6401.0.60.005 - Information Paper: An Implementation Plan to Annually Re-weight the Australian CPI, 2017  
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IMPLEMENTATION PLAN


1 INTRODUCTION

1.1 The Australian Consumer Price Index (CPI) is a robust indicator of household inflation that has served Australia well for many decades. While the CPI is a well-respected ABS output, there are particular aspects of the CPI that can be enhanced, particularly with recent developments in methods and the availability of new data sources. In light of this, the ABS commenced a research program in August 2015 aimed at enhancing the Australian CPI through re-examining current approaches to collecting data and the methods used to compile the CPI.

1.2 The Australian CPI measures the change over time in the prices paid by households for a basket of goods and services. The basket reflects the composition of household consumption preferences; is compiled according to international standards; and is based on robust data collection and compilation methodologies. In compiling aggregate measures of price change, the role of expenditure weights is to reflect the economic importance of each item to the total expenditure of Australian households. Therefore, in practice, National Statistical Offices (NSOs) periodically update expenditure weights to accurately reflect the changing purchasing patterns of households.

1.3 The information paper Enhancing the Australian CPI: A roadmap (cat. no. 6401.0.60.001) outlined a research program to enhance the Australian CPI. The research program examined approaches to data collection and methods used to compile the CPI. The research focused on (i) annually re-weighting the CPI; and (ii) maximising the use of transactions data in the CPI.

1.4 The information paper Increasing the Frequency of CPI Expenditure Class Weight Updates (cat. no. 6401.0.60.002) discussed the feasibility of using Household Final Consumption Expenditure (HFCE) data from the National Accounts to more frequently update Australia’s CPI expenditure class (EC) weights. The research identified and addressed the challenges of using HFCE data and conducted an empirical assessment using experimental series. The paper concluded the empirical results supported the theory that higher frequency re-weighting at the EC level more accurately captures consumer substitution effects.

1.5 The ABS has consulted widely on the proposal to more frequently update the CPI EC weights. Public submissions were also sought with the ABS receiving several submissions.

1.6 This paper presents the results of the consultation process, and provides an implementation plan to annually re-weight the CPI. Also discussed is additional research to be conducted by the ABS on topics raised through consultation with the Australian community and key stakeholders.


2 USING HFCE DATA TO RE-WEIGHT THE CPI

2.1 HFCE measures expenditure by resident households on goods and services, whether the expenditure is made within the domestic territory or by Australian residents abroad, and expenditure by Non-Profit Institutions Serving Households (NPISH). Conceptually, the measurement of HFCE closely aligns with the HES. HFCE data captures household expenditure, including the Goods and Services Tax (GST). Both HFCE and HES data cover expenditure by Australian households only and exclude expenditure by non-residents in Australia.

2.2 The HES is used as a major benchmark in the compilation of the HFCE series. Benchmarking is a technique used in the National Accounts, where less frequent (e.g. annual) data sources are used to validate more frequent (e.g. quarterly) estimates of HFCE. The other major benchmark used for HFCE is the Retail and Wholesale Industries (cat. no. 8622.0).

2.3 The use of HFCE data for CPI weights has many potential benefits for both internal and external users of inflation statistics. The primary benefit is that more representative weights enhance the CPI in its principal purpose as a macro-economic indicator of household inflation. There are, however, several challenges with using HFCE data for CPI weighting purposes. These challenges can be grouped together as:

  • Overarching challenges - encompassing classification, scope, coverage, and revision challenges; and
  • Specific EC challenges - encompassing a case-by-case assessment of using HFCE data for specific CPI ECs.

2.4 Challenges arise because the CPI and HFCE estimates are produced for different purposes and use different data sources. Proposed treatments to each of these challenges were addressed in the chapter Methods and practical considerations of the information paper (cat. no. 6401.0.60.002).

2.5 The ABS has conducted an empirical assessment of the proposed change to annually re-weight the CPI EC level weights. Experimental HFCE price indexes were produced between 2005 and 2015 to compare the annually re-weighted series with the existing CPI series. The results revealed that the experimental HFCE series reported lower average annual household inflation measures relative to the CPI. This supported the theory that higher frequency (annual) re-weighting at the EC level captures a greater amount of consumer substitution when compared to the current CPI (six yearly) re-weighting process.


3 CONSULTATION

3.1 The ABS has undertaken broad consultation regarding the proposal and methods to annually re-weight the CPI. The method to use HFCE data for CPI weighting purposes underwent an external review by Mr Paul McCarthy, an international Price Statistics and National Accounts expert. Following the release of the paper in 2016, the ABS sought the views of the Australian community through a call for public submissions, which occurred between July and November 2016. Several submissions were received during the consultation period.

3.2 In addition to the call for public submissions, the ABS conducted numerous bilateral and multilateral consultations with key stakeholders, including: the Reserve Bank of Australia; the Treasury; Department of Social Services; Department of Finance; and State Treasuries.

3.3 Stakeholders and public submissions were supportive of the proposal and methods outlined to annually re-weight the Australian CPI.

3.4 Consultation with key stakeholders raised additional topics of further research for the ABS to consider. These topics include: (i) the possibility of more frequently updating the weights of the Selected Living Cost Indexes (SLCIs)(footnote 1) ; and (ii) the ABS to document methods to calculate contributions to percentage change with annually re-weighted indexes.

3.5 As a result of the feedback received, the ABS has conducted research into methods to calculate contributions to change with annually re-weighted indexes. This information can be found in the Appendix.

3.6 In coming months, the ABS will also conduct further research into methods allowing for more frequent re-weighting of the SLCIs. Both theoretical and empirical research will be undertaken with the results to be published following the December quarter 2017 re-weight of the CPI and SLCIs.


4 IMPLEMENTATION

4.1 Updated expenditure class level weights will be implemented into the CPI and SLCIs in the December quarter 2017, due for release on 31 January 2018 and 7 February 2018 respectively. The principal source for the updated weights will be the 2015-16 HES data.

4.2 An information paper will be published in early November 2017 containing the new weights. In addition to this, the ABS will construct a retrospective superlative Fisher-type(footnote 2) index between 2011 and 2017 to estimate the amount of upper level substitution bias in the CPI.

4.3 Following this, the EC level weights in the CPI will be updated annually each December quarter. The primary data source for updating the weights for the inter-HES years will be HFCE data from the National Accounts. The December quarter 2018 will be the first instance where HFCE data is used as the principal data source for the CPI re-weight. The ABS will continue to use HES as the primary data source to re-weight the CPI for the years where it is available.

1 HFCE data is not available for different household groups. Therefore, the information paper Increasing the Frequency of CPI Expenditure Class Weight Updates (cat. no. 6401.0.60.002) proposed to continue to update the SLCI weights using the six yearly HES data. <back
2 See detailed information on index theory and aggregation in chapter 4 Price index theory of the CPI Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 6461.0). <back