1200.0.55.012 - Standard for Sex and Gender Variables, 2016  
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COLLECTION METHODS

STANDARD QUESTION MODULES

Standard Question Module - Sex

For the collection of sex, the following standard tick box question module should be used. The 'Male' response option is shown first due to tradition in the ABS and alignment with other collections, both in Australia and overseas.

    What is your sex? Please [tick/mark/select] one box.
    c Male
    c Female
    c Other, please specify ____________________

Mandatory elements

The following elements must be included:
  • the word 'sex' in the question to clearly articulate the concept being collected;
  • label the response options 'Male', 'Female' and 'Other, please specify';
  • a write-in facility is available when the 'Other' response option is selected; and
  • a note that only one response is permitted.

The inclusion of the 'please specify' write-in facility for 'Other' allows respondents the opportunity to describe their sex using a term they are comfortable with, whilst also maximising the potential for analysis of the responses provided. While the 'Other, please specify' category is mandatory in the question wording, the respondent has the option of providing a response (e.g. the term the respondent is comfortable with).

Allowable variations

Minor variations to the question wording is allowed. For example:
    Which of the following describes your sex? Please [tick/mark/select] one box,
or

    Sex, please [tick/mark/select] one box


Optional inclusions

The Australian Government Guidelines on the Recognition of Sex and Gender, November 2015 (Attorney-General's Department) recommends 'departments and agencies should refrain from making assumptions about a person's sex and/or gender identity based on indicators such as their name, voice or appearance' and suggests that when interviews are conducted interviewers should read out the question and all response options.

Some research studies have found that asking about a person's sex is viewed as confrontational and/or insensitive by some respondents. Introducing the question by explaining its importance, and how responses are used and processed, as well as confidentiality considerations, may alleviate negativity toward the question and reduce resistance to answering.

As there is no conclusively agreed upon evidence to support quality gains from including an introductory explanation to the sex question, the inclusion of explanatory material is optional and at the discretion of those undertaking the collection. Furthermore it is also recognised that this approach may not be possible in some instances as questionnaires have space and time limitations.

For self-completed questionnaires the following explanatory information may be included in web forms or on paper forms (and formatted appropriately).
    Like information on age, sex is a primary means of measuring and analysing many aspects of the population, for example population counts and projections, health, etc, and stringent confidentiality measures are applied to all statistical datasets to ensure the privacy of individual's responses.

For face-to-face and telephone interviews the following may be read to the respondent immediately before asking the sex question.
    In order to avoid making assumptions, I am required to ask you to report your sex. Like information on age, sex is a primary means of measuring and analysing many aspects of the population, for example population counts and projections, health, etc, and stringent confidentiality measures are applied to all statistical datasets to ensure the privacy of individual's responses.

If a respondent does not wish to answer this question during an interview, on behalf of themselves or others, or questions the meaning of the 'Other, please specify' option, the interviewer should refer to their Interviewer's Instructions which should include a standard script explaining the importance of the question (e.g. how the information is used) and that responses are confidential, and a definition of 'Other' which includes examples of alternative terms (e.g. intersex).

Collecting sex information on behalf of others

Some statistical collections seek information about a number of people from a single respondent and each person is not directly asked the questions. For example, an adult reporting on behalf of other members of his or her household, a staff member reporting on behalf of others in their organisation, or a carer reporting for their charge.

In these situations the following question module should be used:
    What is (person 1's/person's name) sex? Please [tick/mark/select] one box.
    c Male
    c Female
    c Other, please specify ____________________

The allowable variations to question wording and optional inclusions noted above also apply.

An interim alternative question module

The previous ABS sex standard (Demographic Variables, 1999 (cat. no. 1285.0)) recommended the inclusion of only two response options: (i) Male, and (ii) Female. While there are advantages to implementing the new standard as soon as possible (improved accuracy and comparability) it is acknowledged that impediments to transitioning to the new question module may exist (e.g. system limitations, lack of redevelopment funds, methodological dependancies) leading to implementation delays.

In such cases where the 'Other' option cannot be included in the question, the following module should be used:
    What is your sex? Please [tick/mark/select] one box.
    c Male
    c Female

The allowable question wording variations and optional inclusions noted above also apply to this module.

