Friday, October 07, 2011

Officially our lives are mostly better

That's what the ABS finds when it attempts to look beyond GDP

Our lives are - almost - better than ever; so much so that we’re spending an increasing amount of time out of the country.

The latest Bureau of Statistics annual measure of the quality of our lives shows things are getting better across a range of fronts that extend beyond the financial.

We are more healthy, more educated and more likely to be in work than a decade ago and we earn more and have more saved. But our productivity is going backwards along with our air quality and biodiversity.

The ABS admits there’s much about our standard of living it can’t yet measure. It would like to be able to report on social cohesion, democracy and governance and the quality of our land, oceans and rivers, but it hasn’t yet found an encompassing measure for each. It lists them as important in Measures of Australia’s Progress 2011 and says it’s still looking for a way to way to turn each into a number.

The number it uses for health is life expectancy at birth. An Australian girl born today can expect to live 83.9 years, 2.1 years more than a a decade before. A boy born now can expect 79.3 years, 3.1 years more than a decade ago.

The measure for education is the proportion of people aged 25 to 64 years with a vocational or higher education qualifications... It has climbed from 50 to 63 per cent over the past decade driven mainly by a jump in the proportion with a university degree from 18 to 27 per cent.

The Bureau finds the unemployment rate the most useful measure of the likelihood of being in work. Even after increasing in recent months it is still far lower than it was a decade ago at 5.3 per cent, down from 6.8 per cent.

Income per person has soared 22 per cent above inflation in the past decade, even after tapering off in response to the global financial crisis. Wealth per person has climbed from $285,700 to $308,500 after adjustment for inflation - a jump of 8 per cent.

The Bureau’s encompassing measure for housing - rental affordability for low income earners - has stayed roughly flat for the past decade. The proportion of gross household income handed over in rent remains steady at 28 per cent.

Productivity - regarded as steady in the Bureau’s last update published a year ago - is now clearly heading down. The Bureau says its broadest measure, multi-factor productivity, is going backwards at the rate of 1 per cent per year.

The indicator thought to best point to biodiversity in native plants, animals and organisms is the number of threatened fauna species. It has climbed from 332 to 432 over the past decade. Just under half are listed as vulnerable and around two-fifths endangered or critically endangered.

Greenhouse gas emissions - the indicative measure of air quality - have climbed 13 per cent over the decade to 2009 from 483.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent to 545.8 million tonnes. The good news is that they have slipped below their peak of 550.8 million tonnes in 2008.

Separately-released figures show we are fleeing the country as never before. A record 664,900 of us left Australia for short-term holidays or work in August, meaning that if each remained out of the country for a month all through August 1 in every 34 Australians would have been outside the country.

Departures were nowhere near matched by visitors coming in. Only 491,000 visitors came this way in August. Visitor numbers haven’t hit 500,000 since last November.

Published in today's SMH


Life expectancy of newborn up 2.6 years

Proportion of 25-64 year olds with higher qualifications up from 50% to 63%

Unemployment rate down from 6.8% to 5.3%

Real national income per person up from $37,400 to $45,600

Real national net worth per person up from $285,700 to $308,500


Rental affordability for low income households unchanged


Multifactor productivity sliding since 2003-04

Number of threatened fauna species up from 332 to 432

Greenhouse gas emissions up 13%

ABS Measures of Australia's Progress, Changes over past decade

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