Australia’s Better Life Index is among the highest in OECD countries

01 Dec 2017


  • Edmund Tang

Australia performs well in many indicators of well-being relative to most other OECD countries in the Better Life Index, an Index constructed by the OECD to compare well-being across countries that draws on indicators of material living conditions and the quality of life. Australia particularly ranks well above the OECD average in income and jobs, education and skills, environmental quality, health status, civic engagement, subjective well-being, and social connections.

  • In terms of employment, 72 per cent of people aged 15 to 64 have a paid job In Australia, well above the OECD employment average of 67 per cent. Reflecting a strong work ethic, 13.2 per cent of Australian employees usually work very long hours a week, much higher than many major OECD economies, such as Canada (3.7 per cent), Italy (3.9), Germany (4.6) and France (7.8).
  • Personal earnings, that is the average annual wages per full-time equivalent dependent employee, is US$52,063 a year in Australia, more than the OECD average of US$44,290 a year.
  • In Australia, 80 per cent of adults aged 25-64 have completed upper secondary education, well above the OECD average of 74 per cent. In terms of the quality of its educational system, the average student scored 502 in reading literacy, maths and science in the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment. This score is higher than the OECD average of 486.
  • In terms of air pollution, the level of atmospheric PM2.5[1] is 5 micrograms per cubic metre in Australia, the lowest rate in the OECD where the average is 13.9 micrograms per cubic meter. Australia also does well in terms of water quality, as 92 per cent of people stated they are satisfied with the water quality, higher than the OECD average of 81 per cent.
  • Australians also share a stronger sense of community than the OECD average. According to the report, 94 per cent of people believe they know someone they could rely on in a time a need, higher than the OECD average of 89 per cent. Moreover, voter turnout, a measure of citizens' participation in the political process, was 91 per cent during recent elections. This figure is among the highest in the OECD, where the average is 69 per cent, although this reflects the practice of compulsory voting in Australia.
  • In terms of health, life expectancy at birth in Australia is 82.5 years, around two and half years above the OECD average of 80.1 years.
  • When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Australians gave it a 7.3 grade on average, higher than the OECD average of 6.5.

Better life index - selected indicators by major OECD countries, 2017

[1]  Particle pollution is a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets. PM2.5 particles are smaller than 2.5 micrometres (0.0025 mm) in diameter. These particles are very small and are measured in micrometres (µm). PM2.5 particles are small enough to be breathed deep into the lungs. This can cause health effects. (Source: