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4430.0 - Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings, 2003  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 15/09/2004   
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An activity comprises one or more tasks. In this survey tasks have been grouped into the following ten activities. See Appendix 1 for a summary table of restrictions, activities and tasks.

  • cognition or emotion
  • communication
  • health care
  • housework
  • meal preparation
  • mobility
  • paperwork
  • property maintenance
  • self care
  • transport.


Some results on disability presented in this publication have been adjusted to account for differences in the age structure between survey years. Age-standardisation has been undertaken using the direct method (see Technical Note). An age-standardised rate is calculated to remove the effects of different age structures when comparing population groups or changes over time. A standard age composition is used, in this case the age composition of the 2003 SDAC population. The standard rate is that which would have prevailed if the actual population had the standard age composition. Age-specific disability rates are multiplied by the standard population for each age group. The results are added and the sum calculated as a percentage of the standard population total to give the age standardised percentage rate.

Aids and equipment

Any devices used by persons with one or more disabilities to assist them with performing tasks, but not help provided by another person or an organisation.

Australian Standard Classification of Education (ASCED)

The ASCED is a national standard classification which includes all sectors of the Australian education system, that is, schools, vocational education and training, and higher education. From 2001, ASCED replaced a number of classifications used in administrative and statistical systems, including the ABS Classification of Qualifications (ABSCQ). The ASCED comprises two classifications: Level of Education and Field of Education. See Australian Standard Classification of Education (ASCED), 2001 (cat. no. 1272.0).

Cared accommodation

Cared accommodation includes hospitals, homes for the aged such as nursing homes and aged-care hostels, cared components of retirement villages, and other 'homes', such as children's homes.


A person of any age who provides any informal assistance, in terms of help or supervision, to persons with disabilities or long-term conditions, or older persons (i.e. aged 60 years and over). This assistance has to be ongoing, or likely to be ongoing, for at least six months. Assistance to a person in a different household relates to 'everyday types of activities', without specific information on the activities. Where the care recipient lives in the same household, the assistance is for one or more of the following activities:

  • cognition or emotion
  • communication
  • health care
  • housework
  • meal preparation
  • mobility
  • paperwork
  • property maintenance
  • self care
  • transport.


A person of any age who is a natural, step or foster son or daughter of a couple or lone parent, usually resident in the same household, and who does not have a child or partner of their own usually resident in the household.

Cognition or emotion

This activity comprises the following tasks:

  • making friendships, maintaining relationships or interacting with others
  • coping with feelings or emotions
  • decision making or thinking through problems.

Cognition or emotion was termed 'guidance' in previous disability surveys.


This activity comprises the following tasks:

  • understanding family or friends
  • being understood by family or friends
  • understanding strangers
  • being understood by strangers.

Contributing family worker

A person who works without pay in an economic enterprise operated by a relative.

Core activities

Core activities are communication, mobility and self care.

Core-activity limitation

Four levels of core-activity limitation are determined based on whether a person needs help, has difficulty, or uses aids or equipment with any of the core activities (communication, mobility or self care). A person's overall level of core-activity limitation is determined by their highest level of limitation in these activities.

The four levels of limitation are:

  • profound: the person is unable to do, or always needs help with, a core-activity task
  • severe: the person
      • sometimes needs help with a core-activity task
      • has difficulty understanding or being understood by family or friends
      • can communicate more easily using sign language or other non-spoken forms of communication.
  • moderate: the person needs no help but has difficulty with a core-activity task
  • mild: the person needs no help and has no difficulty with any of the core-activity tasks, but
      • uses aids and equipment
      • cannot easily walk 200 metres
      • cannot walk up and down stairs without a handrail
      • cannot easily bend to pick up an object from the floor
      • cannot use public transport
      • can use public transport but needs help or supervision
      • needs no help or supervision but has difficulty using public transport.


In the context of health experience, the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) defines disability as an umbrella term for impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions. It denotes the negative aspects of the interaction between an individual (with a health condition) and that individual's contextual factors (environment and personal factors).

