Australia's global ranking for quality of life is slipping

The heat is on at Sydney’s Bondi beach. Photo: Getty Images

Australia still seen as one of the best places to live but is sliding in global rankings when it comes to the environment and press freedom.

In the 2017 Social Progress Index, which measures quality of life and the well-being of society, independent of wealth, Australia has dropped to 9th place from 4th.

The index measures the performance of 128 countries across three dimensions: basic human needs such as water and shelter; well-being such as health and education; and opportunity such as equality, personal rights and access to advanced education.

Here’s where Australia sits against the rest of the world, according to the calculations by the Social Progress Imperative which creates the Social Progress Index:

Australia scores relatively poorly for press freedom and ranked at 23rd.

Reporters Without Borders, the not for profit defending freedom of information, says new laws in 2015 provide for prison sentences for whistleblowers who speak about conditions in the refugee centers or operations by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.

And a telecommunications law has opened the door for surveillance of the metadata of journalists’ communications.

“Federal police raids on Labor Party parliamentarians in 2016 violated the confidentiality of sources and showed that the authorities were more concerned about silencing the ‘messengers’ than addressing the issues of concern to the public that had been raised by their revelations,” says Reporters Without Borders.

And Australia is ranked 16th in the world for environmental quality.

“Greenhouse gas emissions remain stubbornly high and the protection of terrestrial and marine areas and threatened or endangered species needs more attention,” says the report on the latest Social Progress Index.

However, Fran Thorn, Deloitte Australia’s partner for Public Sector and Healthcare, says Australia still leads the world on access to clean water, secondary education and freedom of expression.

Australia is the fourth healthiest nation in the world and ranks fifth for access to advanced education.

The average 60-year-old can expect to live nearly to 85.5. Premature deaths from diseases such as cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory problems stand at less than 200 per 100,000 people.

“While we enjoy an enviable standard of living in Australia, this report reflects Australia’s current most highly debated social issues, ranging from the quality of electricity supply, control of greenhouse emissions, gender issues, and political terror and religious tolerance,” says Thorn.

“We still have opportunities to improve the quality of life for all Australians and public and private sector leaders ignore these challenges at their cost.”

Denmark is the world’s top performer on the Social Progress Index in 2017, closely followed by a combination of the remaining Nordic countries, as well as countries much larger in size and more diverse in population, including Canada, the Netherlands, the UK and Germany.

Among the bottom performers are some of the poorest countries, including Central African Republic, Afghanistan, Chad, Angola, and Niger.

Of the 50 indicators which are combined to calculate the 2017 Social Progress Index scores, Australia takes first place out of 128 countries on 14 issues.

New Zealand finishes on top for 17 issues.

When it comes to political rights, tolerance for immigrants, freedom of expression and low levels of corruption there is nowhere better in the world to live than New Zealand.

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