6361.0.55.002 - Employment Arrangements, Retirement and Superannuation, User Guide, Australia, April To July 2007  
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This publication contains details about the 2007 Survey of Employment Arrangements, Retirement and Superannuation (SEARS 2007). It includes information about the survey objectives, the development process, content of the survey and the methods and procedures used in the collection and processing of data. It also includes information about the quality and interpretation of the survey results and about the products and services available.

SEARS 2007 was conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) from 2 April to 7 July 2007. Information was collected from all persons aged 15 years and over resident in private dwellings throughout Australia. The survey collected detailed information about:

  • the diversity of employment arrangements in Australia, including the types of employment people have, aspects of job stability and flexibility, and working patterns;
  • the working arrangements that people use, or would like to use to balance their work and caring responsibilities;
  • plans that people aged 45 years and over have for retirement, including transitions to retirement, expected sources of income at retirement and factors that might influence the decision to retire;
  • characteristics of retirement including age at retirement, reasons for retiring and retirement income; and
  • the superannuation coverage of individuals, including superannuation contributions and account balances.

Data can be cross-classified by a range of demographic and labour force characteristics such as age, sex, marital status, education, labour force status, and occupation and industry of multiple jobs.

Details of SEARS 2007 were tabled in Federal Parliament in accordance with section 6(3) of the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975 and the survey was conducted under the authority of the Census and Statistics Act 1905. The ABS sought the willing cooperation of people living in private dwellings. Under its legislation the ABS cannot release identifiable information about households, families or individuals. The confidentiality of all information provided by respondents is guaranteed.


The main objective of SEARS 2007 was to produce a comprehensive range of data to describe:
  • The diversity of employment arrangements in the Australian workforce, with a focus on those characteristics considered important in identifying current and emerging working arrangements. These include:
      • employment type: (employees (excluding OMIEs) with and without paid leave entitlements, owner managers of incorporated enterprises (OMIEs), owner managers of unincorporated enterprises (OMUEs) and contributing family workers);
      • access to paid leave;
      • working patterns, including the number of hours worked, whether any hours are worked on weekends or at night, shiftwork and overtime;
      • job flexibility: whether has any say in start and finish times and whether able to work extra hours to take time off;
      • job stability: whether usually works the same number of hours each week and whether guaranteed a minimum number of hours; job duration and expected future job duration;
  • The way that people manage their caring responsibilities, with a focus on the working arrangements that people use to enable them to carry out their caring responsibilities, as well as the nature and extent of their caring responsibilities. This topic is new to SEARS 2007 and covers such areas as:
      • characteristics of care recipients (both children and adults) such as age, relationship to the carer, and for adults, the reason for providing care;
      • use of leave and type of leave used;
      • types of child care used (by families with children under 15 years of age; and
      • frequency and duration of care;
  • Retirement and retirement intentions. The target population for this topic (approximately 7.6 million people) was all persons aged 45 years and over (excluding those in very remote areas or non-private dwellings). The retirement component is new to SEARS 2007, and covered topics such things as:
      • age at retirement from work;
      • occupation and industry of last full-time job;
      • time since retirement from the labour force;
      • expected time until retirement;
      • expected sources of income at retirement from full-time work;
      • transitions to retirement; and
      • intended age at retirement;
  • Superannuation coverage of individuals and couples, including the amount people have contributed to superannuation and the amount they have accrued. The increase of the upper age limit for this cycle of the SEARS has enabled a more comprehensive picture of the superannuation circumstances of retired people than was possible with the 2000 SEAS cycle. Some data collection activity was reduced (e.g. only data from recent superannuation statements was collected in 2007). Otherwise, aside from some differences in collection periods for lump sums, the data items for the Superannuation topic are largely unchanged from SEAS 2000, and include:
      • the type of superannuation coverage that people have;
      • the type of accounts people have (accumulation, defined benefit, hybrid and self-managed accounts);
      • the type of superannuation contributions made to accounts (employer, salary sacrifice, personal and spouse contributions);
      • how much people were contributing to superannuation, and the amount of superannuation accrued;
      • reasons for not making personal contributions to superannuation; and
      • information on lump sums.


While SEARS 2007 has a similar focus to SEAS 2000, and collected a similar range of data, changes in the survey scope and methodology, and in the collection and presentation of information in the seven years between the two surveys, mean that the estimates from the two surveys may not be strictly comparable. The major methodological change that occurred in SEARS 2007 was the introduction of computer assisted personal interview (CAPI), which replaced the pen and paper questionnaire format used for SEAS 2000. While not quantifiable, this change was expected to result in improvements in data quality by minimising non-sampling error associated with complex sequencing in the survey questionnaire.

Another significant change impacting on the comparisons of the survey results was the change in age scope, from all persons aged 15 to 69 years used in SEAS 2000 to all persons aged 15 years and over for SEARS 2007.

Two new topics on how people balance their work and caring responsibilities and about the retirement and retirement intentions of people aged 45 years and over have also been included in SEARS 2007.

A number of changes were made to: questions collecting employment arrangements data items; the populations applicable to particular employment arrangements data items; and to the underlying concepts of some employment arrangements data items. These changes were necessary to reflect current priorities of users, and to align SEARS 2007 estimates with estimates from other ABS surveys collecting similar information. Details of the changes impacting on the employment arrangements estimates and on comparisons between SEAS 2000 and SEARS 2007 are discussed in Appendix 1 of Employment Arrangements, Retirement and Superannuation, Australia, April to July 2007 (cat. no. 6361.0).

Some of the superannuation data are comparable between 2000 and 2007. However, there were a number of changes to the superannuation data items that were introduced in SEARS 2007, including:
  • separate identification of salary sacrificed contributions to superannuation;
  • changes in output terminology: employer contributions (including salary sacrificed contributions) are now described as pre-tax contributions, and personal and spouse contributions are described as post-tax contributions;
  • separate identification of self managed and small APRA funds;
  • improved collection of statement reference periods to address a problem in SEAS 2000 that meant weekly contributions in that survey could only be published for people whose contributions had been made for two years or more;
  • change in the reference period for collecting lump sum payments from superannuation. In SEAS 2000, only payments received in the last year were collected. This was expanded in SEARS 2007 to include payments received in the last 4 years; and
  • collection of data on choice of superannuation fund.

Changes in the collection, and the quality, of superannuation data collected in SEARS 2007 are discussed in Appendix 2 of Employment Arrangements, Retirement and Superannuation, Australia, April to July 2007 (cat. no. 6361.0).

Some changes were also made to the income data items in SEARS 2007. These included the collection of superannuation salary sacrifice amounts in gross income (previously estimates included only some salary sacrificed amounts) and a change in output terminology from cash income to gross weekly income. In SEARS 2007 people who were living off savings, selling assets or living on partner/spouse income (for those aged 45 years and over), either as a supplement to their income or as their only source of finance, were separately identified. This change was introduced to complement similar information collected about expected sources of income for retirement and sources of income at retirement.

When undertaking comparisons with SEAS 2000 data, users should take care to compare items by using the supporting information, user guide and attachments, and data item lists available for both SEAS 2000 and SEARS 2007, as well as Appendix 1 and Appendix 2 of Employment Arrangements, Retirement and Superannuation, Australia, April to July 2007 (cat. no. 6361.0). Particular attention should be paid to the definition of the data items, populations relating to the data items, and the reference periods that apply.