1001.0 - Annual Report - ABS Annual Report, 2002-03  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 10/10/2003   
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Contents >> Section 1 - Summary of Operations >> Chapter 1 - Executive Summary - Statistical Developments in 2002-03

A major activity for the ABS in 2002-03 was the release and dissemination of the suite of products from the 2001 Census. A major highlight was the national launch in October 2002 of the 2001 Census Social Atlas series. The atlases provide a rich source of information on the social, economic and demographic characteristics of each capital city. The series was launched in Perth by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell with the release of the Perth and Sydney Social Atlases. The launch was particularly successful and innovative with live images beamed from Perth to waiting media in Sydney. Other major products released during the year were the key electronic releases of CDATA 2001 and CLIB2001, while community profiles were provided free of charge on the ABS web site.

The release of the final 2001 Census data also resulted in the release of revised estimated resident populations for all states and territories for the period September quarter 1996 to June quarter 2001, and the rebasing of estimates for subsequent periods. The revisions to population estimates always attract interest due to the political and financial implications and a special article describing the processes involved in determining the estimated resident population appears in Chapter 4.

The ABS continued to expand its analytical capability in 2002-03 with a number of significant research projects completed during the year. Some of the more significant outcomes included estimates of the distribution of household wealth and the value of Australia’s human capital, as well as a number of reviews of the predictive performance of various ABS leading indicators, such as job vacancies and business expectations. Other important work undertaken during the year included the updating and review of socioeconomic indexes for areas, due to be published in late 2003, and research into a range of issues affecting price indexes and measures of industry multifactor productivity.

During 2002-03 the ABS used the national accounts satellite account concept to highlight the contribution of a number of key sectors in the Australian economy. In November 2002 Australian National Accounts: Non-Profit Institutions Satellite Account (cat. no. 5256.0) was published for the first time. The publication is designed to provide a more comprehensive picture of the nonprofit sector than what is available in the national accounts. The ABS is the first national statistical office to publish such an account. In June 2003 the ABS published the 2001-02 edition Australian National Accounts: Tourism Satellite Account (cat. no. 5249.0). In addition to these two publications a feature article was published in the December quarter 2002 Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product (cat. no. 5206.0) detailing work on an Information and Communication Technology satellite account.

Other feature articles published in the quarterly national accounts publication (cat. no. 5206.0) included an assessment of the impact of the drought on agricultural production in the national accounts, accounting for the environment in the national accounts, and a quality assessment of the national accounts against the International Monetary Fund’s Data Quality Assessment Framework.

Image - Dennis Trewin, Ian Campbell, Col Nagle at Census Social Atlas series launch in Perth

A number of feature articles were also published in International Merchandise Trade, Australia (cat. no. 5422.0) including experimental statistics on Australia’s exporters and importers and their characteristics, as well as an analysis of the export and import currencies used for merchandise trade. Also published in the September quarter 2002 Balance of Payments and International Investment Position, Australia (cat. no. 5302.0) was a feature article on the characteristics of foreign ownership of equity.

A feature article which presented living cost indexes for selected Australian household types was published in the December 2002 edition of Australian Economic Indicators (cat. no. 1350.0). This article provided indexes for the Australian household types - employees, aged pensioners, other government transfer recipients, and self-funded retirees.

A particular focus of the ABS in the past few years has been an expansion in the use of administrative by-product data. Among other things, the use of administrative data has had an influence in reducing the reporting load on businesses in the past few years. Increasing use of administrative data has also assisted the ABS in producing new and innovative statistics and publications by enriching the data sources available. The previously mentioned article on Australia’s exporters and importers in the International Mechandise Trade publication is of particular significance given that the statistics are derived from administrative data sourced from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and the Australian Customs Service. Another set of statistics based on administrative data is contained in the publication Experimental Estimates, Regional Small Business Statistics, Australia (cat. no. 5675.0) released in 2002-03, which draws on ATO information to present small business estimates by industry division at statistical division, state and national level.

The ABS has developed an input data warehouse which incorporates a range of business taxation data in a confidential environment. It was established with a view to enhancing the possibility for confronting and analysing data and rationalising the reporting load on business. Other initiatives for reducing reporting load during 2002-03 included the transfer of a number of financial sector collections to the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority in place of collections previously run by the ABS and the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), and the cessation of the Business Expectations Survey. Reporting load on small businesses has also been reduced for a number of the annual industry collections such as mining and manufacturing through the use of business income tax data sourced from the ATO. During 2002-03 the ABS also undertook some focus studies with small-medium businesses to better understand the issues relating to provider load. One of the observations from that exercise was the need to give something back to business. In response the ABS provided a range of relevant census outputs to all small-medium businesses included in ABS collections.

The ABS has moved to incorporate the Australian Business Register, the whole of government register of businesses, as the principal source of update for the majority of businesses on the ABS Business Register. In addition, the Australian Business Number unit will be adopted as the principal statistical unit for the majority of businesses. These initiatives will lead to the opportunity for enhanced integration of data on business from diverse sources, and make it easier for businesses to complete ABS questionnaires.

During 2002-03 the ABS continued to expand the range of environmental information in response to ongoing demand. Two new publications were released: Salinity on Australian Farms (cat. no. 4615.0) and Environment by Numbers: Selected Articles on Australia’s Environment (cat. no. 4617.0). Salinity on Australian Farms presents information from the land management and salinity survey, conducted in 2002, which collected information from farmers on the extent of land showing signs of salinity as well as the strategies used by farmers to manage and prevent salinity. The ABS will be conducting an annual survey of the agricultural sector to address mainly natural resource management issues with the first survey to be conducted in respect of 2002-03. The survey will address different issues each year, with water issues being the focus in this initial year. The ABS has also developed an energy survey which will gather information on energy supply and use by Australian businesses. Data will be available by fuel type for most industries at the state and national level in early 2004.

