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Publications archive - Ecologically Sustainable Development


Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Are We Sustaining Australia? Report Against Headline Sustainabilty Indicators

Environment Australia, 2002
ISBN 0 642 54771 8

Value 1: Living Standards and Economic Well-being

Rationale for inclusion of issue

Economic well-being is a crucial element of human well-being because most aspects of well-being in modern human society have to be purchased, including food, water, shelter, health care and many forms of recreation.

Indicator 1

Real Gross National Income (GNI) (1998-99 prices) per capita in 1999-2000

$31 847

Source: ABS Unpublished data

Rationale for selection of indicator

Gross national income (GNI), formerly called gross national product (GNP), is a widely recognised measure of the overall economic well-being of a society. Treasury advises that GNI per capita is a better measure of welfare than GDP, although for purposes of international comparison, GNI may be less useful than Gross Domestic Product (GDP). GNI is calculated by deducting net income paid overseas from GDP.

Indicator 2

Real Gross per capita disposable income at June 2000 (1998-99 prices)

$31 851

Source: ABS Unpublished data

Rationale for selection of indicator

Per capita disposable income provides a similar overview to GNP but is a measure which includes a number of other transactions with the rest of the world.

Explanatory and elaborative information

GNI provides an overall assessment of the production of goods and services in the economy and does not discriminate as to whether activity enhances or decreases the overall welfare of society. It has significant limitations as a measure of economic well-being. It includes crime and accidents as contributing to economic growth and does not take account of unpaid and voluntary work or of the unsustainable degradation of natural resources. It is the aggregate value of gross primary incomes for all institutional sectors, including net primary income receivable from non-residents.

Gross national disposable income is equivalent to gross national income plus all secondary income in cash or in kind receivable by resident institutional units from the rest of the world, less all secondary income in cash or in kind payable by resident institutional units to the rest of the world.

The data show that per capita disposable income and per capita national income are very similar suggesting that, in general, the impact of transactions with the rest of the world are negligible.

Both GNI and gross per capita disposable income have been steadily rising over the last 10 years.

GNI (constant 1998-99 prices) - Time series data


1991-92 $m

1992-93 $m

1993-94 $m

1994-95 $m

1995-96 $m

1996-97 $m

1997-98 $m

1998-99 $m

1999-00 $m


429 700

444 966

460 336

477 972

502 489

524 677

551 564

577 228

606 535

Real Gross National Income(a)

Real Gross National Income(a)

(a) constant 1998-99 prices
Source: Adapted from ABS Cat No. 5206.0

Gross per capita disposable income - Time series data

Gross Disposable
Income per Capita $
June 1986
23 144
June 1987
23 198
June 1988
24 278
June 1989
25 315
June 1990
25 845
June 1991
25 014
June 1992
24 694
June 1993
25 278
June 1994
25 890
June 1995
26 580
June 1996
27 607
June 1997
28 465
June 1998
29 610
June 1999
30 603
June 2000
31 851

Per capita disposable income(a)

Per capita disposable income(a)

(a) constant 1998-99 prices
Source: ABS Unpublished data

Supplementary indicators

A range of indicators of economic well-being and living standards is available.