Measuring distance to the SDG targets – Austria

Austria has already achieved 23 of the 128 SDG targets for which comparable data are available and, based on most recent trends, it is expected to meet 8 additional targets by 2030 (Figure 1). As virtually all OECD countries, Austria has already met (or is close to meeting) most targets related to securing basic needs and implementing the policy tools and frameworks mentioned in the 2030 Agenda (see details in Table 1). In addition, Austria outperforms other OECD countries on many other targets. Austria’s main strengths are within the “Prosperity” category, as well as in Goal 6 on clean water and the “Peace” (Goal 16) and “Partnerships” (Goal 17) categories. Yet, challenges remain. For instance, unhealthy lifestyles represent direct threats to health outcomes, while greater efforts would be needed to achieve gender equality (Goals 3 and 5).

This country profile provides a high-level overview of some of Austria’s strengths and challenges in performance across the SDG Targets. As such, it differs from Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) or other reporting processes. To ensure international comparability, this assessment builds on the global indicator framework and relies on data sourced from the SDG Global Database and the OECD. VNRs typically use national indicators that reflect national circumstances and are more up-to-date (See section How to read this country profile that provides some methodological details on country profiles).

Material standards of living are high in Austria. Unemployment is low and hourly earnings of employees are above the OECD average (Target 8.5) while participation in lifelong learning (Target 4.3) is among the highest in the OECD, at 60% in 2016. Thanks to a well-developed tax and transfer system (Target 10.4), Austria has long been among the OECD countries with the lowest income inequalities. Yet, redistribution has weakened more recently in a context of growing inequalities in market incomes (Target 10.1).

Austria reports many others strength in the “Prosperity category”. Both the size of R&D expenditure in GDP (3% in 2020) and researcher density are above the OECD averages (Target 9.5). Austria also outperforms other OECD countries on clean energy: renewables account for 77% of its total electricity generation, above the benchmark level for Target 7.2, while high recycling and recovery of municipal waste enabled Austria to be among the top performing countries on Targets 11.6 and 12.5. Austria is also close to meet Target 9.4 on environmental impact of industry. CO2 emissions from manufacturing are also relatively low and have been decreasing, though at a pace insufficient to meet the 2030 target).

Austria is also performing well in the “Peace” category. Austria is at a small distance from reaching Target 16.1 on violence and related deaths, and Target 16.2 on human trafficking. While Austria is still far from meeting Target 16.6 on accountable institutions, it is well ahead the OECD average with almost 80% of Austrians reporting high confidence in the judicial system.

Although health status remains high, behavioural risk factors are a challenge to people’s health. Non-medical determinants of health such as poor diets, smoking and alcohol consumption are major drivers of morbidity and mortality. Adult smoking rate (Target 3.a) is among the highest in the OECD area and Austria is one of the few countries where it did not decline over the past two decades. Around one fifth of the population is obese (Target 2.2) and alcohol intake (Target 3.5) is well above the OECD average. In addition, despite improving, immunisation coverage (Target 3.b) remains below WHO recommendations.

Improving gender equality requires further efforts. Austria still lacks a comprehensive legal framework to end discrimination against women (Target 5.1), except in the area of employment and economic benefits. Women remain underrepresented in decision-making positions in both the political and economic sphere (Target 5.5). On average, Austrian women spend longer time in unpaid care and domestic work than men (Target 5.4 in 2009). In addition, socio-economic parity indices highlight large gender disparities in education (Target 4.5).

There is still room for improvement in environmental sustainability, especially in terms of protecting biodiversity and ecosystems. While Austria has already met the part of Target 15.1 on protected areas, a significant share of “key biodiversity areas” remains unprotected (Target 15.1) and a large proportion of forest area is not under a long-term management plan nor within legally established protected areas (Target 15.2). In addition, available data suggest that lake water quality remains low (Targets 6.6). Overall, more than 90% of local breeds with a known extinction status is classified as at risk (Target 2.5). Still, Austria is one of the very few OECD countries to have experienced over the past decade (small) improvements in the IUCN Red List of threatened species (Target 15.5).

Like in many other OECD countries, data availability remains a challenge when measuring distances to targets (see the Overview chapter for details). For Austria, available data on the level of the different indicators allow covering 128 of the 169 targets. As shown in Figure 2 below, indicator coverage is uneven across the 17 Goals. While nine Goals have most of their targets covered (the indicator coverage exceeds 80%), coverage is lower for Goal 11 on cities (60%) and Goal 14 on life below water (30%) – Austria is a landlocked country and some Goal 14 Targets may not apply. Data gaps are starker when focusing on performance indicators, i.e. excluding those providing contextual information. In this case, coverage exceeds 80% only for Goal 3 on health and Goal 4 on education. For seven Goals, mostly related to the Planet category (Goals 12, 13, 14 and 15) but also to gender inequality (Goal 5), cities (11), and partnerships (17), data are lacking to monitor progress over time for more than two in three targets (or even for all as in the case of Goal 14).

