1370.0 - Measures of Australia's Progress, 2013  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 09/05/2014   
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Measures of Australia's Progress

What is MAP?

Behind the scenes of Measures of Australia's Progress - all you need to know

    This product is designed to help Australians address the question, 'Is life in Australia getting better?'. Measures of Australia's Progress (MAP) provides a digestible selection of measures in answer to this question that Australians can use to form their own view of how our country is progressing. The MAP homepage provides an 'at a glance' view of progress for Australia and is designed to be a summary of broad, national level progress measures. The tabs across the top of this page explain what MAP is, how we define progress and how MAP has evolved over time.

    The MAP indicators presented are designed to show changes towards key aspirations of Australians, so that an assessment of progress can be made. The indicators are grouped under four broad headings: society, economy, environment and governance, based on the areas of life that Australians have told us are important for progress.

    Within these broad headings (domains) many areas of life (themes) are addressed, such as 'health' within the social domain, 'prosperity' within the economic domain, 'healthy natural environment' within the environmental domain and 'trust' within the governance domain. Where available, each theme has a headline progress indicator that represents the theme as a whole and shows whether progress has been made for this area.

    Each theme is broken down further so that a more detailed story about the extent of progress can be told. Where possible, these important aspects (elements) of each theme have a single progress indicator. For example, the health theme contains progress indicators for areas such as physical and mental health.

    Measures of Australia's Progress (MAP) highlights where there are data gaps for aspects of progress that may be significant to Australians. In this way, MAP points to where development may be needed in order to find suitable measures for these areas of progress. Gaps in the availability of measures occur for a number of reasons; for example, some areas of progress are inherently subjective and hence difficult to measure reliably. In other cases, the concept we want to measure is not yet sufficiently developed, or the concept is important for progress but may not lend itself to meaningful measurement. The quality of data or availability of data from only one point in time may also mean that there is no appropriate current measure of progress. And then there are areas of interest which have yet to be measured.

    As well as thematic information, MAP includes population and regional information to support and broaden the view of Australia's progress. While MAP generally provides broad national level data, the Rural and Regional chapter provides a regional view of progress and highlights some of the challenges faced when measuring progress for smaller geographic areas. MAP will continue to evolve with further contextual information for themes and their elements added over time.

    For more information about the structure of MAP see the tabs on this page. For more information about how to access the information and get around MAP, go to the Navigating MAP tab on the MAP Dashboard and structure page.

    For a full list of indicators see the the list on the Data and downloads page.

Public interest in the relationships between economic, social, environmental and governance aspects of life continues to grow in communities, in governments, and internationally. This interest in presenting a more complete picture of progress (combining GDP with other economic, social and environmental measures), is the prime reason the ABS originally developed Measures of Australia's Progress (MAP) and has continued to publish data in this format.

Interest in measuring progress has accelerated in recent years, and the number of commentators calling for social, environmental and governance measures to be considered in addition to traditional economic measures has grown. For example, since 2004, the OECD has hosted major international dialogues and debates on measuring societal progress. In 2010, it established WikiProgress, an online forum for sharing progress information and developments and in 2011, it released the 'Better Life Index', an interactive tool for comparing wellbeing across nations. Furthermore, a report by the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress (Stiglitz, Sen and Fitoussi, 2009) and the European Commission's GDP and Beyond report (Commission of the European Communities, 2009) to name just two, have recommended a rethink of measurement systems of progress. They have also encouraged a national and global dialogue on what societies care about, and whether this is adequately reflected in our national and international indicators.

Given the recent developments in measuring progress, ABS considered it timely to review whether MAP is still measuring those aspects of life that matter most to Australians. In 2011-12, the ABS undertook a broad-ranging consultation that asked Australians, "What is important to you for national progress?" You can find more information about the consultation process on the Evolution of MAP tab located on this page.

The concept of progress is central to Measures of Australia's Progress (MAP). In its broadest sense, we define progress as life improving or getting better. MAP examines progress in many aspects of people's lives, for example, their health, the quality of their environment, their incomes, work and leisure, personal safety and so on.

Progress is multidimensional. Whether or not the nation is making progress depends on all of these factors: on the state of our environment, the health of our economy and a variety of individual and societal wellbeing issues. Consequently, measures of progress for each factor are necessary. We seek to present measures for these aspects of life that show unambiguous movement, so that a clear assessment of progress can be made.

