Social and economic progress critical to Australia’s future

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Social and economic progress critical to Australia’s future

Australia ranked 10th on global Social Progress Index

13 November 2014: As the G20 focuses on driving positive global economic outcomes, Deloitte has released analysis identifying Australia’s social strengths and weaknesses compared to other G20 countries.

According to the 2014 Social Progress Index, released earlier this year by the Social Progress Imperative (SPI), and supported by Deloitte global member firms:

  • Australia sits 10th (of 132 countries ranked – New Zealand ranks number one, followed by Switzerland and Iceland)
  • Of the 40 G20 countries, Australia ranks 6th (the Netherlands ranks one, followed by Sweden and Canada).

SPI’s mission is to improve the lives of people around the world by advancing global social progress through the provision of a robust, holistic and innovative measurement tool (the Social Progress Index), fostering research and knowledge sharing, and equipping business, governments and the not-for-profit sector to guide policies and programs.

The Index ranks countries based on three indicators:

  • Basic Human Needs (such as water, nutrition and shelter) – Australia ranks 11th of the G20 countries
  • Foundations of Wellbeing (such as health, sustainability, and access to communications) – Australia ranks 13th
  • Opportunity (such as political freedoms, tolerance, and access to higher education) – Australia ranks 2nd

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Releasing Unlocking true growth – G20: Insights from the Social Progress Index 2014 today, Deloitte national public sector leader Andrew Johnstone-Burt said: “We need our growth story to include both economic progress and social progress, but the complexity of the big societal challenges demands collaboration – no one sector, including business, can do it alone.

“Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has been the standard for measuring a county's economic progress for decades, but limiting a country’s measure of growth and competitiveness to just economic indicators creates an incomplete picture.

“The Social Progress Index provides an invaluable tool to measure the equally important issue of social progress and act as a focal point to galvanize collective action and bring the right players across government, business and not-for-profits to collaborate and identify innovative solutions to social issues and unlock true growth and progress.

“It rigorously and systematically analyses the relationship between economic development and social development in terms of outcomes, not inputs. Using it, countries can drive sustainable, and faster, growth through increased collaboration, more effective policies and focused funding.

“For business, identifying the areas hindering a country’s progress relative to its peers can serve as a country-specific guide to help them determine where to leverage their skills and expertise to greatest effect.”

While Australia performs well broadly across the Index, there are still areas for improvement, and Deloitte’s analysis of Index data also outlines three social challenges where Australia compared poorly relative to other G20 countries.

Report co-author, Deloitte Access Economics director Natasha Doherty, said: “In contributing to the G20 growth strategy debate, and how G20 countries compare in terms of their social and economic progress, the Social Progress Index can help identify areas of strength or weakness at the country level, and allow countries to benchmark themselves in terms of individual indicators.

“We have identified adult literacy, obesity and affordable housing as areas where Australia compares less favourably with its peer countries, and which present opportunities for governments, business and the not-for-profit sector to work together to develop innovative and sustainable solutions.”

Availability of affordable housing

  • Housing affordability is an important standard of living determinant, with higher cost housing leaving less in discretionary incomes, and increasing financial stress
  • Australia ranks 21st of the 40 G20 countries in terms of satisfaction of available affordable housing
  • In 2002-03, 862,000 lower income households (15.8 per cent of all Australian households) were experiencing housing stress, and in 2011, more than 105,000 people were homelessness
  • House and rental price instability has significant consequences for the broader economy by affecting household spending patterns and generally reinforcing economic volatility, and affordability problems are predicted to increase as a result of anticipated demographic and housing market changes.


  • Worldwide, obesity has nearly doubled since 1980, and overweight and obesity are leading risks for global deaths, contributing to the deaths of around 3.4 million adults each year
  • Australia ranks 32nd of the 40 G20 countries in terms of obesity
  • Not only are there direct health costs associated with obesity but there are also other costs including productivity losses, forgone taxation revenue and career costs, welfare and other government payment costs, losses in wellbeing and premature death
  • In Australia the financial cost of obesity in 2008 was estimated at more than $8 billion, while the net cost of lost wellbeing was valued at a further $50 billion, bringing the total cost more than $58 billion.

Adult Literacy

  • Low levels of literacy and numeracy skills linked to low socio-economic status high unemployment, lower productivity and poorer economic outcomes
  • Among the G20 countries, Australia ranks 21st in terms of the adult ‘literacy rate’
  • Even though Australia does well on the high level measure, there are problematic trends below the surface
Social and economic progress critical to Australia’s future

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About Deloitte Australia
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