When the 'Other, please specify' response option is excluded an alternative means of collecting responses other than male or female must be provided. Suggested options for doing so include:
  • The inclusion of a 'More information' facility on web forms, which when selected links to appropriate help that includes explanatory material and/or advice on the appropriate action.
  • For telephone and face-to-face interviews, the interviewer should have access to a standard script and process which explains how responses other than male or female are to be recorded.
  • For self-completed paper forms, a strategy to inform the relevant collection population of provisions to report other than male or female, like that noted above for web forms, should be implemented where possible (e.g. consultation with advocacy groups, include the strategy in published survey information).

STANDARD QUESTION MODULE - GENDER

With some minor exceptions, question modules and collection procedures for gender mirror those outlined previously for sex.

For the collection of gender, the following standard tick box question module should be used. The 'Male' response option is shown first to align with the sex standard question module.
    What is your gender? Please [tick/mark/select] one box.
    c Male
    c Female
    c Other, please specify ____________________

Mandatory elements

The following elements must be included:
  • the term 'gender' in the question to clearly articulate the concept being collected;
  • label the response options 'Male', 'Female' and 'Other, please specify';
  • a write-in facility is available when the 'Other' response option is selected; and
  • a note that only one response is permitted.

The inclusion of the 'please specify' write-in facility for 'Other' allows respondents the opportunity to describe their gender using a term they are comfortable with, whilst also maximising the potential for analysis of the responses provided. While the 'Other, please specify' category is mandatory in the question wording, the respondent has the option of providing a response (e.g. the term the respondent is comfortable with).

Allowable variations

Minor variations to the question wording is allowed. For example:
    Which of the following describes your gender? Please [tick/mark/select] one box,

or
    What gender do you identify as? Please [tick/mark/select] one box

or
    Gender, please [tick/mark/select] one box.


Optional inclusions

The Australian Government Guidelines on the Recognition of Sex and Gender, November 2015 recommends 'departments and agencies should refrain from making assumptions about a person's sex and/or gender identity based on indicators such as their name, voice or appearance' and suggests that when interviews are being conducted interviewers should read out the question and all response options.

Some research studies have found that asking about a person's gender is viewed as confrontational and/or insensitive by some respondents. Introducing the question by explaining its importance, and how responses are used and processed, as well as confidentiality considerations, may alleviate negativity toward the question and reduce resistance to answering.

As there is no conclusively agreed upon evidence to support quality gains from including an introductory explanation to the gender question, the inclusion of explanatory material is optional and at the discretion of those undertaking the collection. Furthermore it is also recognised that this approach may not be possible in some instances as questionnaires have space and time limitations.

For self-completed questionnaires the following explanatory information may be included in web forms or on paper forms (and formatted appropriately).
    Like information on age, gender is a primary means of measuring and analysing many aspects of the population, for example population counts and projections, health, etc, and stringent confidentiality measures are applied to statistical datasets to ensure the privacy of individual responses.

For face-to-face and telephone interviews the following may be read to the respondent immediately before asking the gender question.
    In order to avoid making assumptions, I am required to ask you to report your gender. Like information on age, gender is a primary means of measuring and analysing many aspects of the population, for example population counts and projections, health, etc, and stringent confidentiality measures are applied to statistical datasets to ensure the privacy of individual responses.

If a respondent does not wish to answer this question during an interview, on behalf of themselves or others, or questions the meaning of the 'Other, please specify' option, the interviewer should refer to their Interviewer's Instructions which should include a standard script explaining the importance of the question (e.g. how the information is used) and that responses are confidential, and a definition of 'Other' which includes examples of alternative terms (e.g. gender diverse).

Collecting gender information on behalf of others

Some statistical collections seek information about a number of people from a single respondent and each person is not directly asked the questions. For example, an adult reporting on behalf of other members of his or her household, a staff member reporting on behalf of others in their organisation, or a carer reporting for their charge.

In these situations the following module should be used:
    What is (person 1's/person's name) gender? Please [tick/mark/select] one box.
    c Male
    c Female
    c Other, please specify ____________________

The allowable variations to question wording and optional inclusions noted above also apply.

Standard input categories

The standard input categories for sex and gender are the same as the categories of the classification. For operational reasons, a supplementary code is also included to enable non-responses and inadequately described responses to be coded.

The input categories are 'Male', 'Female', 'Other' and 'Not stated/Inadequately described'.