1370.0 - Measures of Australia's Progress, 2013  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 14/11/2013   
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Measures of Australia's Progress

Progress indicators

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

    Measures of Australia's Progress (MAP) comprises measures which are able to clearly show progress over time (progress indicators) across the four domains of Australia's society, economy, environment and governance.

    Although MAP has had previous versions of indicators, following the extensive 2011-12 consultation process, we have started from the ground up to identify a refreshed range of indicators to best express the aspirations Australians have for progress. A full list of current MAP indicators is available on the Data and downloads page.

    The tabs across the top of this page provide some information about the progress indicators used in MAP, how we decide which ones to use, the relationships between indicators and how we ensure they remain relevant over time.

Progress indicators are summary statistics that reflect an aspect of life. Importantly, they are specially chosen because they are able to demonstrate clear positive or negative movement over time.

The progress indicators in Measures of Australia's Progress (MAP) have been selected to reflect the aspirations that Australians told the ABS were important for the nation's progress, within the four main areas of society, economy, environment and governance. When refreshing our progress indicators for MAP 2013, we have taken a flexible approach in selecting indicators in order to maximise the information available. This approach has been guided by four principles:

1. The indicator used should be the best available indicator which is relevant to the theme or element.

2. Indicators do not need to be ‘all-encompassing’ of the theme or element to be included. Indicators that contain a partial or indirect insight, may be acceptable in those instances where it could be reasonable to expect that the indicator would be representative of the overarching theme or element.

3. Indicators in MAP 2013 do not need to have an extensive time series for inclusion – this can grow over time. This is to ensure the ABS does not exclude suitable indicators because of their short time series. Though MAP aims to ensure all progress measures have a suitable time series to sensibly provide a picture of progress, we have included measures where we anticipate future data points will become available.

4. Indicators should be of high or acceptable quality, with specific regard to reliability, currency, and methodology.

Difference between headline progress indicators and progress indicators

In MAP there are two types of indicators; headline progress indicators and progress indicators.

Headline progress indicators represent the progress for their respective theme. For example, life expectancy is the headline progress indicator for the 'health' theme. Life expectancy at birth is one of the most widely used and internationally recognised indicators of population health.

Progress indicators represent the progress of the elements within the themes. For example, disability free life expectancy is the progress indicator for the 'physical health' element within the 'health' theme.

We have also used a quality assessment key in order to be clear about the conceptual fit of each indicator to its theme or element, and the quality of the data source.

Target Diagram
Type of Indicator Description - assessment of conceptual fit

Image: Icon for 'Direct measure'
Direct measureAn indicator that measures all of the concept reflected by the theme or element, i.e. a good conceptual 'fit' (e.g. 'Employment as a proportion of people who are in work or want to work' is a direct measure of employment opportunities)

Image: Icon for 'Partial measure'
Partial measureAn indicator that measures part of the concept reflected by the theme or element, where that part is considered significant enough to stand as an indicator for the theme or element as a whole, i.e. a partial conceptual 'fit' (e.g. 'Number of domestic trips involving nature activities' is a partial measure of access to and availability of nature areas)

Image: Icon for 'Indirect measure'
Indirect measureAn indicator that measures the concept reflected by the theme or element, whilst being somewhat conceptually separate from the central idea of the theme or element, i.e. a proxy for the idea, rather than good a conceptual ‘fit’. (e.g. 'Life expectancy' is an indirect measure of health)

Scale diagram
Quality of data sourceDescription - assessment of quality

Image: Icon for 'High quality'
High qualityThe data source rates highly in terms of reliability, currency and methodology

Image: Icon for 'Acceptable quality'
Acceptable qualityThe data source is acceptable in terms of reliability, currency and methodology

Image: Icon for 'Limited quality'
Limited quality The data source is of limited quality in terms of reliability, currency and methodology (and therefore not included in MAP 2013)

Many aspects of progress are inter-linked in some way. Change in one dimension of progress is often accompanied by change elsewhere. Therefore it is important to consider the set of indicators cohesively and in relation to each other. The MAP Dashboard explicitly places assessments of progress for the four broad areas - society, economy, environment and governance - next to each other so that you can see and consider the different dimensions of progress together.

Broadly, there are two types of relationships between different areas of progress; tensions (or trade-offs) and reinforcements.
Tensions occur when one area of progress improves at the expense of another. In some cases, these tensions or trade-offs arise after a change in policy or preference. For example, spending on education might be cut to give more money to health. But they also occur as flow-on effects. For example, as the strength of the Australian dollar increases, our goods and services become more expensive to buy for our trading partners.

Reinforcements occur when one aspect of progress improves and strengthens another. For example, as economic production rises, then employment is likely to rise.

In reality, the overall effect of a change in any one dimension of progress is much more complex. For example, suppose factory output increases; this generates more income, and so there is more money to pay for, say, health care. But increased factory output might also increase air pollution, which is harmful to people's health or might be detrimental to other economic activity such as agriculture.

For more information about the relationship between areas of progress see the 2008 MAP feature article Relationships Between Domains of Progress.
The MAP headline progress indicators form a core set of statistics for reporting on Australia's progress. However, over time, they may change as social priorities change, and as new indicators are developed. New indicators may be improved measures for existing areas we already measure or may be able to shed light on new areas, such as happiness, political freedom, or human capital.

National and international thinking about what is important when measuring the progress of societies, has developed rapidly over the last decade and particularly over the last few years. For example, in 2009, the Australia 2020 Summit discussed the need for improved indicators of progress, and the G20 Summit encouraged work on measurement methods that better take into account the social and environmental dimensions of economic development. Recently in Australia, the National Sustainability Council's Sustainable Australia Report 2013, Conversations with the future outlined an approach, looking across the economy, society and the environment, for measuring and monitoring sustainability, to assist government to build a sustainable Australia. In this refreshed view of MAP, we look at four broad areas of life - society, the economy, the environment and the newly determined governance area - to assess whether Australia is making progress in the areas that Australians told us were most important to them.

One way that we ensure that MAP remains relevant over time is to check that we are still measuring what Australians consider important for progress. The results from the 2011-12 public consultation have been used to update MAP's framework and ensure MAP's ongoing relevance into the future. A comprehensive process has been undertaken to determine the best available progress indicators to reflect Australian's aspirations for progress, guided by expert advice. This refreshed set of indicators is presented in MAP 2013.

Conceptual developments in the area of measuring Australia's progress will be ongoing and we will continue to work to ensure MAP remains a current, informative and high quality resource for all Australians to determine whether or not life is getting better.