
    • 24 goals in five groups (Community, Culture, Democracy, Economy and Environment).
    • 212 benchmarks.

For example, Goal 2 in the area of Community is that by the year 2020 Tasmania will 'have a community where people feel safe and are safe in all aspects of their lives'. During the community consultations on this goal, a key issue was the greater risk of harm borne by younger people. As a result, one of the benchmark standards for this goal is to 'support young people who have challenging behaviour or who are at risk'. A benchmarking committee identified two key indicators of progress. One of these indicators is the number of deaths of people aged 29 or younger due to external causes. For this indicator, a target has been set for a 15% annually compounding reduction up until the year 2020. Other indicators of progress towards this goal include crime rates and people's perceptions of personal safety.

In October 2001, a nine-member Tasmania Together Progress Board was established to monitor, promote and report on Tasmania Together. The Tasmania Together Goals and Benchmarks are now integral to the State's budget process and the Board has been active in fostering initiatives by government, business and the general community. To date, two Progress Reports (August 2002 and August 2003) have been tabled.

More information on Tasmania Together is available at:

Other initiatives

There are countless initiatives at the international, national and sub-national level around the world.
A selection is mentioned below.

    • The United Kingdom Government's Indicators of Sustainable Development, at:


A table on the next page compares the ABS Measures of Australia's Progress with the UK publication.
Comparing dimensions and indicators, Measures of Australia's Progress and the UK's Quality of Life Counts

Measures of Australia’s Progress
Quality of Life Counts

Headline dimension Headline indicator Dimension Indicator

Health Life expectancy at birth Health Expected years of healthy life

Education and trainingPercentage of people aged
25–64 with a non-school
Education and trainingQualifications at age 19:
percentage with level 2

WorkUnemployment rateWorkProportion of people of working
age who are in work

IncomeReal net national disposable
income per capita
IncomeGDP and GDP per capita

Financial hardshipEquivalised average weekly
disposable income of low income
Poverty and social
Children in low income
households; adults without
qualifications and in workless
households; elderly in fuel

National wealthReal net national worth per
InvestmentTotal and social investment (% of

HousingNo headline indicatorHousingHomes judged unfit to live in

ProductivityMultifactor productivity

The natural landscape
Threatened species; Annual area
of land cleared
WildlifePopulations of wild birds
The natural landscape
(inland waters)
Water management areas,
proportion where use exceeded
70% of sustainable yield
River qualityRivers of good or fair quality

The natural landscape
Salinity, assets at riskLand useNew homes built on previously
developed land
Human environmentsFine particles, days health
standards exceeded in major urban areas
Air pollutionDays when air pollution is
moderate or higher

Oceans and estuariesNo headline indicator
environmental concerns
Total net greenhouse emissionsGreenhouse gases

Emissions of greenhouse gases

Amount of waste and its management

Governance and
No headline indicator

Family, community and
social cohesion
No headline indicator

Crime Victims of household and
personal crimes

Road traffic
Crime rates: burglary, motor
vehicle theft; violent crime
Vehicle miles

    • In 2003, the USA's General Accounting Office, in cooperation with the National Academies, hosted a forum on Key National Performance Indicators in Washington D.C. The objective of the Forum was to discuss whether and how to develop a set of key national indicators for the United States of America. More information is at:


    • The Irish Central Statistical Office's Measuring Ireland's Progress, at:


    • The Australian Collaboration (a group of major national non-governmental organisation peak bodies including: Australian Conservation Foundation, Australian Council of Social Services, Australian Consumers Association, Australian Council for Overseas Aid, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Commission, Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils of Australia, and National Council of Churches) produced two reports Where are we going: comprehensive social, cultural and environmental reporting, and A Just and Sustainable Australia. They can be found at:

    • The OECD's report (2001) The Well-being of Nations: the Role of Human and Social Capital covers the integration of societal wellbeing measures with economic and environmental ones. It can be found at:


    • Other useful references are provided by the International Institute of Sustainable Development's web site, at:

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