Australian Bureau of Statistics
Survey Participant Information - Business FAQs
SELECTION IN SURVEY
How are businesses selected for a survey?
The majority of Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) business surveys are sample surveys. This means that a proportion of businesses are selected to receive the survey questionnaire. Together, the sampled businesses represent the industry/population group being studied. Businesses in the sample are randomly selected to represent other businesses with similar characteristics, such as income or number of employees. Some businesses must be included in the sample because they contribute substantially to their particular industry, region or group.
A small number of ABS business surveys conducted are censuses. This means that all businesses within a particular industry or population group will be selected and sent a survey questionnaire.
How were details of my business obtained?
For most business based collections, details of businesses are obtained from the Australian Business Register (ABR). This contains the names and addresses of all businesses that have a registered an Australian Business Number (ABN) with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).
In addition to the ABR, the ABS maintains a list of larger businesses, usually with complex structures, which it regularly profiles to ensure details are up-to-date.
For some surveys, business details may be obtained from other administrative data sources.
How long will I be in a survey for?
The length of time that a business is selected in any particular survey will depend on factors such as the size of the business and how significant the business's activity is to the overall results. The methods for selecting large and smaller businesses is outlined below.
Larger businesses: have a high chance of selection in multiple ABS business surveys. Because of their significance to the overall survey results, they will usually remain in a survey on an ongoing basis.
Smaller businesses : have a lower chance of selection and will usually be included in a particular survey for up to three years; however there can be some exceptions to this rule, particularly if a small business has a significant impact on the survey results. Generally, smaller businesses are less likely to be included in more than one survey at a time because of the large number of businesses that make up this population. However, there will always be some cases where inclusion in more than one survey cannot be avoided. Where possible, the ABS will utilise data from existing administrative data sources to replace or reduce direct data collection from smaller businesses.
Can I be replaced by another business?
The method used to select a sample requires each business to have only one chance of selection for a particular survey. It is therefore not possible to replace one business with another without biasing the results of the survey. Steps are taken to regularly rotate parts of the sample population in a survey so load on businesses is spread and new businesses have a chance of inclusion.
Why am I included in more than one ABS survey?
The ABS conducts surveys on various topics of interest. The methods that the ABS uses when selecting businesses try to ensure that smaller businesses are not selected in more than one survey. There are, however, occasions when the same business will be selected in and be required to complete more than one survey at the same time.
If your business is selected in more than one survey a response to each is very important as your company has been chosen to represent similar businesses in that region and/or industry.
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RELEVANCE OF SURVEY
My business is only small? Will the information be relevant for you?
The ABS considers that the activities of small businesses are just as important as large businesses and so they cannot be excluded from participation in ABS surveys. Smaller businesses have different characteristics from large businesses and make an important contribution to the Australian economy, especially at state and territory levels. Usually a sample of smaller businesses is selected to represent other like businesses. As such their impact on the survey results is important. For some specific industries, such as mining, small businesses can be significant in their own right.
I do not think that I am in scope of this survey
The scope of a collection varies across business surveys. If you think you have been incorrectly included in a survey, you should contact the ABS office on the number shown on the form.
Why does the ABS need this information?/What is the purpose of this survey?
The ABS collects statistics on a wide range of topics. These include monthly and quarterly indicators that provide up-to-date snapshots on the state of the economy as well as detailed annual/adhoc collections that a provide comprehensive picture of specific industries and business activities. In addition to being useful in their own right, the results of many ABS business surveys are also inputs into quarterly and annual updates of the Australian National Accounts. The statistics produced from business surveys provide information for government, businesses and the community to make decisions. All levels of Australian government, businesses and various industry associations use this information to evaluate and plan for the future and for the welfare of all Australians. Statistical information provides the basis for decision making on where and how resources are allocated.
Statistics produced by the ABS also enable Australia to be compared with other countries throughout the world. Comparisons over time provide important indicators of Australia's position internationally. This is possible where standards and classifications used by the ABS and other countries adhere to internationally accepted standards.
Detailed information about the purpose of specific ABS surveys is available either via the ABS theme pages or by contacting the help number listed on the survey questionnaire. An example of the purpose and objectives and main users for the ABS Innovation Survey, despatched in February 2004, is given below.
EXAMPLE: Purpose, objectives and main users of ABS Innovation Survey 2003
Objectives: to provide statistics on the level of innovation in Australia and some of the characteristics of innovators, the impact of innovation, the national innovation system and the characteristics of significant innovations.
Purpose: to gain information that will facilitate the development of government policy to assist and support future innovative activity in Australian industry. The survey will ascertain what proportion and type of Australian businesses are innovating (introducing new products, services and processes), what type of innovation is occurring, and what impact it is having on the output and productivity of the businesses concerned.
Type of questions: businesses use of new goods and services, new processes, and business strategies and practices.
Users: Commonwealth and State/Territory government, industry analysts, academics and private users.
