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Measuring Progress: Is Life Getting Better?

Measuring Progress: Is Life Getting Better?

Edited by:
R Eckersley   CSIRO Wildlife and Ecology

382 pages
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing

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This book is the most wide-ranging exploration of national progress yet undertaken, spanning social, economic and environmental perspectives. It brings together some of Australia’s leading researchers to consider indicators of national performance, what they tell us about the quality and sustainability of life in Australia, and how these measures can be improved. It also includes commentaries by senior bureaucrats, academics and community representatives.

At one level, the debate is about the adequacy of Gross Domestic Product, as the dominant indicator of a nation’s performance, relative to both the past and other nations. However, the debate also reaches far beyond this question to challenge conventional thinking about progress and the relationships between economic activity, quality of life, health and well-being, and ecological sustainability.


  • New measures of progress
  • Uses and abuses of GDP as a sole measure
  • Causes and correlations of happiness
  • What “middle Australia” thinks about the changes reshaping their lives
  • Income distribution and poverty
  • Changes in the workplace and the family
  • Health and well-being
  • Measuring civic and social trust
  • The state of the environment

 Preface Progress and its Measurement
  • Perspectives on Progress: Economic Growth, Quality of Life and Ecological Sustainability. R Eckersley
  • Citizenship and Progress. M Salvaris
  • The Science and Politics of New Measures of Progress: A United States Perspectives. T Halstead
  • Measuring Changes in Economic Welfare: The Genuine Progress Indicator for Australia. C Hamilton
  • Measures of Economic Activity and Welfare: The Uses and Abuses of GDP. S Dowrick & J Quiggin
  • A Framework for the Presentation of Indicators of National Progress. D Trewin
Well-being and Quality of Life
  • Measuring Progress in Population Health and Well-being. C Mathers & Bob Douglas
  • Measuring Social Capital as Part of Progress and Well-being. E Cox
  • Who Enjoys Life and Why: Measuring Subjective Well-being. A Wearing & B Headey
  • Incomes, Standards of Living and Quality of Life: Preliminary Findings from the Middle Australia Project. M Pusey
Work, Poverty and Income
  • Progress in the Workplace. S Richardson
  • The Role of Indicators of Income Poverty in the Measurement of National Progress. P Saunders
  • Indicators of Income Inequality. A Harding
  • Incorporating Non-cash Income and Expenditure in the Measurement of Inequality and Poverty. D Johnson
The Natural Environment
  • The Titanic or the Ark? Indicators of National Progress Towards Environmental Sustainability. V Brown
  • Reporting on the State of Our Environment. I Lowe
  • Introduction to Environmental Indicators. T Fleming
    Environmental Indicators for Biological Diversity. D Saunders
    Environmental Indicators for Land Resources. A Hamblin
    Environmental Indicators for the Atmosphere. M Manton
    Environmental Indicators for Estuaries and the Seas. T Ward
    Environmental Indicators for Human Settlements. P Newton

Responses and Discussion

Biography Notes



 Of broad appeal to the informed public as well as sociologists, economists, conservationists, policy makers, academics and students  


"The topic is important. I particularly welcome the spread of papers written from very different discipline perspectives. There is an intense interest in the changes that are occurring in Australian society. This work is a top-rate contribution to the debate."
Bob Gregory, Australian National University

"I doubt whether my perceptions of progress have been radically altered by this book, but it has provided me with a better appreciation of a range of differing views."
Winton Bates, Agenda Vol 6 No 1, 1999


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