In this survey a person has a disability if they report that they have a limitation, restriction or impairment, which has lasted, or is likely to last, for at least six months and restricts everyday activities. This includes:

  • loss of sight (not corrected by glasses or contact lenses)
  • loss of hearing where communication is restricted, or an aid to assist with, or substitute for, hearing is used
  • speech difficulties
  • shortness of breath or breathing difficulties causing restriction
  • chronic or recurrent pain or discomfort causing restriction
  • blackouts, fits, or loss of consciousness
  • difficulty learning or understanding
  • incomplete use of arms or fingers
  • difficulty gripping or holding things
  • incomplete use of feet or legs
  • nervous or emotional condition causing restriction
  • restriction in physical activities or in doing physical work
  • disfigurement or deformity
  • mental illness or condition requiring help or supervision
  • long-term effects of head injury, stroke or other brain damage causing restriction
  • receiving treatment or medication for any other long-term conditions or ailments and still restricted
  • any other long-term conditions resulting in a restriction.

Disability rate

The proportion of people with a reported disability, in any given population or sub-population (e.g. age group).

Disability status

Whether has a disability, the level of core-activity limitation, and whether has a schooling or employment restriction.


Persons who reported that they had worked in a job, business or farm during the reference week (the full week prior to the date of interview); or that they had a job in the reference week but were not at work.


A person who works for a public or private employer and receives remuneration in wages, salary, a retainer fee by their employer while working on a commission basis, tips, piece-rates or payment-in-kind, or a person who operates his or her own incorporated enterprise with or without hiring employees.


A person who operates their own unincorporated economic enterprise or engages independently in a profession or trade, and hires one or more employees.

Employment restriction

An employment restriction is determined for persons with one or more disabilities if, because of their disability, they:

  • are permanently unable to work
  • are restricted in the type of work they can, or could, do
  • need, or would need, at least one day a week off work on average
  • are restricted in the number of hours they can, or could, work
  • require, or would require, an employer to provide special equipment, modify the work environment or make special arrangements
  • require assistance from a disability job placement program or agency
  • need, or would need, to be given ongoing assistance or supervision
  • would find it difficult to change jobs or get a preferred job.

This information was collected for persons aged 15-64 years with one or more disabilities, living in households.

Equivalised gross household income per week

Gross household income adjusted using an equivalence scale. For a lone person household it is equal to gross household income. For a household comprising more than one person, it is an indicator of the gross household income that would need to be received by a lone person household to enjoy the same level of economic wellbeing as the household in question. The scale allocates 1.0 point for the first adult (aged 15 years and over) in a household; 0.5 for each additional adult; and 0.3 for each child (aged lass than 15 years). Equivalised household income is calculated by dividing total household income by the sum of the equivalence points allocated to household members.

Equivalised gross household income quintiles

These are groupings of 20% of the total population of Australia when ranked in ascending order according to equivalised gross household income. The population used for this purpose includes all persons in on scope and coverage for this survey living in private dwellings, including children under the age of 15 years. The quintile boundaries of the equivalised gross household income for the 2003 SDAC population were:

  • Lowest quintile: Up to $277 per week
  • Second quintile: $278 to 452 per week
  • Third quintile: $453 to $644 per week
  • Fourth quintile: $645 to $933 per week
  • Highest quintile: $934 or more per week


See Cared accommodation.

Fall-back carer

A person identified by the primary carer as being able to take responsibility for the care of the main recipient of care should the primary carer become unavailable. A fall-back carer cannot be a formal provider.

Formal assistance

Help provided to persons with one or more disabilities by:

  • organisations or individuals representing organisations (whether for profit or not for profit, government or private)
  • other persons (excluding family, friends or neighbours as described in informal assistance) who provide assistance on a regular, paid basis and who are not associated with any organisation.

Full-time or part-time worker

Full-time work is defined as working 35 hours or more per week in all jobs.

For employed persons, full-time or part-time status is determined by the actual and/or usual number of hours worked in all jobs during the reference period.

Gross current personal income

Regular and recurring cash receipts including monies received from wages and salaries, government pensions and allowances, and other regular receipts such as superannuation, workers' compensation, child support, scholarships, profit or loss from own unincorporated business or partnership, and property income. Gross income is the sum of current income from all these sources before income tax or the Medicare levy have been deducted.

