ACT ranks first in quality of life index


The ACT has ranked first in the nation in the newly launched Social Progress Index (SPI) from the Centre for Social Impact (CSI) which helps rank quality of life.

The Centre for Social Impact’s newly launched Social Progress Index ranks the ACT first in the nation in social performance. Photo: Kerrie Brewer.

The CSI is a collaboration between the University of New South Wales, Swinburne University of Technology and the University of Western Australia. The SPI looks at a number of key performance areas in each State and Territory from 2015 to 2018, independent of economic factors like Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The ACT ranked first in the country for each year, in each of the overarching categories: basic human needs, foundations of wellbeing, and opportunity. Researchers noted the ACT scored particularly highly in the sub-categories of personal rights, access to basic knowledge and access to advanced education. An area of improvement, according to the research, is personal freedom and choice, where the ACT ranked 4th in 2018, but up from 7th in 2015.

CSI chief executive Kristy Muir said the SPI is an index that reveals “how the people and environment are faring in each of our States and Territories”.

“GDP can often be a misleading measurement of progress as it tells us nothing about people’s quality of life,” said Professor Muir.

“The purpose of the SPI is to ensure a clear, singular vision of what social progress looks like in Australia and encourage and support governments to see the gaps and commit to funding and outcomes solutions.

“Importantly, the findings are reflective of the policies and social contexts of the States and Territories, not an indicator of how progressive actual individuals living in those jurisdictions are,” she said.

While there was a positive correlation between SPI scores and the median net wealth of households, there was a slight negative correlation when measured against the Gross State Product per capita. Lead CSI researcher Megan Weier said she hopes the launch of the SPI would spur governments to include a measurement of social progress in indicators moving forward.

“Countries such as Paraguay have adopted the SPI alongside GDP as its measurable indicator of national development,” Dr Weier said. “We want to change the conversation around social outcomes and inequality in Australia using relevant facts and data, not just GDP.”

The SPI launch comes as the ACT Government prepares to launch the ACT Wellbeing Framework on 12 March, to measure a range of factors that are important to Canberrans and their quality of life.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr did not respond to Canberra Weekly’s questions about the SPI results and the ACT’s own wellbeing indicators before deadline.