In MAP, we do not make a single statement about whether Australia is progressing overall. Instead, we present the information in such a way that readers can consider the relative importance of progress in each dimension and bring their own personal evaluations to these questions.
Over time there has been an evolution of what is considered to be important for progress and how it is best measured. Since Measures of Australia's Progress (MAP) was first produced in 2002, there has been increasing global interest in measuring the social, economic and environmental dimensions of progress. More recently, there has been a growing interest in measuring progress in the area of governance.

Given these recent developments in measuring progress, ABS considered it timely to review whether MAP is still measuring those aspects of life that matter most to Australians. In 2011-12, the ABS undertook a broad-ranging consultation that asked Australians, "What is important to you for national progress?" This public consultation allowed us to hear, listen and reflect on the aspirations that Australians hold for national progress.

The feedback received from Australians was provided in the form of aspirations for national progress, such as ‘good health for all’. These aspirations covered a broad range of issues that people considered important. Some of these issues were already included in MAP, such as health and education, while others were new or reframed aspirations such as ‘a healthy built environment’, ‘a fair go for all Australians’ and the ‘opportunity to have a say in decision-making’. Participants also identified more detailed aspects of these aspirations that they felt were important for progress; for example, within the broad area of health, ‘mental health and wellbeing’ was highlighted.

In November 2012, the ABS released Measures of Australia's Progress - aspirations for our nation: a conversation with Australians about progress, which provides a full account of the aspirations that came from the consultation. Using these results, together with expert statistical advice, we have developed a refreshed set of indicators for MAP 2013.

MAP is an evolving product and a number of changes have been incorporated into this edition. The consultation has been the driver for the following changes to MAP:
    • An aspiration statement for each theme. These aspirations represent the findings from the consultation and reflect what Australians told us they care about most for national progress. For example, 'Australians aspire to good health for all' is the aspiration for the 'Health' theme
    • A refreshed set of indicators that are consistent with the consultation results
    • A new Governance domain strongly endorsed throughout the consultation and added to the MAP framework as a 4th domain
    • A new web interface including a refreshed summary dashboard, with an alternate view that displays the indicators by progress status. The new interface has easy to navigate tabs, a video and a multi-graph selector that allows users to select graphs by different disaggregations from a drop down menu
    • A regional chapter that highlights progress at the regional level and the challenges of assessing regional progress
    • Elements of the themes that give voice to the progress of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

In developing our approach to the consultation process and this most recent edition of MAP, we have been guided by an Expert Reference Group comprising a range of government, industry and academic members who are highly regarded in the area of statistical measurement.
The ABS produces a rich array of information relevant to assessing progress through our many data releases. However, the very size of that information base means information is not always readily accessible.

Our products provide an insight into one or a few aspects of life - say, health, education, income or the environment. A more complete picture of progress considers these aspects of life together.

Measures of Australia's Progress (MAP) is unique in that it brings a digestible selection of measures together from across all of these areas. We believe MAP will assist Australians and the international community to make their own assessment of whether life in Australia is getting better. Readers are encouraged to gather more information from the full range of our products and non-ABS products to supplement this assessment.

MAP 2013 is built around the aspirations that Australians told us were important to them for progress. In order to measure Australia's progress it is important to understand the broad aspirations Australians hold for their country. Measuring progress is about determining whether we are moving in a positive direction towards these goals or aspirations. This translation of concepts into measures can be a complex task. We have sought to give voice to the aspirations Australians thought were important for progress by selecting measures that shed light on at least part of each idea expressed.
MAP is a summary product that provides information at the national level, and it is therefore limited in how much information it can provide for other geographic areas such as states and territories. MAP provides a breakdown of the indicators, however this is not possible for all areas. Where possible, links have been provided to point people in the right direction if they wish to investigate further.

Ultimately, MAP is intended to complement the array of indicators available in Australia, and we encourage readers to access other publications that can provide more detailed information on the aspects of society, the economy, the environment and governance that particularly interest them. Be sure to check the further info pages for useful links and references.

MAP continues to evolve and we will seek to include further contextual and progress information as it becomes available.

Measuring progress - providing information about whether life is getting better - is perhaps the most important task a national statistical agency like the ABS undertakes. Measuring progress has been the responsibility of the ABS since colonial times. A national statistical agency like the ABS plays an important role in providing the indicators that allow assessments of progress to be made, by those who formulate and evaluate policy, by researchers and by the Australian community. Setting out a suite of social, economic, environmental and governance indicators that aim to measure a country's progress continues to be one of the most challenging tasks that a national statistical agency undertakes. Measures of Australia's Progress is one of many sources of data we publish to inform Australians about their society.