4160.0.55.001 - Frameworks for Australian Social Statistics, Jun 2015  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/06/2015  First Issue
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GOVERNANCE

WHAT IS GOVERNANCE?

For an Australian context, the ABS has developed a definition of governance as referring to the systems, processes and institutions which govern, run, protect and regulate the activity of Australians. From the justice system to groups run by community members, many areas of our lives are influenced by some form of governance. More specifically, governance refers to the way in which the processes, systems and institutions that organise Australian society are managed, and the way people are included in making decisions about things that affect their lives. Good governance means that processes, systems and institutions are efficient, responsive and accountable, and enable societal function and progress.

GOVERNANCE AND OUR WELLBEING

The field of governance statistics is an emerging area of statistics. The idea of governance statistics goes beyond providing information on the functions of government to the functioning of the systems, processes and institutions which communities use to organise themselves, to manage their affairs, make decisions and achieve the things that matter to them. The availability of quality information on governance enhances the capabilities of citizens to hold government, businesses and other institutions to account, and in turn the direction of public policy, regulation and other processes can be influenced by the effective use of the participatory capabilities of the public.

In a national consultation conducted by the ABS in 2011-12, Australians said they wanted governance systems and organisations to be easy to interact with and access (MAP 2013, ABS). People thought that governance systems and processes needed to be open, honest, unbiased and trusted by society. They wanted these systems to uphold people's rights, allowing them access to justice and providing and supporting laws that protect all Australians.

Important aspects of governance can be monitored using information on:

  • trust
  • effective governance
  • participation - including whether people are able to have a say in decisions that affect their lives and whether there are opportunities for people to participate and influence governance processes that affect them
  • informed public debate - Accessibility of information that supports participation and informed public debate, freedom of the media and freedom of expression
  • people's rights and responsibilities - for people and for institutions in carrying out their governance activities appropriately.

The Worldwide Governance Indicators report on six broad dimensions of governance:
  • voice and accountability
  • political stability and absence of violence
  • government effectiveness - 'the quality of public services, the quality of the civil service and its independence from political pressures, the quality of policy formulation and implementation, and the credibility of the government’s commitment to its stated policies'
  • regulatory quality
  • rule of law
  • control of corruption.

GOVERNANCE AND OUR CHANGING WORLD

There are a range of events, pressures and drivers of change that have the potential to substantially affect wellbeing. In relation to governance systems, process and institutions, some examples of these factors include:
  • international and domestic geopolitical events impacting on relationships between the governments of Australia and other countries
  • the impact of economic factors, such as the impact of a financial crisis, or income inequality
  • social and cultural changes - changing public attitudes; events that impact on trust in the police, the judicial system, or other governance systems, process and institutions
  • the impact of the election cycle on policy and programs
  • changing technology impacting on the accessibility and quality of information.

GOVERNANCE AND ACTIONS SUPPORTING WELLBEING

There are many ways that people, community groups, governments and other institutions can work to improve governance in Australia, particularly to improve an individual's capability to participate in their communities and in the decisions that affect their lives. Some examples include actions to:
  • increase trust in institutions (such as the police and the judicial system) and governance processes; increasing accountability and transparency of these institutions and processes
  • understand how well key institutions work and how to make them more effective
  • increase the capability of people to have a say in decisions that affect their lives, including being able to vote in elections
  • improve the availability of quality information and encourage well-informed and vibrant public debate, including a free and trusted media
  • ensure that rights are upheld.

BUT THIS IS NOT THE WHOLE STORY...

To gain a better understanding of governance in Australian society, look through the pages on:
  • Learning and knowledge
  • Crime, safety and justice
  • Family and community
  • Culture and leisure
  • Information and communication technology.

USEFUL RESOURCES

Governance is an underdeveloped area of statistics. This is due to complexity, subjectivity, and the qualitative nature of the concepts governance statistics are trying to reflect. Below are a number of resources which provide information on governance measures.

World Bank, The Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI) project reports aggregate and individual governance indicators for 215 economies over the period 1996–2013, for six dimensions of governance:
  • voice and accountability
  • political stability and absence of violence
  • government effectiveness
  • regulatory quality
  • rule of law
  • control of corruption.

