ARE THE INDICATORS RELATED TO ONE ANOTHER?
Each aspect of progress is related, either directly or indirectly, to most of the others. Change in one dimension of progress is typically accompanied by change elsewhere. Therefore it is important to consider the full array of indicators together.
Broadly, we may think of two types of relationships between different areas of progress – trade-offs and reinforcements.
Trade-offs occur when one area of progress improves at the expense of another. In some cases, trade-offs arise after a change of policy or preference. For example, spending on education might be cut to give more money to health. But they also occur as flow-on effects: for example, as economic activity rises so might greenhouse gas emissions.
Reinforcements occur when one aspect of progress improves and strengthens another. For example, as economic production rises, so might employment.
In reality, the overall effect of a change in any one dimension is much more complex. An intricate system of trade-offs and reinforcements comes into play when any dimension of progress changes. For example, suppose factory output increases. This generates more income, and so there is more money to pay for, say, health care. But increased factory output might also increase air pollution, which is harmful to people's health or might be detrimental to other economic activity such as agriculture.
The special article on Future directions for measuring Australia's progress included in this edition of MAP contains some more discussion about trade-off and reinforcement relationships.
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