National ACE Summit to Focus on Wellbeing Economics and Community Education

CCA’s National 2021 ACE Summit will include a focus on wellbeing economics and how Australia’s adult and community education providers contribute to national wellbeing. Dr Marcia Keegan (pictured), a Canberra-based Associate and Partner at SGS Economics and Planning – and an acclaimed expert on how to connect GDP to actual wellbeing – will present a keynote address in person at the Summit, on 29 June 2021, at The Mint on Macquarie Street in Sydney.

Wellbeing Economics

For years, GDP has been used as an indicator of economic progress. Throughout much of the 20th century, increasing GDP meant almost universal access to electricity, indoor plumbing and telecommunications across the developed world, vaccinations and education for all children, larger houses, exciting consumer goods and a reduced standard working week. Living standards grew as GDP grew. Unfortunately, economic growth bought costs as well as benefits – refrigeration provided better nutrition while damaging the ozone layer; motor transport connects families and gives workers better opportunities, but put lead in children’s lungs and causes global warming; telecommunications allows daily connections with family far away and working from everywhere, but reduces face to face contact with the people next door; and widespread education enables mechanisation and more comfortable, interesting jobs, but unequal access to education leaves some people without access to decently paid work.

While growing GDP can drive overall wellbeing, there are other drivers of wellbeing we need to consider. To enhance wellbeing, the higher income from higher GDP needs to be reasonably distributed throughout the population, provide universal access to public and semi-private goods that support wellbeing, reward hard work for the benefit of others, while deterring harm to other people, animals and the natural environment.

Dr Keegan will discuss economic activity throughout regional Australia and the trends and drivers that have impacted it over time, from SGS’ recent Australia’s Economic Wellbeing report. She will use these findings to highlight the disparity in the types of work and skills required in the city and the regions. She will then demonstrate how community education can support higher skilled employment, higher income and better health, all of which are associated with higher wellbeing. Finally, she will explain how community education can support wellbeing in other ways – through providing a source of community engagement and social interaction.

Building Back Better

“Until COVID-19 is effectively suppressed globally, Australia’s borders will likely remain tightly managed and local economies will continue to be subject to short term restrictions. These limits on activities could have enduring impacts, re-shaping Australia’s places, communities and economies.

“Much of Australia’s economic wellbeing over the next two years remains uncertain. Now is the time to continue to shift how we understand and build societal health and prosperity, looking beyond economic growth to collective wellbeing and environmental sustainability. Our focus should be on building back better, not just economic growth.

“As Australia’s national economy continues to recover, we should keep in mind how the health and environmental shocks of 2019 and 2020 have affected Australia’s vulnerable communities and work towards healthy and resilient communities that address underlying spatial inequalities.”

– extract from Australia’s Economic Wellbeing: An Analysis of Australia’s Cities and Regions, SGS Economics and Planning, 20 April 2021, by Marcia Keegan, Julian Szafraniec and Kishan Ratnam

About Dr Marcia Keegan

Dr Marcia Keegan is an experienced economist with two decades of experience across the private, public and academic sectors. She has mastered a wide range of economic methods and expertise in modelling, projections, data analysis and policy analysis and managed a range of projects. She leads the production of SGS Economics and Planning annual Australian Economic Wellbeing report, which models the variation in economic activity across Australia’s regions. One of Marcia’s keen interests is the valuation of non-market impacts of investment, and has incorporated the value of benefits as wide ranging as increased pet ownership to protection of heritage buildings to prevention of coastal erosion into business cases and cost benefit analysis.

Prior to joining SGS Economics and Planning, she worked with the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM), where she contributed to a series of analyses on what drives wellbeing in Australia, taking into account employment, education, region, income, wealth and life circumstances.

Marcia is a former President of the ACT Branch of the Economic Society, the founder of the ACT Young Economist Network and Convenor of the 2018 Australian Conference of Economists.

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