About

About Australia's Social Pulse

Having access to safe, affordable, secure housing; an adequate standard of living; good health; education; social inclusion and the right to services, supports and care that recognizes the needs of individuals and treats them with dignity and respect regardless of their backgrounds, are aspects of life that we all need, value and aspire to. They are the aspects of life that affect our happiness and make our society economically stronger; indeed, they are a human right. And yet, in Australia and across the world, access to those fundamental features of life is still a struggle for many.

Economic indicators like GDP, unemployment, inflation and interest rates, are all well-established and regularly reported on in mainstream media. But what about the parts of our lives that tell the story of our social progress? How are we doing in other areas that matter to our lives?

It has been recognised, especially after the Global Financial Crisis, that indicators other than financial measures matter and that collectively they paint a holistic picture of how countries are faring. In short, we need criteria for measuring wellbeing alongside economic prosperity to capture how people are faring. We want to understand their experiences and aspirations beyond material needs.

Australia’s social purpose sector lacks a cohesive, consistent and reliable source that tracks our social progress in this way. Without this, we cannot determine if we are improving social outcomes, addressing complex social problems and strengthening society. Nor can we evaluate whether our financial investments in social areas are achieving their aims. Australia’s Social Pulse responds to these gaps by providing rigorous measurement of the nation’s social progress.

Building on existing Australian social statistics, Australia’s Social Pulse measures changes over time in key social indicators across a range of domains. It investigates associations between outcomes and community, household, and individual characteristics. It indicates how particular population groups fare relative to the average to provide an in-depth understanding of the nation’s social pulse. The report examines key indicators across the following domains:

  • Education
  • Employment
  • Health
  • Disability
  • Living standards
  • Housing and homelessness
  • Social cohesion
  • Life satisfaction

In addition to assessing gender and age groups, Australia’s Social Pulse will also report on the following groups:

  • Youth not in education, employment or training (NEET)
  • People with disability
  • Socio-Economic Indexes For Areas (SEIFA) or area of disadvantage
  • Indigenous Australians
  • People with psychological distress
  • Geographical region (remoteness)

Why Measure?

Historically, progress has been measured through the use of economic indicators; often on the basis that economic progress is synonymous to overall national development, even if it was at the cost of social and environmental outcomes at times.

However, it is increasingly recognised that economic indicators fail to capture broader aspects of development, and that a more holistic approach to assessing wellbeing is necessary to measure progress.

Measurement seeks to ensure that goals and missions are met, that processes and services are optimised, and that people and institutions are kept accountable and efficient. It is particularly important as information about the state of a nation informs policy choices as well as public and private investment. There is growing acknowledgement that what is measured is as important as measurement itself, since what is measured ‘gets done’ and can determine winners and losers.

Australia’s Social Pulse is the first national measure of social change in Australia. It is an almanac of how Australia is faring that builds on existing Australian social statistics. Australia’s Social Pulse will help answer questions like “How healthy is Australia in terms of economic, environmental and social indicators?”; “What resources are we investing in the social sector, and where?”; “How have outcomes changed over time and for whom?”, and ponder the why, why not, and what’s next.


About the Data

This report predominantly uses national data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey (HILDA)[1] and the Census of Population and Housing (Census).

Supplementary data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), and other national surveys were also used in some domains:

  • Employment
  • ABS Labour Force Survey
  • Health
  • National Drug Strategy Household Survey
  • Living Standards
  • ABS Household Income and Wealth
  • Housing and homelessness
  • Specialist Homeless Services Collection demographics data cube

 


[1] This paper uses unit record data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey. The HILDA Project was initiated and is funded by the Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) and is managed by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research (Melbourne Institute). The findings and views reported in this paper, however, are those of the author and should not be attributed to either FaHCSIA or the Melbourne Institute.

The First National Measure of Social Change in Australia

Australia’s Social Pulse is the first national measure of social change in Australia. It is an almanac of how Australia is faring that builds on existing Australian social statistics. Australia’s Social Pulse will help answer questions like “How healthy is Australia in terms of economic, environmental and social indicators?”; “What resources are we investing in the social sector, and where?”; “How have outcomes changed over time and for whom?”, and ponder the why, why not, and what’s next.