Survey Participant Information - Survey of Income and Housing


I've been chosen to be in something called the Survey of Income and Housing (SIH). Why?

If you are reading this it's likely to be because you have found a letter or pamphlet in your mailbox telling you that your household has been selected to participate in the Survey of Income and Housing. This survey is run every two years to provide Australians with vital information for understanding the housing, income and wealth circumstances of Australians.

The results from this survey are used extensively by government agencies, researchers, and non-government agencies (such as the Australian Council of Social Service) in your community to help plan for the future and support research into the economic wellbeing of all Australians.

Participant Information

Why was my household selected?

About 23,000 households will be randomly selected to be included in the Survey of Income and Housing. This means that every household in Australia has the same chance of being selected in the survey. If your household has been selected to be in this survey, it means that the people in your household will represent households that are similar to yours. This is so that statistics about larger groups in the community can be produced.

Who in the household will be required to participate?

The first part of the survey will ask a household representative who knows the most about your household’s finances, to answer questions about living arrangements, mortgage or rent costs, and rates payments.

The rest of the survey will ask each person in your household aged 15 years and older to answer questions about their education, employment, income and other circumstances.

How will the ABS contact me?

Each selected household will receive a Survey Guide in the mail which will give an overview of the Survey of Income and Housing and how we collect the information for the survey. A registration letter will arrive in the mail shortly after and this will provide information on how you can create an ABS Survey Account, and access the survey online. Alternatively you can contact the ABS if you prefer for the survey to be conducted by an interviewer at your house.

If you forget to complete the survey online, we will send a reminder letter encouraging you to complete the survey as soon as possible. If you don’t complete the survey by the due date on the letter, an interviewer may visit your house or call to arrange a suitable time to conduct the survey.

How can I complete my survey?

Completing the survey online through an ABS Survey Account means that your household can complete the survey at a time and place that is convenient for you.

If you choose to complete this survey online, your household representative, who knows the most about the household’s finances, will create one online ABS Survey Account for everyone in your household to use. The household representative will then access the survey online and answer the first part of the survey about the household. Each person in your household aged 15 years and older will then be asked to answer questions about their education, employment, income and other circumstances.

What if I cannot do this survey online?

If you can’t get online to access the survey please call us on 1800 462 609 to discuss other ways to participate. If you don’t call us, an interviewer will visit your address to make a time to complete the survey. The interviewer will identify themselves as an ABS interviewer, confirm your address, and show you their official ABS photo identification. They will then complete the survey with you using a laptop. It would be appreciated if you could provide a table and chair to the interviewer if possible.

What are you going to ask about?

The SIH collects a range of information about the economic wellbeing of Australian households, covering income, wealth, housing conditions and housing costs.

The SIH includes questions about:
  • Tenure type (owning, buying or renting your home)
  • How adequate the household income is in comparison to living costs
  • Housing costs and condition (e.g. need for repairs)
  • The wealth (e.g. cars, property or other assets) and financial security of the household

In addition, detailed demographic and socio-demographic data (age, country of birth, education, employment, income and housing) are collected to enable analysis of the economic wellbeing of key groups of interest such as the elderly, government payment recipients and low income families.

What financial records will I need?

To complete the Survey of Income and Housing more efficiently, you may need to refer to some of your current or recent financial records. You will not be required to show these to an interviewer.

Below are some examples of records that you may need:
  • Housing – water rates, water consumption account, general council rates notice, body corporate notice, contents insurance policy details, rental payment statement.
  • Household Finances/Loans - current mortgage statements and housing loan contracts, loan account statements including business loans secured against the dwelling, investment loans, rental property loans, personal loans, car loans, and offset accounts.
  • Income – pay slip or advice, superannuation account statements, details of any salary sacrifice arrangements, severance, termination or redundancy statements, Centrelink payment advice notices including statements for advance payments received, Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) payment advice notices, Family Tax Benefit statements, Paid Parental Leave Scheme details.
  • Personal finances – HECS-HELP or FEE-Help higher education liability statement, statements or passbooks from banks, building societies or credit unions, credit card and charge account statements, statements showing returns on investments such as silent partnerships, trusts, shares, dividends, bonds and debentures.
  • Child care – child care receipt, bill or statement.

What happens if there are people in the household who don't speak English?

Please call 1800 462 609 for more information on ways to complete the survey.

Will I be paid for my time?

No. As with other household surveys, the ABS relies on the willing co-operation of households.

I don't want to participate. Can you choose another household?

It is very important to make sure that every household in Australia has an equal chance of being selected for this survey. This means that when all the selected houses are combined, the survey will resemble the whole community which they represent. Once your household has been selected, another household cannot be substituted in its place, as other households have already had their chance of being selected, and this could mean that some parts of the community are under or over represented.

The February 2019 Survey of Income and Housing is not compulsory. However important decisions, such as government funding in your local area, depend on your participation. Your answers to the survey will help shape your community.

How will you keep my information safe, secure, and confidential?

The ABS takes the security of the information you provide to us very seriously. The questions included in this survey are asked under the authority of the Census and Statistics Act 1905. Under the Act, the ABS is required to maintain the secrecy of all information provided to us and no information will be released in a way that would enable an individual or household to be identified.

All ABS employees have signed a legally enforceable Undertaking of Fidelity and Security, in which they agree to keep any information, including personal information which they may deal with in the course of their work, private and confidential. This agreement applies to ABS employees for the rest of their lives, even if they leave the ABS. The penalty for breaching this is two years jail, a $21,600 fine, or both.

The ABS complies with the Australian Privacy Principles. If you believe the ABS has breached these principles, you can find information on how to lodge a complaint here. This link also provides more detail on the ABS's own Privacy Policy.

The Results

Can you show me some examples of the ways in which the survey information is used?

Here are some examples of the ways in which the ABS publishes findings from the survey:
Household Income and Wealth: Key findings
Australian Social Trends: Who has household debt?

Here are some examples of how other organisations use the data:
The Conversation: The facts on Australian housing affordability
Australian Council of Social Services and UNSW Sydney: Inequality in Australia 2018

Where can I get more information?

If you want further information about this survey, please call 1800 462 609 (free call, excluding mobile phones).

For more information about participating in ABS surveys, see the Household Survey Participant Information FAQ's

For more information about the Survey of Income and Housing, see the Survey of Income and Housing User Guide