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Everyone knows there's more to national success than gross domestic product and cold economic numbers. But deeper measures of Australia's collective wellbeing have been largely overlooked during the election campaign.

Everyone knows there's more to national success than gross domestic product and cold economic numbers. But deeper measures of Australia's collective wellbeing have been largely overlooked during the election campaign.

When it comes to wellbeing, Australia's statistics rival the supercharged growth rates of the Asian tigers. Fairfax Media-Lateral Economics wellbeing index rose 7 per cent last financial year, a figure comparable to China's economic growth rate.

Economists are getting much better at measuring wellbeing. Political leaders in nations comparable to Australia, including Canada, France and Britain, say wellbeing should be considered alongside GDP, which only measures economic activity.

"GDP is a bit like the KWERTY keyboard - it's the standard, and people keep returning to it," says Nicholas Gruen, the respected economist who created the index. "But in many other countries there is a conversation going on at the highest level saying these numbers are too narrow and we're committed to broadening our vista as to how we measure how successfully we're going. Politicians of the left and right around the world have made commitments to do this kind of stuff. There is a political hankering for it."

Dr Gruen is flabbergasted the Labor government hasn't drawn more attention to measures of wellbeing, especially during this election campaign.

"If there's a symbol of the ALP government's inability to communicate its achievements, the wellbeing index is it," he says. "It's a gift they've ignored because it was slightly different from the standard boiler plate story like prices in western Sydney or whatever."

The index puts a dollar figure on wellbeing using five broad components - income, know-how, environmental change, inequality, health and job satisfaction. It shows the annual value of Australia's collective wellbeing has surged by more than $250 billion since the last election. That's about twice the increase in GDP in that period. Gruen describes this as "growth of Asian Tiger proportions".

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