Presented by The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre and Wakefield Futures Group, as part of the Sustainable Futures series.
Bradley Forum, Level 5, Hawke Building - UniSA City West campus, 55 North Terrace, Adelaide, MAP


A growing number of observers have recognised that conventional economic measures, such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and Gross State Product (GSP), inadequately account for a large number of the economic, social, and environmental benefits and costs of economic activity. A more appropriate indicator of economic welfare exists in the form of a Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI).

This presentation reveals the results of a GPI study on South Australia spanning a thirty-year period from 1986 to 2016. Over this period, the economic welfare of the average South Australian increased by 30.3% from $33,190 to $43,249 per year. Over the same thirty-year period, South Australia’s per capita Gross State Product (GSP) increased by 61.6% from $36,612 to $59,183 per year. This suggests that the growth in South Australia’s per capita GSP significantly overstated its rate of genuine progress.

On a brighter note, the results of this study indicate that the average South Australian was $3,000 per year better off in 2016 than in 2011 and around $2,000 per year better off than the average person living elsewhere in Australia. Indeed, the per capita GPI of South Australia has exceeded that of the Rest-of-Australia (Australia minus South Australia) since 1998.

The recent rise in South Australia’s per capita GPI can be attributed to an improvement in the state’s distribution of income, a steep rise in private-sector and public-sector consumption, an increase in the services generated by the infrastructural assets provided by governments, and the containment of environmental costs.


Philip Lawn is an ecological economist who has produced eight books, 40 book chapters and over 50 journal articles on sustainable development, green national accounting, international traded and the environment, ecological macroeconomics, and issues concerning the perceived conflict between environmental conservation and employment. His latest book is on the ecological economics of climate change. 

Associate Professor Lawn is a member of the international Society for Ecological Economics, and has served on the executive of the Australia and NZ Society for Ecological Economics. He has published and lectured on modern monetary theory and sustainable development indicators, and in 2018 prepared a report for the SA government comparing the performance of that state according to GPI (Genuine Progress Indicator). He currently serves on the editorial boards of a number of academic journals.


This event is part of a series exploring our sustainability, co-presented by The Wakefield Futures Group. Other events in this series include:

The Many Dimensions of Sustainability
Human Health, Wellbeing and an Ageing Population - their Place in a Sustainable Future
Sustainability and the Law
Environmental Stewardship: pathways for people, nature and cultures
Are Citizens’ Assemblies the Political key to a Sustainable Future?

Presented by The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre and Wakefield Futures Group


While the views presented by speakers within The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre public program are their own and are not necessarily those of either the University of South Australia or The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre, they are presented in the interest of open debate and discussion in the community and reflect our themes of: Strengthening our Democracy - Valuing our Diversity - Building our Future.

The copying and reproduction of any transcripts within The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre public program is strictly forbidden without prior arrangements.