Examples of Federal department users include:
Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources; Department of Education, Science and Training; Department of I\Communications, Information Technology and the Arts; Productivity Commission; National Office for the Information Economy;
Examples of State department users include:
Western Australian Innovation Centre; Queensland Department of Innovation and Information Economy
Other users include:
The InnovationXchange Network; Education Network Australia; Learning Network Australia; Australian Technology Network
Why wasn't there a question on...?
The content of surveys are reviewed on a regular basis. Questions on ABS business survey forms are usually determined through consultative processes involving major users of ABS business statistics, such as Commonwealth and State government departments and relevant industry associations. Factors such as whether information can be obtained from other sources, why the data is needed, how the information will be obtained, ability of businesses to provide the information and cost are all considered. Forms testing is undertaken to ensure that new questions can be readily understood and completed appropriately.
In addition to this testing, we also rely on the information given to us through your comments on the back of the form.
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LOAD ON BUSINESS TO PROVIDE INFORMATION
What action is the ABS is taking to minimise reporting load on businesses?
The ABS employs a range of initiatives to manage and minimise reporting load placed on businesses. See Steps the ABS is taking to minimise reporting load on businesses
Can't the ABS get information about businesses from other sources ?
Where possible the ABS uses administrative data to supplement or replace direct data collection. This has allowed reductions in survey activity through discontinuing or reducing the sample size for some collections. The use of administrative data does not, however, completely reduce the need to undertake direct data collection. Factors such as the scope, differences in definitions and concepts, and timely availability of the administrative data need to be considered prior to ceasing direct data collection.
What is the ABS doing to make it easier for survey participants to respond?
The ABS understands the imposition placed on businesses which are required to complete survey forms. We appreciate that it is a time consuming task and that not all businesses are specially equipped to cater for our requests. In addition to taking action to reduce the level of reporting required of businesses (see Steps the ABS is taking to minimise reporting load on businesses), steps are also put in place to make it easier for surveys to respond. These include
Easier survey forms
In response to comments received from businesses, we are now designing our forms so that they are shorter and easier to complete. Where possible we are using clear and easy to understand business language and ask for financial information according to generally accepted accounting principles.
Special Reporting Arrangements
The ABS is aware of the burden placed on businesses who receive numerous survey forms to complete, especially large businesses. To make it easier to respond, in certain circumstances subject to negotiation with the ABS it may be possible for a business to enter into a special reporting arrangement for the collection they are participating in.
Choice in mode of response
Most ABS business survey forms are designed to be completed and returned by mail. This allows timely mark-in and capture of the data you provide. However, it is also possible to provide data to the ABS through fax, telephone or electronically via a secure deposit box.
What if I don't have time to fill in the form?
Businesses experiencing difficulties in completing ABS survey forms by the due date can request an extension of time. Extensions may be granted on a case by case basis, and should be requested by contacting the toll free telephone number which appears on the front of the survey form.
It costs my business to provide this information. Will the ABS reimburse these costs?
There is no provision within the Census & Statistics Act (1905) to reimburse businesses for the cost of providing statistical information.
In line with other national statistical organisations throughout the world, individuals, businesses and other organisations are asked to supply information for statistical purposes without compensation.
The majority of statistics derived from ABS business surveys provide information that is of value to the community as a whole. Surveys requiring a compulsory response are only carried out where there is a clear need for such "community good" information.
Who can I contact if I need help or advice?
All ABS business survey forms include a toll free telephone number that respondents can call should they have any questions or require help in completing the form.
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ACCURACY OF INFORMATION
I am unable to provide accurate figures by the due date. How accurate do the figures need to be?
The ABS requires information that is as accurate as possible. The information supplied by your business is used to produce estimates for all businesses within the same industry operating in Australia. The more accurate the figures you supply, the more accurate the estimates will be. However, if accurate data is not readily available, careful estimates will be accepted.
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PROVIDING INFORMATION TO THE ABS
How can I send my information to the ABS?
Most survey forms are returned by mail but respondents also have the option of reporting by fax, telephone or electronically via a secure deposit box if it is more convenient to do it that way.
I have already sent you the requested information
If you believe you have already given the information requested by the ABS through a survey or other means please contact us and let us know. If you gave figures over the telephone, please let us know the date you supplied the figures and the name of the contact officer you supplied them to (if known). If you sent in a completed survey form by mail, you will need to give us your contact details, including name, address, phone number, form reference number (if possible) and the date it was sent so that we can check our records to see if the form has been received. If you have received a reminder notice about your form and the form has been returned it is possible that it was issued at the same time the form was returned.
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ACCESS TO SURVEY RESULTS
How can my business get access to results of ABS surveys?
As a participant in a survey, you are can ask to receive an electronic copy of the main publication into which your data has contributed. This can be done by contacting the toll free number shown on your survey questionnaire. You can also access the results of other ABS surveys on-line by going to www.abs.gov.au, contacting the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070 or contacting your local public library for free access to ABS publications.
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This page first published 16 April 2004, last updated 18 July 2013