Gross household income per week

The sum of the gross current personal incomes of each household resident aged 15 years and over. Households where income for at least one person is not known are excluded.

Health care

This activity comprises:

  • foot care
  • other tasks, such as:
      • taking medication, or administering injections
      • dressing wounds
      • using medical machinery
      • manipulating muscles or limbs.


A group of two or more related or unrelated people who usually reside in the same dwelling and who make common provision for food and other essentials for living; or a person living in a dwelling who makes provision for his or her own food and other essentials for living without combining with any other person. Thus a household may consist of:

  • one person
  • one family
  • one family and related individual(s)
  • related families with or without unrelated individual(s)
  • unrelated families with or without unrelated individual(s)
  • unrelated individuals.


This activity comprises household chores, examples of which are:

  • washing
  • vacuuming
  • dusting.

Housing tenure

Housing tenure is the nature of the legal right of a person to occupy a dwelling. Housing tenure categories in this publication may not be comparable with other ABS output using these category names. The categories used in this publication are:

  • owner without a mortgage
  • owner with a mortgage
  • state or territory housing authority renter
  • other renter
  • boarder
  • rent free
  • other (includes persons occupying the dwelling under a life tenure scheme; persons purchasing under a rent/buy or shared equity scheme; and any other housing arrangements).


In the context of health experience, an impairment is defined by the the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) as a loss or abnormality in body structure or physiological function (including mental functions). Abnormality is used to refer to a significant variation from established statistical norms.

Examples of impairment are loss of sight or a limb, disfigurement or deformity, impairment of mood or emotion, impairments of speech, hallucinations, loss of consciousness and any other lack of function of body organs.


See Gross current personal income and Gross household income per week.


For people who worked as a wage or salary earner, it was the industry of their employer in their main job. For those who worked in their own business, it was the industry of that business. An industry is a group of businesses which carry out similar economic activities. Each such grouping defines an industry, and the economic activities which characterise the businesses connected are referred to as activities primary to that industry. Industry was classified according to the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC), 1993 (cat. no. 1292.0).

Informal assistance

Informal assistance is unpaid help or supervision that is provided to persons with one or more disabilities or persons aged 60 years and over living in households. It includes only assistance that is provided for one or more of the specified tasks comprising an activity because of a person's disability or age. Informal assistance may be provided by family, friends or neighbours. For this survey, any assistance received from family or friends living in the same household was considered to be informal assistance regardless of whether or not the provider was paid.

Internet use

Use of the Internet in the 12 months prior to the interview. Includes access via mobile phones, set-top boxes connected to either an analogue or digital television, and the latest games machines.

Labour force status

A classification of the population aged 15 years and over into employed, unemployed or not in the labour force.

Level of highest non-school qualification

Non-school qualifications are awarded for educational attainments other than those of pre-primary, primary or secondary education. They include qualifications at the Postgraduate Degree Level, Master Degree Level, Graduate Diploma and Graduate Certificate Level, Bachelor Degree Level, Advanced Diploma and Diploma Level, and Certificates I, II, III and IV levels. Non-school qualifications may be attained concurrently with school qualifications. Responses have been coded according to the ABS Australian Standard Classification of Education (ASCED), 2001 (cat. no. 1272.0).


A person has a limitation if they have difficulty doing a particular activity, need assistance from another person or use an aid.

Living arrangements

Living arrangements refer to whether a person lives in a private dwelling, cared accommodation or other non-private dwelling. For those living in private dwellings the survey determines whether a person lives alone, with other family members or with other unrelated individuals.

Living in households

In this publication, living in households refers to those persons enumerated as part of the household component, and includes those living in private dwellings, and some non-private dwellings such as motels, boarding houses and self-care units in retirement villages, but excluding cared accommodation (see entry for Other non-private dwelling).

Long-term health condition

A disease or disorder which has lasted or is likely to last for at least six months; or a disease, disorder or event (e.g. stroke, poisoning, accident etc.) which produces an impairment or restriction which has lasted or is likely to last for at least six months. Long-term health conditions have been coded to a classification based on the World Health Organisation's International Classification of Diseases, version 10 (ICD-10).