Australian Bureau of Statistics (2013), Measures of Australia’s Progress, 2013 (cat. no. 1370.0) - This publication is designed to help Australians address the question, 'Is life in Australia getting better?' Measures of Australia's Progress provides a digestible selection of measures in answer to this question. Australians can use this evidence to form their own view of how our country is progressing in four domains, including Governance.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 2013, How’s Life? 2013 Measuring Well-being - This publication paints a comprehensive picture of well-being in OECD countries and other major economies, by looking at people’s material living conditions and quality of life across the population through a wide range of comparable wellbeing indicators, including indicators of Civic Engagement.

International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), Democracy Assessment: The Basics of the International IDEA Assessment Framework

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2010, Framework for Measuring Wellbeing: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples (cat. no. 4703.0)- This framework maps statistical information about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, in the context of the interrelationships with their social and physical environments, including Citizenship and Governance.

United Nations Human Rights: Office of the High Commissioner (2012), Human Rights Indicators: A Guide to Measurement and Implementation.

United Nations Statistical Commission (2014), Report of Cabo Verde on Governance, Peace and Security Statistics - The Praia Group on Governance Statistics (the “Praia Group”) was created by the UN Statistical Commission to contribute to establishing international standards and methods for the compilation of statistics on the major dimensions of governance, and to collaborate with UN bodies and other organisations concerned with specific aspects of governance statistics. The overall objective of the proposed Praia Group is to encourage countries to produce governance statistics based on sound and documented methodologies.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Guidelines on the measurement of trust (expected 2017) will be developed by the OECD with the input of an expert advisory group. The aim is to develop a conceptual and statistical framework on the measurement of trust in institutions.

KEY TERMS

Civic participation

Participation in civil society. Civil society is 'the non-government and not-for-profit groups and organisations that have a presence in public life, expressing the interests of their members and others in society' (World Bank 2006).

Compulsory voting

Compulsory voting means that every eligible Australian citizen (18 years or older) is required by law to enrol and vote. If a person does not vote and is unable to provide a 'valid and sufficient' reason, a penalty is imposed. Compulsory voting is a distinctive feature of the Australian political culture.

Governance processes

Refers to legal, electoral/democratic processes, government processes and other processes or systems underlying societal governance.

Governance institutions

Includes government institutions – such as parliament, the judiciary, the executive, government agencies and the public service – and private entities – such as businesses, companies, lobby groups, community organisations, the media, universities and research organisations.

Government effectiveness

The quality of public services and its independence from political pressures, the quality of policy formulation and implementation, and the credibility of the government’s commitment to its stated policies. (Worldwide Governance Indicators).

Involvement in civic and political groups

The proportion of people involved in civic and political groups, including the following:
  • trade union, professional / technical associations
  • civic group or organisations
  • environmental or animal welfare groups
  • human and civil rights groups
  • body corporate or tenants' associations
  • political parties
  • consumer organisations.

Management/committee work

Participation in management committees and functions, which involves making decisions about the direction and operation of an organisation. Examples include: sitting on a board, being an office bearer, being a member of the management board of a community welfare organisation, treasurer for the local church, managing a service or program, program planning.

The following key terms are from The World Bank, The Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI) project.

Control of corruption

The extent to which public power is exercised for private gain, including both petty and grand forms of corruption, as well as "capture" of the state by elites and private interests.

Political Stability and Absence of Violence/Terrorism

The likelihood of political instability and/or politically motivated violence, including terrorism.

Regulatory quality

The ability of the government to formulate and implement sound policies and regulations that permit and promote private sector development.

Rule of law

The extent to which agents have confidence in and abide by the rules of society, and in particular the quality of contract enforcement, property rights, the police, and the courts, as well as the likelihood of crime and violence.

Voice and accountability

The extent to which a country's citizens are able to participate in selecting their government, as well as freedom of expression, freedom of association, and a free media.

REFERENCES

The World Bank, The Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI) project.

Australian Bureau of Statistics (2013), Measures of Australia’s Progress, 2013 (cat. no. 1370.0).

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 2013, How’s Life? 2013 Measuring Well-being.


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