4160.0 - Measuring Wellbeing: Frameworks for Australian Social Statistics, 2001  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 12/10/2001   
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Social movements will always influence the way social statistics are thought about and collected. A system of social statistics therefore has to be flexible and evolving. As well, it needs to be multifaceted to reflect the nature of the social environment and the complexity of life. As noted at the beginning of this chapter, the system described in this book is one of several complementary systems used to measure Australia's progress and to describe the state of the economy, the environment, and society as a whole. There are necessarily differences between the approaches of these systems. For example, the system of national accounts places monetary values on the economic transactions within its scope, while the social statistics program deals mainly with people, whose behaviour, reactions and emotions, cannot be as readily valued and added together.

There are a great many valuable systems for measuring wellbeing that have been developed nationally and internationally. This book is intended as a guide to the ABS's current system of social statistics and as a starting point for those wishing to understand some of the issues involved. Fundamentally it presents the premise that wellbeing has individual and social dimensions and is influenced via transactions between individuals and society, and by life events, transitions, and other factors that can be grouped within some core areas of concern. This premise is summarised in the following diagram.

Image - A framework for measuring wellbeing

The book returns to several core ideas throughout the following chapters. The first is that, when considering a given area of interest, statistical activity should be clearly focused on the implications of that area for the wellbeing of individuals and society. This focus can be fleshed out by considering what prominent issues are being raised in public debate, in the media, and by policy and program developers. Second, the book emphasises the need for precision and clarity in defining the terms and concepts surrounding these social phenomena, so they may be measured, reflected and analysed accurately and usefully. Thus it aims to provide guidance in defining broad and narrow areas of interest, in framework development and in the use of classifications, counting units and other measurement tools.

The social statistics system described in this book aims to meet a wide spectrum of objectives. It supports the provision of summary statistics that allow important aspects of the wellbeing of the nation to be monitored over time at a broad level. It also supports production of more specific statistics that relate to certain target groups, social programs and policy, or that inform specific social issues. Finally it aims to support the provision of statistics that help explain why wellbeing in a given area of concern is at a particular level, why and how that level has changed, and, perhaps more importantly, how it might be changed.

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