Comparing welfare and wellbeing data between countries helps inform policy, planning and decision making. It is also of interest to researchers and the general public to compare Australian experiences on a global scale.

Participating in international efforts to collect and report welfare data can also facilitate cooperation between countries. For example, AIHW provides statistics to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to be collated into its data collections and ongoing work on economic growth.

In May 2021, Costa Rica officially became the 38th official OECD member. The interactive visualisation on this page presents data prior to 2021, and allows data to be compared across 37 OECD Member countries for a range of welfare indicators, highlighting Australia’s international standing. OECD Member countries provide a useful comparison for Australia because almost all have high-income economies (World Bank 2021).

Australia’s welfare indicators also present data for a range of measures at a national level. Collectively, these indicators summarise the performance of Australia’s welfare system, track individual and household determinants of the need for welfare support and provide insights into the nation’s wellbeing status more broadly. Some of the indicators presented on this page are also reported in Australia’s welfare indicators at the national level.

Welfare refers to the wellbeing of individuals, families and the community. The terms welfare and wellbeing are often used interchangeably. See Understanding welfare and wellbeing for important contextual information about factors that influence wellbeing.

This page aims to provide a high-level comparison of international welfare and wellbeing data. For further detail, please refer to the OECD website.
 

Dashboard that demonstrates Australia’s ranking among OECD member nations, and compared to the OECD average, in selected indicators. Australia’s ranking, the OECD average, and the range of values for each indicator are provided in text.

Welfare data and COVID-19

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a major health threat, which has led to substantial disruption across almost all parts of society worldwide. Many countries around the world have introduced restrictions (including travel bans and strong physical distancing policies) to contain the spread of COVID-19. These restrictions continue to have a serious impact on economies and societies across the world, with travel, trade and people’s ability to work, attend school and socialise, all affected (see 'Chapter 3, The impact of COVID-19 on the wellbeing of Australians' in Australia’s welfare 2021: data insights).

As a result of this, the ability to capture and internationally compare welfare and wellbeing data throughout the pandemic may be limited. This is because, in most cases, the latest available international data compiled by the OECD precedes the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, the youth unemployment rate for Australia and the OECD average is based on 2019 data.  

The circumstances surrounding COVID-19 are also still unfolding internationally. This limits the capacity to identify lasting impacts of COVID-19 on welfare and wellbeing. For example, while this page captures employment during the COVID-19 pandemic, the long-term outcomes and implications are yet to be reflected in the data.

Finally, the measures analysed on this page intend to provide an overview of welfare and wellbeing across countries. Therefore, information presented on this page may not capture more specific outcomes (such as mental health) that are also associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Demographic and economic factors

Based on the latest available data:

  • Australia’s population dependency ratio ranked 20th highest out of 37 OECD countries at 55% in 2020. This ratio ranged from 69% (Japan) to 40% (South Korea) (UN 2020).
  • Compared with other OECD countries, a high proportion of Australians (30% in 2019), were born overseas. Australia ranked second highest out of 34 OECD countries for which data were available; rates ranged from 47% (Luxemburg) to 0.9% (Mexico) (OECD 2021d).
  • Australia’s per capita gross domestic product was US$51,743 in 2020 (OECD estimated value), which ranked 13th highest out of 37 OECD countries. It was higher than the OECD average of US$44,813 (OECD 2021f).

Employment outcomes and NEET

Based on the latest available data:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the unemployment rate in many countries. Australia’s unemployment rate of 6.5% in 2020 ranked 20th highest out of 37 OECD countries. This was an increase from an unemployment rate of 5.2% in 2019. The OECD average unemployment rate increased from 5.4% in 2019 to 7.2% in 2020 (OECD 2021i). For more information on unemployment in Australia, see Employment and unemployment.
  • Australia’s long-term unemployment rate (see Glossary) of 1.0% in 2018 ranked 23rd highest out of 36 OECD countries for which data were available (OECD 2020m).
  • 10% of young Australians (aged 15–29) were not in education, employment or training (NEET) in 2019. This was lower than the OECD average (13%). For this measure, Australia ranked 24th highest out of 35 OECD countries for which data were available (OECD 2021l).
  • Australia’s youth unemployment rate (ages 15–24) of 14.3% in 2020 ranked 21st highest out of 37 OECD countries for which data were available. This was lower than the OECD average of 15%. Japan had the lowest youth unemployment rate (4.5%) and Spain the highest (38%) (OECD 2021k).

Health and vitality

Based on the latest available data:

  • The health-adjusted life expectancy (HALE) is the number of years a person can expect to live in ‘full health’. Australia’s HALE at birth was 70.9 years in 2019. Australia ranked 19th highest out of 37 OECD countries, and was above the OECD average of 70.3 years. Among OECD countries, HALE ranged from 74.1 years (Japan) to 65.8 years (Mexico) (WHO 2021).
  • Australians reported very high life satisfaction, with a score of 7.3 in 2015–17 (on a scale from 0 to 10). This placed Australia 8th highest out of 37 OECD countries, and above the OECD average of 6.5. Life satisfaction among OECD countries ranged from 7.6 (Denmark) to 5.4 (Portugal) (OECD 2021a).

For more information, see International comparisons of health data.

