2900.0 - Census of Population and Housing: Understanding the Census and Census Data, Australia , 2016  
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Unpaid Child Care (CHCAREP)

This variable records whether people in the two weeks prior to Census night, spent any time caring for a child/children (under 15 years) without pay and is applicable to all persons aged 15 years and over.

How this variable is created

The responses to this question are captured automatically from mark box responses on the form so the risk of processing error is minimal. Sample checks are undertaken to ensure an acceptable level of quality. In 1.4% of pre-processed data, respondents provided an incorrect combination of responses. This occurred when a 'No' response was marked together with one or both of the 'Yes' responses. In these cases the 'Yes' responses are retained and the 'No' response is rejected.

Variable history

Questions on unpaid work, including unpaid childcare, were first asked for the 2006 Census. These questions were repeated for 2011 and 2016. No changes were made for 2016.

Non-response rate

Item non-response rates are a measure of how many people did not respond to a particular question as a proportion of the total number of people the question was applicable to. In this instance the response is left as not stated.

The majority of item non-response is attributable to the people who did not respond to the Census at all. Refer to item non-response tables for more information. The second and smaller contributor to item non-response is when people return a Census form but may not answer a particular question(s). For more information, refer to Understanding Census data quality.

The non-response rate for this variable was 8.3% in 2016 (7.8% in 2011).

Data usage notes

When analysing Unpaid Child Care data, users may notice older respondents who reported they cared for their own child. The 2016 Census shows 0.4% (0.2% in 2011) of persons aged 80 years and over indicating that they were caring for their own child aged under 15 years. 2.1% (4.8% in 2011) of this subset had their ages imputed, either due to the lack of respondent information or to conform to family processing rules. Imputation rules do not reference Unpaid Child Care as a factor, so there is no statistical correlation between the fields Age and Unpaid Child Care for this group. The remainder reported their Date of Birth and/or Age last birthday, and the output Age remains as reported.

The following scenarios are possible for this data:

  • Both variables are correct (for example an aged parent looking after his/her child).
  • Age is correct and the Unpaid Child Care response is wrong. Respondents may have misunderstood the childcare question eg. considered grandchildren, other children in the extended family to be their 'own children' or did not realise that the question referred to only children who were less than 15 years of age, or mistakenly included children (over 15 years) with a disability
  • Age is incorrect and Unpaid Child Care is correct (refer to the data quality statement for Age for further information about the quality of age data), or
  • neither variable is correct.


Further information

A definition of Unpaid Child Care is available in the 2016 Census Dictionary
For more information about Unpaid work, see the Glossary for Unpaid Work in the 2016 Census Dictionary.
Additional sources of information regarding unpaid child care can be found in other ABS publications and associated collections, including Childhood Education and Care, Australia, June 2014 which refers to usual care arrangements for children aged 0-12 years. Care should be taken when comparing Census data on Unpaid Childcare with information from other surveys and publications. Definitions can differ between different statistical collections and may not match Census definitions.

Household form question image

Question 50 as it appeared on the 2016 Census Household Paper Form:

Image: 2016 Household Paper Form - Question 50. In the last two weeks did the person spend time looking after a child, without pay?

A text only version of the online Census Household form is available from the Downloads tab