Survey Participant Information - General Social Survey


What is the General Social Survey?

If you are reading this, then it's likely that you have received a letter or pamphlet from the Australian Bureau of Statistics advising that your household has been selected to participate in the General Social Survey.

This survey has been run every four years since 2002 and provides the community with vital information for measuring the social characteristics and well-being of people in Australia. The survey provides key decision makers with an understanding of the nature of advantage and disadvantage across Australia’s population and explores the opportunities people have to participate in society. The survey asks how people feel about different aspects of their lives and collects data on social, civic and community participation, support, and feelings of trust and life satisfaction.

Data from this survey can be used to understand links between the different aspects of people's lives. Understanding the factors that determine social outcomes is essential to social policy research and development. The results from the survey are used extensively by government agencies, researchers, service providers and other organisations to help plan for the future and help us all live healthier, happier, and longer lives.

Participant Information

Why was my household selected?

About 20,000 households will be randomly selected to be included in the General Social Survey. 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.

How will the ABS contact me?

Each selected household will receive a Survey Guide in the mail, which will give an overview of the General Social Survey and how we collect the information for the survey. A registration letter will arrive shortly after and this will provide information on how you can access the survey online.

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

Who in the household will be required to participate?

The survey information sent to you will ask a household representative to complete the first part of the survey online. This part of the survey will include basic demographic questions about everyone in your household. Following this, a person from your household aged 15 years or older will be randomly selected to complete the second part of the survey. The second part of the survey includes more detailed questions on the social characteristics of the selected person. If the selected person is 15-17 years, we will ask for the consent of a parent or guardian.

What if I cannot do this survey online?

If you can’t get online to access the survey please call us on 1800 642 381.

What information are you going to collect?

The General Social Survey collects a range of information about the social characteristics and well-being of people in Australia.

This survey includes questions about:
- family and community
- disability
- education
- discrimination
- volunteering
- contact with family and friends
- time stress
- trust

The survey also asks for demographic and socio-demographic information such as age, country of birth, education, employment, income and housing. This information allows decision makers to assess the social needs of certain community groups such as the elderly, recent migrants and low income families.

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

Please call us on 1800 642 381.

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 General Social Survey in 2019 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:

General Social Survey: Summary Results, Australia 2014

Here are some examples of how other organisations use the data: