Finally some good news. Life has gotten better for Aussies in 2017

Image: ShutterstockNow for some good news: life has improved for Australians during 2017.

The Fairfax-Lateral Economics wellbeing index – which provides a broader measure of national welfare – shows the value of Australia’s collective wellbeing in the year to September 30 was $28 billion higher than the previous year.

The wellbeing index adjusts gross domestic product to take account of knowhow, health, work life, social inequality and environmental degradation and puts a dollar figure on Australia’s collective wellbeing. It provides a richer, deeper measure of national welfare than GDP, which is an economic indicator and simply doesn’t measure some things that really matter.

The wellbeing index rose by a solid 0.6 per cent in the September quarter – close to its long-term quarterly average growth of 0.7 per cent.

While wellbeing has improved overall, the six components of the index show not everything is moving in the right direction. They draw attention to factors that drag on our collective welfare.

Here’s how each major component of the index has performed in the past year:

National income:

While money isn’t everything, it is an important contributor to our wellbeing.

The index draws on a broad nationwide measure of income calculated by the Bureau of Statistics called “real net national disposable income”. This rose by a healthy 4.5 per cent, seasonally adjusted, in the year to September.

There are signs much of that dividend has accrued to company profits rather than the pay packets of workers because wages growth has been very weak. The latest figures showed a modest improvement in household income growth.


One of Australia’s most valuable assets is the knowledge and skills of the population – called human capital by economists.

Growth in our collective knowhow has been one of the standout performers on the wellbeing index during the past decade. That’s because early childhood education has improved, school retention rates have grown and the share of adults with a post-high school qualification has surged.

“The proportion of working adults that have post school qualifications has been steadily increasing,” the latest index report said. “In 2017, 61.6 per cent of working adults had post-school qualifications, compared to 49.9 per cent 10 years ago.”

However, a decline in the performance of our school students relative to other countries has been a negative for wellbeing.

The loss of skills due to long-term unemployment also erodes human capital and therefore wellbeing. The level of long-term unemployment in Australia is now about double what it was prior to the 2008 global financial crisis.


The wellbeing index has drawn attention to two huge health-related drags on our collective wellbeing: obesity and mental illness.

It shows the wellbeing cost of obesity has been rising steadily during the past decade and how stands at $127 billion per year. Meanwhile, the annual wellbeing cost of mental illness has reached a hefty $211 billion – equivalent to about 12 per cent of the economy’s annual output.

Those negatives were offset to some extent by rising life expectancy and an improvement in the rate of preventable hospitalisations.


The negative impact of the unequal distribution of income across the community is another persistent drag on wellbeing. A dollar for a poor person does much more to lift their wellbeing than a dollar for a rich person, so the index adjusts total income according to whether it has gone to the rich or the poor.

There was some positive news in the latest index report, which showed a modest reduction in the wellbeing cost of inequality.


The index takes account of how depletion of natural assets affects wellbeing, including the costs of climate change. It shows the wellbeing cost caused by “natural capital depletion” was $2.5 billion in the year to September, although getting a reliable measure of the real costs of environmental damage remains difficult.

Work satisfaction:

Unemployment and underemployment are an obvious drag on nation wellbeing – official figures show more than 700,000 Australians are jobless and over a million would like more work. At the same time, some of us are overworked. The index put the wellbeing cost of work dissatisfaction at $44.7 billion in the year to September.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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