Wednesday, May 29, 2013

How is Australia the best address on earth? Play with the sliders

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Australia, as seen by the OECD Better Life Index

"Australia performs exceptionally well in measures of well-being, as shown by the fact that it ranks among the top countries in a large number of topics in the Better Life Index.

Money, while it cannot buy happiness, is an important means to achieving higher living standards. In Australia, the average household net-adjusted disposable income is 28 884 USD a year, more than the OECD average of 23 047 USD a year. But there is a considerable gap between the richest and poorest – the top 20% of the population earn six times as much as the bottom 20%.

In terms of employment, over 73% of people aged 15 to 64 in Australia have a paid job, above the OECD employment average of 66%. Some 79% of men are in paid work, compared with 67% of women. People in Australia work 1 693 hours a year, less than most people in the OECD who work 1 776 hours. Almost 14% of employees work very long hours, much higher than the OECD average of 9%, with 21% of men working very long hours compared with just 6% for women.

Having a good education is an important requisite for finding a job. In Australia, 73% of adults aged 25-64 have earned the equivalent of a high-school degree, close to the OECD average of 74%. This is truer of men than women, as 76% of men have successfully completed high-school compared with 71% of women. This difference is higher than the OECD average and suggests women’s participation in higher education could be strengthened. Australia is nonetheless a top-performing country in terms of the quality of its educational system. The average student scored 519 in reading literacy, maths and science in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). This score is higher than the OECD average of 497, making Australia one of the strongest OECD countries in students’ skills. On average in Australia, girls outperformed boys by 9 points, in line with the average OECD gap.

In terms of health, life expectancy at birth in Australia is almost 82 years, two years higher than the OECD average of 80 years. Life expectancy for women is 84 years, compared with 80 for men. The level of atmospheric PM10 – tiny air pollutant particles small enough to enter and cause damage to the lungs – is 14 micrograms per cubic meter, considerably lower than the OECD average of 21 micrograms per cubic meter. Australia also does well in terms of water quality, as 91% of people say they are satisfied with the quality of their water, higher than the OECD average of 84%.

Concerning the public sphere, there is a strong sense of community and high levels of civic participation in Australia, where 94% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in time of need, higher than the OECD average of 90%. Voter turnout, a measure of public trust in government and of citizens’ participation in the political process, was 93% during recent elections; this figure is the highest in the OECD where the average is 72%. There is little difference in voting levels across society; voter turnout for the top 20% of the population is 94% and for the bottom 20% it is 92%, a much narrower difference than the OECD average gap of 12 percentage points and suggesting there is broad social inclusion in Australia’s democratic institutions

In general, Australians are more satisfied with their lives than the OECD average, with 84% of people saying they have more positive experiences in an average day (feelings of rest, pride in accomplishment, enjoyment, etc) than negative ones (pain, worry, sadness, boredom, etc). This figure is higher than the OECD average of 80%."

In the Sydney Morning Herald:

Australia has scored the unofficial title of the best address on earth for the third year running in an OECD survey of what constitutes good living.

The so-called Better Life Index ranks the 34 developed nations that make up the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development on eleven criteria it says contribute to good living.

When all eleven are given equal weight Australia is rated the best developed nation in the world, narrowly beating Sweden and Canada.

But the OECD says there is no such thing as an absolute Number 1. It allows users of its website to weight the criteria as they see fit.

If work-life balance is given the most weight, Australia becomes one of the worst developed nations in which to live. The organisation says more than 14 per cent of Australian workers put in more than 50 hours a week, way above the OECD average of 9 per cent. Men do it much more than women, 21 per cent working long hours compared to 6 per cent of working women. Denmark has the best work-life balance. Only 2 per cent of its workers put in more than 50 hours per week.

The OECD rates Australia number one when it comes to “civic engagement”. More than 70 per cent of Australians say they trust their political institutions. Around 93 of registered voters turn up to vote, the highest proportion in the OECD. It says while voter turnout “is indeed compulsory and strongly enforced, it is nevertheless a useful measure of citizen engagement”.

Australia is also the second-healthiest of the developed nations, beaten only by New Zealand. Some 85 per cent of Australians describe their health as good. Australia’s life expectancy at birth is 82 years, almost a year longer than the United Kingdom’s and more than three years longer than the United States...

Australia’s household income is mid-range, although comfortably above the OECD average. Access to housing is rated as the fourth-best. Australian households spend an average of 19 per cent of their income on keeping a roof over their heads, slightly less than the OECD average of 21 per cent. But the quality of the housing is just about the world’s best. At 2.3 rooms per person Australia is beaten only by Canada.

Australia’s natural environment is rated eighth-best. Sweden, the United Kingdom, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Germany and Finland are rated higher. The organisation says urban air pollution is getting worse.

Australians are nonetheless happy. When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Australians come up with an average score of 7.2, way above the OECD average of 6.6. And the score is pretty consistent across the nation. Men and women are equally happy. Australians without secondary education are only a little less happy than Australians with university degrees, reporting an average score of 7.1 instead of 7.4. Around 84 per cent of Australians report having more positive experiences than negative ones in an average day.

Two thirds of Australians reported having helped a stranger in the last month, well above the OECD average of 48 per cent.
94 per cent of Australians believe they know someone they could rely on in a time of need, also above the

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. When the index began, How we rated

. ABS. It's getting better all the time. Really. Nearly.

. Officially our lives are mostly better