Main health condition

The long-term condition causing the most problems. Where only one long-term condition is reported, this is the main long-term condition.

Main job

The job in which a person usually works the most hours.

Main recipient of care

Where a primary carer is caring for more than one person, the main recipient of care is the one receiving the most help or supervision. A sole recipient is also classed as a main recipient. The assistance has to be ongoing, or likely to be ongoing, for at least six months and be provided for one or more of the core activities of communication, mobility and self care.

Meal preparation

Meal preparation includes:

  • preparing ingredients
  • cooking food.


The median value is that value which divides the population into two equal parts, one half having values lower than the median, and one half having values higher than it.

Mild core-activity limitation

See Core-activity limitation.


Mobility comprises the following tasks:

  • getting into or out of a bed or chair
  • moving about the usual place of residence
  • going to or getting around a place away from the usual residence
  • walking 200 metres
  • walking up and down stairs without a handrail
  • bending and picking up an object from the floor
  • using public transport.

The first three tasks contribute to the definitions of profound and severe core-activity limitation.

Moderate core-activity limitation

See Core-activity limitation.

Need for assistance

A person with one or more disabilities, or aged 60 years and over, is identified as having a need for assistance with an activity if, because of their disability or age, they report that they need help or supervision with at least one of the specified tasks constituting that activity. Need is not identified if the help or supervision is required because the person has not learned, or has not been accustomed to performing that activity. The person is considered to need assistance whether or not assistance is actually received.

Non-core restriction

A restriction in employment and/or schooling.

Non-private dwelling

In this survey, comprises Cared accommodation and Other non-private dwelling.

Non-restricting disfigurement or deformity

If a disfigurement or deformity was reported and it was also reported that this did not limit the person's everyday activities, it was considered to be a Non-restricting disfigurement or deformity. People in this group were not asked the full range of questions asked of people with a disability.

Non-school qualification

See Level of highest non-school qualification.


For people who worked as a wage or salary earner, it was the occupation in their main job. For those who worked in their own business, it was their occupation in that business. An occupation is a set of jobs with similar sets of tasks. In practice, an occupation is a collection of jobs sufficiently similar in their main tasks (in terms of skill level and specialisation) to be grouped together for classification purposes. Occupation was classified according to Australian Standard Classification of Occupations (ASCO), Second Edition, 1997 (cat. no. 1220.0).

Older person

Older person, in this publication, refers to a person aged 60 years and over. Information on the need for and receipt of assistance for housework, meal preparation, paperwork, property maintenance and transport, and on community participation, is available from the survey for all persons aged 60 years and over, regardless of whether they have a disability.

Other non-private dwelling

Non-private dwellings other than cared accommodation are defined for this survey as hostels for the homeless, hotels, motels, educational and religious institutions, construction camps, boarding houses, staff quarters, guest houses, short-stay caravan parks, youth camps and camping grounds, and self-care units in a retirement village which may have cared accommodation on-site.

Own account worker

An own account worker is a person who operates his or her own unincorporated economic enterprise or engages independently in a profession or trade and hires no employees.


This includes reading or writing tasks such as:

  • checking bills or bank statements
  • writing letters
  • filling in forms.

Participation rate

In the context of labour force statistics, the participation rate for any group is the number of persons in the labour force (i.e. employed persons plus unemployed persons) expressed as a percentage of the population aged 15 years and over in the same group. In this publication, the population is restricted to persons aged 15-64 years.


A registered married or de facto partner.

Personal activities

These include self care, mobility, communication, health care and cognition or emotion tasks.

Persons not in the labour force

Persons who, during the reference period, were neither employed nor unemployed. They include persons who were keeping house (unpaid), retired, voluntarily inactive, permanently unable to work, persons in institutions, members of contemplative religious orders, and persons whose only activity during the reference period was jury service or unpaid voluntary work.

