Shrugging off worries over the rising cost of living and a two-speed economy, Australia ranks among the top nations in the world for lifestyle and well-being, with its people working less and getting paid more than 33 other nations measured by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, in its new Better Life index which was reported last year.
From education through to health and community networks, Australians rank highly, according to the group’s survey of 34 nations, which also showed an overwhelming number of New Zealanders expressing satisfaction with their lives.
Amid growing global concern over the rising cost of living and the social impact caused by shifts in economic power towards Asia, economists and policymakers are increasingly looking at measures that gauge changes in the quality of life and affordability across industrialized nations. Last year, the U.K. government launched its own “happiness index” as an alternative to relying on gross domestic product as a basic guide to the nation’s progress.
Drawing on recent polling, the OECD index found some 75% of Australians were satisfied with their life, well above the OECD’s average of 59%, while 83% expect things to be even better five years from now. Life expectancy in the Pacific nation is longer too, at 81.5 years, more than two years above the OECD average. Average household disposable income is US$27,039 compared with an OECD average of US$22,284, although average wealth is below the mean.
Known for its strong economy driven by a mining boom and an unemployment rate of 4.9%, recent consumer sentiment surveys have indicated a gloomier mood amongst Australians, who complain about rising costs of living and an emerging two-speed economy, with non-resources industries like tourism and retail suffering from a high exchange rate and consumer reticence.
Australia’s high ranking in the OECD survey was matched by New Zealand, which has struggled with an underperforming economy and the cost of the earthquakes that devastated its second largest city, Christchurch. According to the OECD, 78% of New Zealand respondents report having a positive experience and 90% say they are in good health, even though the average household earns less than the OECD average. The Pacific nation is famous for its breathtaking scenery and unspoiled wilderness, scoring highly in the OECD’s environmental gauge by enjoying some of the world’s cleanest air.
Data for the index mostly comes from official sources such as the OECD or National Accounts, United Nations Statistics and National Statistics Offices. A couple of indicators are based on data from the Gallup World Poll, a division of the Gallup Organization that regularly conducts public opinion polls in more than 140 countries around the world. More than 80% of the indicators used have already been published by the OECD.
In the methodology, the index allows users to put different weights on each topic. Each topic on the index is built on three indicators. For instance, work life balance uses the number of employees working long hours, the percentage of working mothers and leisure time. The data is mainly dated between 2008 and 2010, although some numbers are drawn from earlier years.
The organization plans to include six partner countries, comprising Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Russia and South Africa, to represent the world’s major economies.
Source Wall Street Journal
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