While some SDG Targets are, on average, close to being met, performance is very uneven across the 17 Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Table 1 presents an overview of Austria’s progress towards targets based on available data for each of the 17 Goals. It shows that distances to Targets and trends over time differ significantly even when considering a specific goal.

The OECD report The Short and Winding Road to 2030: Measuring Distance to the SDG Targets evaluates the distance that OECD countries need to travel to meet SDG targets for which data are currently available. It also looks at whether countries have been moving towards or away from these targets, and how likely they are to meet their commitments by 2030, based on an analysis of recent trends and the observed volatility in the different indicators.

As most authors and international organisations, this report adopts a rather simple geometric growth model for assessing the direction and pace of recent changes in the context of the SDGs. Yet, instead of making direct estimates of the value of the indicator by 2030, it models the likelihood of achieving a specific level using Monte Carlo simulations.

While the report provides an overview of where OECD countries, taken as a whole, currently stand, country profiles provide details of the performance and data availability of individual OECD countries.

Progress on SDGs requires a granular understanding of countries’ strengths and weaknesses based on the consideration of the 169 targets of the 2030 Agenda. Figure 1 shows both current achievements (in the inner circle; the longer the bar, the smaller the distance remaining to be travelled) as well as whether OECD countries are on track (or are at least making progress) to meet their commitments by 2030 (in the outer circle).

The length of each bar shows current level of achievement on each target. As detailed in the Methodological Annex, countries’ distance to target is measured as the “standardised difference” between a country’s current position and the target end-value. For each indicator, the standardised measurement unit (s.u.) is the standard deviation observed among OECD countries in the reference year (i.e. the year closest to 2015). Therefore, the longer the bar, the shorter the distance still to be travelled to reach the target by 2030. The colours of the bars applied to the various targets refer to the goals they pertain to.

The outer ring shows how OECD countries are performing over time and how likely they are to meet the different targets by 2030 based on the observed trends of the various indicators. It uses stoplight colours to classify the progress towards the target:

  • green is used to indicate those countries that (based on the change in the different indicators over a recent period) should meet the target in 2030 just by maintaining their current pace of progress (i.e. more than 75% of (randomised) projections meet the target);

  • yellow for those countries whose current pace of progress is insufficient to meet the target by 2030 (i.e. less than 75% of randomised projections meet the target, while the correlation coefficient between the indicator and the year is high and statistically significant, implying that a significant trend could be detected); and

  • red for those countries whose recent changes have been stagnating or moving them further away from the target (i.e. less than 75% of randomised projections meet the target and the correlation coefficient between the indicator and the year is low or statistically insignificant, implying that no statistical trend could be identified).

With the aim of helping its member countries in navigating the 2030 Agenda and in setting their own priorities for action, this report relies on a unique methodology for measuring the distance that OECD countries have to travel to achieve SDG targets. The identification of the main strengths and challenges proposed in this report relies on current performances only:

  • A target is considered to be a strength when the distance to the target end-value is lower than 0.5 s.u. (i.e. the distance is deemed to be small) or when the country is closer to the target than the OECD average. For instance, while Korea's distance to Target 2.2 on malnutrition is 1.4 s.u. (i.e. classified as medium distance), the average OECD distance is 2.5 s.u. Therefore, Target 2.2 is categorised as being a strength for Korea.

  • A target is considered to be a challenge when the distance to target is greater than 1.5 s.u. (i.e. distance is deemed to be long) or when the country is further away from the target than the OECD average. For instance, Estonia's distance to Target 4.2 on pre-primary education is 1.1 s.u. (i.e. medium distance), which is higher than the 0.24 s.u. distance for the OECD average. Target 4.2 is therefore classified as a weakness for Estonia.

While the lack of consistent time series often prevents an exhaustive assessment of trends, they are discussed when available and relevant in nuancing the assessment of current performance.

In total, this report relies on 537 data series supporting 183 of the 247 indicators listed in the global indicator framework (or for close proxies of these indicators). These indicators cover 134 of the 169 SDG targets. Yet, target coverage is uneven across the 17 goals and among OECD member countries.

Figure 2 summarises data availability:

  • darker blue bars indicate the share of targets for which at least one indicator (including indicators providing context information) is available

  • lighter blue bars indicate the share of targets for which the available indicator(s) include those having a clear normative direction (i.e. allowing to distinguish between good and bad performance), which are the only ones used to measure distances to target levels.

  • medium blue bars indicate the share of targets for which progress over time can be gauged (i.e. at least three observations are available over a five-year period).

All methods and concepts are further detailed in the Methodological Annex.

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