Primary carer

A primary carer is a person who provides the most informal assistance, in terms of help or supervision, to a person with one or more disabilities. The assistance has to be ongoing, or likely to be ongoing, for at least six months and be provided for one or more of the core activities (communication, mobility and self care). In this survey, primary carers only include persons aged 15 years and over for whom a personal interview was conducted. Persons aged 15 to 17 years were only interviewed personally if parental permission was granted.

Principal source of personal income

Refers to that source from which the greatest amount of cash income is received. If total income is nil or negative, principal souce of income is undefined.

Private dwellings

Houses, flats, home units, garages, tents and other structures used as private places of residence at the time of the survey.

Profound core-activity limitation

See Core-activity limitation.

Property maintenance

This includes light maintenance and gardening tasks, such as:

  • changing light bulbs, tap washers, car registration stickers
  • making minor home repairs
  • mowing lawns, watering, pruning shrubs, light weeding, planting
  • removing rubbish.


When persons (or any other units) are ranked from the lowest to the highest on the basis of some characteristic such as their household income, they can then be divided into equal sized groups. When the population is divided into five equally sized groups, the groups are called quintiles.

Receipt of assistance

Receipt of assistance is applicable to persons with one or more disabilities, or aged 60 years and over, who reported that they needed help or supervision with at least one of the specified tasks comprising an activity. The source of assistance may be informal or formal, but does not include assistance from the use of aids or equipment.


The ABS has defined Remoteness within the Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC). The ASGC Remoteness Structure is defined only in census years, commencing with the census year 2001, and includes all Collection Districts (CDs) across Australia. The purpose of the Remoteness Structure is to classify CDs which share common characteristics of remoteness into broad geographical regions called Remoteness Areas (RAs). The structure defines six RAs: Major Cities of Australia; Inner Regional Australia; Outer Regional Australia; Remote Australia; Very Remote Australia and Migratory.

The delimination criteria for RAs are based on the Accessibility/Remoteness Index of Australia (ARIA), which measures the remoteness of a point based on the physical road distance to the nearest Urban Centre (ASGC 1996) in each of five size classes. For this survey, the ASGC 2001 CDs were used. The RAs were derived by calculating the average ARIA index value for each CD and applying the ASGC 2001 RA criteria.

The Migratory category is outside the scope of this survey and has been excluded. The exclusion of sparsely settled areas from the scope of this survey reduced the size of the Very Remote Australia category (refer to the definition of Sparsely settled in this Glossary). As a result, remoteness data in this publication is presented as Major Cities, Inner Regional and Other. The Other category combines Outer Regional Australia, Remote Australia and the remainder of Very Remote Australia.

Schooling restriction

A schooling restriction is determined for persons aged 5-20 years who have one or more disabilities if, because of their disability, they:

  • are unable to attend school
  • attend a special school
  • attend special classes at an ordinary school
  • need at least one day a week off school on average
  • have difficulty at school.

Self care

This activity comprises the following tasks:

  • showering or bathing
  • dressing
  • eating
  • toileting
  • bladder or bowel control.

Severe core-activity limitation

See Core-activity limitation.

Sparsely settled

Sparsely-settled areas are defined as all Statistical Local Areas (SLAs) with a dwelling density less than 0.06 per square kilometre. They exclude:

  • smaller islands off the coast of northern Australia
  • a small number of sparsely settled SLAs which are not contiguous with any other sparsely settled SLAs and would have provided too small a sample in a region
  • certain Western Australian towns in sparsely settled SLAs with populations of 5,000 or more people.

Specific limitation or restriction

A limitation in core activities, or a restriction in schooling and/or employment. This corresponds with the concept of 'handicap' used in previous ABS publications on disability.


A task is a component of an activity, and represents the specific level at which information was collected.


Transport is a single task activity referring to going to places away from the usual place of residence. Need for assistance and difficulty are defined for this activity as the need to be driven and difficulty going to places without help or supervision.


Unemployed persons are those aged 15 years and over who were not employed during the reference week, and:

  • had actively looked for full-time or part-time work at any time in the four weeks up to the end of the reference week and
  • were available for work in the reference week.

Unemployment rate

The unemployment rate for any group is the number of unemployed persons in that group expressed as a percentage of the labour force (i.e. employed persons plus unemployed persons) in the same group.

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