Indicators of Australia’s welfare

Indicators are simple statistics that summarise often complex issues. Most indicators serve as sentinel indicators for the topic they represent; that is, they are useful to highlight particular results in an area of interest and help people to ask questions about why the result is as it is.

Australia's welfare indicator framework

Australia's welfare includes an indicator framework based on 5 domains and 19 themes, shown here, and has 61 indicators.

A wellbeing domain was included for the first time in Australia's welfare 2017. It incorporates 7 themes, as shown here, and 15 indicators.

Diagram of Australia’s welfare indicator framework. Wellbeing, determinants, and welfare services performance are framed by contextual factors and other factors.

Find out more: Chapter 9.1 'The Australia's welfare indicator framework' in Australia's welfare 2017.

What's trending

Trend data are presented for indicators wherever possible. Some examples are presented here.

Line chart showing that the proportion of lower income rental households in housing stress has been increasing over time, sitting at around 50%25 in 2013-14. This is an unfavourable trend.
Line chart showing that the proportion of households with internet access at home has been increasing over time, sitting at around 85%25 in 2014-15. This is a favourable trend.
Line chart showing greenhouse gas emissions over time, in millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. It has been generally trending downwards, sitting at around 550 million tonnes in 2016. This is a favourable trend.
Line chart showing air quality over time, in micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic metre, for the USA, Australia, New Zealand, and the OECD in general. Micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic metre have been generally trending downwards, sitting at around 15 for the OECD in 2015. This is a favourable trend.

Line chart showing that the proportion of adults who volunteer has been decreasing over time, sitting at around 30%25 in 2014. This is an unfavourable trend.
Line chart comparing the youth unemployment rate with the unemployment rate of the total population over time. Both unemployment rates have been increasing over time, with youth unemployment at around 13%25 and general unemployment at around 5%25 in 2016. This is an unfavourable trend.
Line chart showing the household crime rates for malicious property damage, break-in, and motor vehicle theft. All have decreased over time. In 2015-16, malicious property damage was at around 5%25, break-in was at around 3%25, and motor vehicle theft was at less than 1%25. This is a favourable trend.
Line chart comparing the proportion of people with severe or profound disability with the proportion of total people with disability. Both have decreased slightly over time. In 2015, around 17%25 of people had a disability, and around 5%25 had a severe or profound disability. This is a favourable trend.

Find out more: Chapter 9.2 ‘Indicators of Australia’s welfare’ in Australia’s welfare 2017.

Wellbeing—Australia's ranking on global indexes

There is a lot of international interest in wellbeing, including 'subjective wellbeing' or 'happiness'. Several summary measures are used to compare how countries are faring. An objective and a subjective measure are presented here.

Australia performs exceptionally well on the objective measure, the Human Development Index, which aggregates achievement in life expectancy, education and standard of living. We also rank highly on subjective wellbeing (happiness), when asked to evaluate the quality of our lives on a scale of 0 to 10.

Country ranks for wellbeing measures, selected countries
Measure and year World best Australia New Zealand Canada USA UK
United Nations Human Development Index 2014 Norway 2





World happiness report 2017 Norway 9 8 6 14 19

Find out more: Chapter 9.1 'The Australia's welfare indicator framework' in Australia's welfare 2017.

Highlighting data

Putting data together to tell a bigger story

In today's world of 'big data', governments, businesses, the community and individuals have access to an unprecedented volume and variety of data, at an ever-increasing rate.

The Productivity Commission's Inquiry on Data availability and use highlights the critical importance of using data to achieve positive social and economic outcomes and of working closely with the community to obtain 'social licence' to support this endeavour.

The person-centred data model illustrated here recognises that many factors affect a person's interaction with health and welfare services and supports. Making the most of available data across the full spectrum of health and welfare activity offers an opportunity to produce more meaningful, person-centred information. This evidence can provide a basis for better policy decisions and, ultimately, produce better outcomes for the Australian population.

Diagram explaining the social and community characteristics that are determinants of health and wellbeing. These are justice and safety, housing, education and skills, employment, income and finance, health, and social support. The target groups for health and welfare services are people with disability, Indigenous Australians, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, homeless people, informal carers, people in the correctional system, veterans, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people, people experiencing socioeconomic disadvantage, and people living in rural and remote areas. Important life stages are given as infants, children, young people, parents, working age, and older people.

Find out more: Chapter 1.7 'Understanding health and welfare data' in Australia's welfare 2017.

There's always more to do!

Even with our best efforts, there are gaps in health and welfare data. For instance, data to understand a specific area of interest may not be collected. Further, major items may be missing from existing data collections, or not collected by all providers.

Gaps in data and evidence include:

  • prevalence data; for example, the national prevalence of child abuse and neglect in Australia
  • risks and drivers of specific behaviours and actions (such as family, domestic and sexual violence)
  • meaningful outcomes data for people who receive, and agencies that fund, health and welfare services; for example, long-term outcomes for children in out-of-home care
  • unmet demand for services; for example, disability services
  • data on pathways and transitions within and across different service types, such as in and out of social housing, or because of being a victim of domestic violence
  • comprehensive data about the welfare workforce on which to base decisions about future requirements.

The AIHW works closely with data providers to make better use of existing data and identify and prioritise data gaps across a range of sources.

Filling the gaps

The AIHW is working to fill data gaps in several areas, including by:

  • communicating directly with regional service agencies, such as Primary Health Networks, to identify specific gaps in information at the local level, along with strategies to fill them
  • developing data clearinghouses in areas such as aged care, and family and domestic violence. This can help to coordinate national reporting, provide a platform for improving data scope and quality and facilitate researcher access to data
  • using data linkage to enhance the value of existing sources to produce new and meaningful outcomes in a range of areas. This strategy offers potential to do much more.

Find out more: Chapter 1.7 'Understanding health and welfare data' in Australia's welfare 2017. Also, see the 'What is missing from the picture?' sections throughout the main report.