1370.0 - Measures of Australia's Progress, 2010  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 15/09/2010   
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Feature articles


Go to the MAP downloads for the full Feature Article.

    "Part of the objective of rethinking our measurement systems is to generate a national and global dialogue on what we care about, whether what we are striving for is achieving what we care about, and whether this is reflected in our metrics"

    From Measuring Production to Measuring Well-being, Joseph E. Stiglitz,
    Presentation to the Productivity Commission, Melbourne, July 29, 2010

In recent decades, there has been a growing view that understanding progress involves bringing together measures from across the areas of social, economic and environmental activity. The ABS was the first national statistical organisation to move forward with this notion, releasing its first edition of MAP in 2002, providing an informative suite of information for those wishing to assess national progress.

Since then, national and international interest in measuring progress has accelerated, intensifying particularly over the last decade and the last few years. To take just one example, in 2009 the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress recommended a rethink of statistical measures and encouraged a global dialogue to ensure national statistical organisations are measuring what societies care about (Stiglitz, Sen, Fitoussi 2009).

Together with an Expert Reference Group, and in anticipation of extensive community input, the ABS has taken the opportunity to incorporate the best learning and ideas from this international discussion to carry forward its work on measuring progress. This article articulates how Australia's progress may best continue to be measured into the future, outlining some key steps to arriving at a refreshed approach.

Pulling all of the development steps outlined in the article together, the proposed approach is illustrated in the diagram below, although readers are encouraged to read the article in full as it provides a clear explanation of those steps. This approach is intended as a starting point, and to support discussion and debate around progress measurement towards arriving at a final progress framework.

Some advantages of this approach include the transparency provided by differentiating "progress" from its goals or "aspirations". This simplifies discussion and focuses attention on the desired end-point of different aspects of societal progress. This dimension of the diagram intends to set out some universal principles representing what Australians care about at a broad level, and will be a key focus of the structured consultation ABS is planning over the next 12-18 months.

As well, different arenas of progress are delineated: social, economic, governance and environmental. This allows the different issues and aspirations associated with each arena to be considered clearly. A dimension providing for pragmatic outcomes is also included. These outcomes should indicate whether aspirations are being realised at a functional level, and will provide a conceptual stepping stone to detailed statistical measures.

Finally, relationships are indicated on this conceptual map with arrows. Such relationships include support relationships as well as the trade-offs which might occur between aspirations or outcomes for the different arenas of progress. This notion of trade-offs, whereby progress in one area is linked to regress in another, is a key aspect of the progress debate. It is a concern often expressed, for example, in relation to the connection between economic growth and environmental sustainability.

This model is designed to assist both experts and people from all walks of life to have a meaningful conversation about progress so the ABS is in a stronger position to measure what people care about. We hope those measures will then reflect and inform on Australia's progress into the future.

Readers are encouraged to share their views on the approach in this article in the MAP blog.


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