Material living conditions

Based on the latest available data:

  • Australia had a relatively high household disposable income of US$32,759 in 2016 at current purchasing power parities per capita (see Glossary), ranking 7th highest out of 29 OECD countries for which data were available. The United States ranked first at US$45,284 and Latvia 35th at US$16,275 (OECD 2021a).
  • Gini coefficients are a measure of income equality that give a number between 0 and 1, where a higher value represents less income equality. Australia’s Gini coefficient of 0.33 ranked 11th highest out of 33 OECD countries for which data were available. Chile had the least equal income distribution (Gini coefficient of 0.46) and Slovak Republic the most equal (Gini coefficient of 0.24) (OECD 2021h).
  • Australians had 2.3 rooms per person in a dwelling in 2015, which ranked 4th highest out of 34 OECD countries for which data were available. This was above the OECD average of 1.8 rooms per person. Canada ranked first (2.5 rooms per person) and Turkey 34th (1.0 room per person) (OECD 2021a).

Personal safety and environment

Based on the latest available data:

  • Nearly two-thirds (64%) of Australians felt safe walking alone at night in 2015–17. Australia ranked 27th highest out of 37 OECD countries, and below the OECD average of 68%. Among OECD countries, this ranged from 90% (Norway) to 42% (Mexico) (OECD 2021a).
  • Out of 37 OECD countries, Australia had the fourth equal lowest level of air pollution, with 5 micrograms of particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter per cubic metre in 2013. This was lower than the OECD average of 14 micrograms. Iceland (3 micrograms) had the lowest level of air pollution, and South Korea (28 micrograms) had the highest level of air pollution (OECD 2021a).
  • Australia released 22 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gases per capita in 2018, higher than the OECD average (12 tonnes per capita) and highest among 37 OECD countries. Based on totals, Australia released 558,047 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gases in 2018, ranking 5th highest out of 32 OECD countries. The United States released the highest total carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gasses (6,676,650 tonnes) and Iceland released the lowest (4,857 tonnes) (OECD 2021e).

Social engagement

Based on the latest available data:

  • The quality of support networks in Australia ranked 3rd highest out of all 37 OECD countries, with 95% of Australians reporting they knew somebody they could rely on in times of need in 2015–17. This was higher than the OECD average of 89%. Among OECD countries, this ranged from 98% (Iceland) to 78% (South Korea) (OECD 2021a).

Work, skills and learning

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact economic activity and employment. OECD countries used different methods to address unemployment caused the pandemic, ranging from job retention programs to direct payments. About 60 million people across the OECD are included in company claims for these programmes (OECD 2021c).

 Based on the latest available data:

  • Almost three-quarters (74%) of Australians aged 15–64 were employed in the fourth quarter (October–December) of 2019. Australia’s employment-to-population rate ranked 14th highest out of 37 OECD countries. Iceland had the highest rate (84%) and Turkey had the lowest rate (50%) (OECD 2021j).
  • 72% of Australians aged 15–64 were employed in the third quarter (July–September) of 2020. This increased to 74% in the fourth quarter (October–December) of 2020. Australia’s employment-to-population ratio (the employment rate) ranked 13th highest out of 37 OECD countries in the fourth quarter of 2020, and was above the OECD average of 67%. Switzerland had the highest ratio (80%) and Turkey the lowest (48%) (OECD 2021j).
  • More than 1 in 8 (13%) Australians worked very long hours in 2017 (more than 50 per week), which is higher than the OECD average of 11%. Australia had one of the highest proportions of people working long hours, ranking 7th highest out of 35 OECD countries for which data were available. Switzerland had the lowest proportion of people working long hours (0.4%) and Turkey the highest (33%) (OECD 2021a).
  • Almost half (47%) of Australians aged 25–64 had a tertiary education in 2019. Australia ranked 9th highest out of 37 OECD countries, and was above the OECD average of 38%. Canada had the highest rate (59%) and Mexico the lowest (18%) (OECD 2021b).

Where do I go for more information?

For more information on international comparisons of welfare data, see:

References

OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) 2021a. Better Life Index in OECD.Stat. Paris: OECD. Viewed 18 January 2021.

OECD 2021b. Educational attainment and labour-force status in OECD.Stat. Paris: OECD. Viewed 22 January 2021.

OECD 2021c. Employment Outlook 2020. Paris: OECD. Viewed 29 January 2021.

OECD 2021d. Foreign-Born Population. Paris: OECD. Viewed 10 June 2021.

OECD 2021e. Greenhouse gas emissions in OECD.Stat. Paris: OECD. Viewed 15 April 2019.

OECD 2021f. Gross domestic product (GDP). Paris: OECD. Viewed 10 June 2021.

OECD 2021g. ICT Access and Usage by Households and Individuals in OECD.Stat. Paris: OECD. Viewed 10 June 2021.

OECD 2021h. Income inequality in OECD Data. Paris: OECD. Viewed 22 January 2021.

OECD 2021i. Long-term unemployment rate. Paris: OECD. Viewed 10 May 2021.

OECD 2021j. Short-Term Labour Market Statistics in OECD.Stat. Paris: OECD. Viewed 22 January 2021.

OECD 2021k. Unemployment rate by age group. Paris: OECD. Viewed 10 May 2021.

OECD 2021l. Youth not in employment, education or training (NEET) (indicator). Paris: OECD. Viewed 22 January 2021.

OECD 2020m. How's Life? 2020: Measuring Well-being, Paris: OECD. Viewed 10 June 2021

UN (United Nations) 2020. Total Dependency Ratio. New York City: UN. Viewed 21 January 2021.

WHO (World Health Organisation) 2021. Life expectancy and Healthy life expectancy in GHO data repository. Geneva: WHO, Viewed 21 January 2021.

World Bank 2021. World Bank Country and Lending Groups. Washington D.C.: World Bank. Viewed 15 January 2021.