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Progress in Australia: The headline dimensions
Life expectancy at birth is a measure of how long someone born in a particular year might expect to live if mortality patterns for that year remained unchanged over their lifetime. It is one of the most widely used indicators of population health. It focuses on length of life rather than its quality, but it usefully summarises the health of the population.
Australian life expectancy improved during the decade 1994 to 2004. A boy born in 2004 could expect to live to be 78, while a girl could expect to reach 83 - increases of three and two years respectively. Women tend to live longer than men, and this is reflected in the differences in life expectancy throughout the 20th century. Although a girl born in 2004 could still expect to live more than five years longer than a boy, in recent years life expectancy at birth has increased more quickly for men than for women.
While Australians are living longer than ever before, there is a good deal of debate about whether life expectancy will continue to increase. However, there is no doubt that there is more room for improvement among some groups of the population than among others. In particular, Indigenous Australians do not live as long as other Australians, and the difference is marked.
Education and training
Education and training help people to develop knowledge and skills that may be used to enhance their own living standards and those of the broader community. For an individual, educational attainment is widely seen as a key factor to a rewarding career. For the nation as a whole, having a skilled workforce is vital to supporting ongoing economic development and improvements in living conditions.
The progress indicator used here measures the attainment of formal non-school qualifications. This headline indicator is the proportion of the population aged 25-64 with a vocational or higher education qualification (Endnote 2). The indicator shows that there has been a rise in the proportion of people with non-school qualifications. Between 1995 and 2005, the proportion of 25-64 year olds with a vocational or higher education qualification rose from 46% to 58%, continuing a trend seen for many decades.
The increase over the last decade in the proportion of people with non-school qualifications is mainly being driven by the substantial increase in the proportion of people with a higher education qualification (i.e. a bachelor degree or above). Between 1995 and 2005, the proportion of people aged 25-64 with a higher education qualification increased from 14% to 23%. The proportion of people whose highest qualification was a vocational qualification was 34% in 2005, a similar level to a decade earlier.
Paid work is the way most people obtain the economic resources needed for day to day living, for themselves and their dependents, and to meet their longer term financial needs. Having paid work contributes to a person’s sense of identity and self-esteem. People's involvement in paid work also contributes to economic growth and development.
The unemployment rate has been chosen as the headline indicator, because of its relevance to the economic and social aspects of work. This rate is the number of unemployed persons expressed as a percentage of the labour force, and is a widely used measure of underutilised labour resources in the economy. The graph also includes the labour force underutilisation rate. This is a measure of the number of unemployed and underemployed people, expressed as a proportion of the labor force (Endnote 3).
Measures of underutilised labour such as the unemployment rate are sensitive to changes in the economy. In 1995, the annual average unemployment rate stood at 8.2%, a relatively high value, reflecting the downturn of the early 1990s. Since then it has generally fallen, to stand at 5.1% in 2005. The labour force underutilisation rate fell from 13.8% in 1995 to 10.5% in 2005.