Administrative Data Research for the 2021 Census

The ABS is currently researching how administrative data could be used to improve the Australian Census.

What is administrative data?

Administrative data refers to information maintained by governments and other entities that is made available to the ABS for statistical purposes. It includes data used for registrations, transactions and record keeping, usually during the delivery of a service.

Why are we doing this?

The ABS has traditionally made extensive use of government administrative data to produce our national statistics. Administrative data can improve and expand the range of statistics we provide to the Australian community, while reducing the cost to the taxpayer and burden on potential respondents to surveys and censuses. Our Corporate Plan outlines our commitment to harnessing the power of these data as sources continue to become available.

The Census is the biggest and highest profile statistical collection run by the ABS, collecting data from millions of Australians and their households once every 5 years. These data are critical to informing the planning and delivery of Government and community services, business decisions and academic research. Better data means better decisions to improve the lives of Australians.

How will it help to improve the next Census?

International experience suggests that administrative data has the potential to enhance the operational efficiency and value of the Census for the Australian community. Our research will be investigating the potential of these data to:

Improve the quality of Census data

Add new information to the Census

Reduce the cost and burden of running the Census to taxpayers

    Provide a contingency for areas affected by a natural disaster or other emergency event at Census time

    The research is in line with international initiatives in countries such as Canada, the United Kingdom and New Zealand.


    How are we conducting this research?

    The ABS will be assessing the quality of available administrative data sources and then linking these data with the 2016 Census to undertake analysis. This research will be conducted by approved users within a secure ABS environment.

    The ABS takes data security very seriously and the protection of privacy is the ABS’ highest priority. All administrative data projects comply with legislation, including the Census and Statistics Act 1905 and the Privacy Act 1988.

    Keeping you informed

    The results of our research, including independent privacy impact assessments, and any subsequent plans to use administrative data, will be progressively released in the lead up to the 2021 Census.

    Possible upcoming information papers include the following topics:

    Can administrative data improve the count of people in Australia on Census night?

    How could administrative data help the ABS reduce the number of visits to empty houses?

    Census content: What is already available from administrative data?

    An assessment of the privacy implications of combining administrative data with the Census.

    More information: Learn about Data Integration at the ABS.