Australia launches ‘national wellbeing’ dashboard to measure progress on health, education of residents

Australia on Friday launched a “national wellbeing” dashboard of indicators to measure progress on issues like health, education and the environment, one that it hopes will lead to a better balance between economic and social objectives.

It will track indicators across five categories – healthy, secure, sustainable, cohesive, and prosperous – that can be viewed on an online dashboard and will be updated annually.

They are intended to complement traditional economic indicators such as gross domestic product, inflation and employment.

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“I think one of the frustrations that we have had for some time really is people have only thought that our social objectives and our economic objectives must be in conflict,” Treasurer Jim Chalmers told a news conference.

“I think that they can be in concert and that is what the national wellbeing framework is all about.”

In a 127-page report titled “Measuring What Matters” issued to accompany the dashboard, the government painted a mixed picture of wellbeing.

Shadows of people in Sydney

Silhouettes of people, the opera house, and the harbor bridge are seen during sunset in Sydney, Australia. (REUTERS/Carl Recine/File Photo)

The report found Australia had made progress on life expectancy, reducing resource use, diversity, incomes and employment. But measures of chronic health conditions, national security, biodiversity and fiscal sustainability had all declined.

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Almost half the population had one or more chronic health conditions, while 13% reported mental health problems. Access to healthcare and wait times for treatment had also worsened.

Measures of household financial stress and access to housing had also deteriorated, and that was before the recent surge in the cost of living and steep rise in borrowing costs.

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In all, 20 of the indicators had improved over the past few decades, while seven were stable and 12 had deteriorated.

Several countries have attempted to diversify policymaking beyond economic benchmarks in recent years, most famously Bhutan, whose “gross national happiness” index is considered more important than GDP.