An experimental framework for measuring the Knowledge-based Economy and Society, Discussion Paper: Measuring a Knowledge-based Economy and Society - An Australian Framework (cat. no. 1375.0) was released in August 2002. The aim of the framework is to enable assessment, through the use of relevant statistics, of the degree to which Australia is a knowledge-based economy and society.

A range of service industry publications were published in 2002-03. These included Accounting Practices, Australia (cat. no. 8668.0), Market Research Services, Australia (cat. no. 8556.0), Consultant Engineering Services, Australia (cat. no. 8693.0) and Legal Practices, Australia (cat. no. 8667.0).

The ABS is actively planning for the use of Computer Assisted Interviewing (CAI) for its Monthly Population Survey (MPS). The use of CAI is expected to increase the quality of MPS data and provide opportunities for re-engineering the business processes to eventually reduce the cost of the survey and increase the flexibility and scope of the collection vehicle.

One of the objectives of the ABS is informed and increased use of statistics. The ABS achieves this through a variety of methods, however an important component is through collaborative work undertaken with other government agencies. The National Health Survey (NHS) was conducted last year in respect of 2001, through funding from, and close involvement of, the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing. Results of the survey were released in October 2002. The NHS also included an Indigenous component which will provide detailed and comparable information about the health of Indigenous people.

Development work also began on the 2004-05 Indigenous Health Survey which will comprise a much larger sample than the 2001 Indigenous component of the NHS. Other collaborative work undertaken during 2002-03 led to the publication of Occasional Paper: Hospital Statistics, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 1999-2000 (cat. no. 4711.0). The publication was prepared jointly by the ABS and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

During 2002-03 the ABS reviewed its position in respect of the release of microdata (unidentified unit records) from its household survey program. The review reflected concerns regarding the increasing availability of external databases with detailed personal and household information. In undertaking the review the ABS was very much aware of the need to behave in a manner that will retain the confidence of the Australian public in terms of the protection of their confidentiality. A major outcome of that review was the release, in March 2003, of the Remote Access Data Laboratory where users can analyse confidentialised ABS unit record files via a secure web arrangement. The potential conflict between researchers’ and analysts’ needs for microdata and the confidentiality obligations is discussed in more detail in a special article in Chapter 3.

Two major social surveys were conducted by the ABS in 2002 - the General Social Survey (GSS) and the Indigenous Social Survey (ISS). The GSS focused on a wide array of social issues including different aspects of personal and family wellbeing. The ISS had significant content overlap with the GSS and also with the 1994 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey to allow comparisons of Indigenous circumstances both over time, and with other non-Indigenous Australians. The results of both surveys are expected to be released in the latter half of 2003.

In 2002-03 the ABS completed a National Crime and Safety Survey with the results subsequently published in June 2003. The data collected provides information on reported and unreported crimes and the profile of victims. It will be used for the formulation of policies and strategies tailored to the overall incidence of crime, rather than just the number of incidents reported to police. It will also be used for evaluation and strategy development of criminal justice programs. The ABS also hosted a conference on ‘Evaluation in Crime and Justice: Trends and Methods’, organised by the Institute of Criminology.

A major ABS initiative in 2002-03 was the establishment of a National Ageing Statistics Unit and a National Children and Youth Statistics Unit to focus statistical attention on these important population groups. Outputs from these units include feature articles in Australian Social Trends (cat. no. 4102.0) on changes in labour force participation rates across generations and also youth migration. A report on the characteristics of the ageing population based on 2001 Census data is currently being finalised and will be released early in 2003-04.

During 2002-03 the ABS put in place a number of initiatives to review, and where appropriate, revise estimates from the ABS surveys of household income and expenditure. The investigations were aimed at ensuring comparability over time and consistency with international standards. The investigations resulted in the release of revised household income statistics for the period 1994-95 to 1999-2000 in the June 2003 edition of Australian Economic Indicators (cat. no. 1350.0). Results of the 2000-01 Survey of Income and Housing Costs were subsequently released in July 2003.

A number of new education and labour publications were released during 2002-03. A major development was a new quarterly labour market publication Australian Labour Market Statistics (cat. no. 6105.0), released in April 2003, presenting a wide range of data and feature articles covering employment, unemployment, underutilised labour, earnings, industrial relations and job vacancies. Access to monthly detailed data from the labour force survey was improved in 2002-03 with a new set of electronic products released (accessible from the ABS web site). A new sample for the monthly labour force survey was also introduced progressively over the period November 2002 to June 2003. The new sample was based on updated information from the 2001 Population Census, and was designed to achieve the same level of accuracy for national, state and territory estimates as the previous design based on 1996 Census information. This resulted in much greater volatility in the estimates than normal, and investigations have commenced into how this can be reduced when the next sample is introduced following the 2006 Population Census.

Another new publication, released in December 2002, is Education and Training Indicators, Australia (cat. no. 4230.0). This publication provides summary statistics and commentary from a wide range of ABS and non-ABS sources. The ABS also released Information Paper: Measuring Learning in Australia - A Framework for Education and Training Statistics (cat. no. 4213.0). The framework was a joint initiative of the ABS, the Department of Education, Science and Training, the Australian National Training Authority, and all state and territory education and training departments. The ABS also released Employer Training Expenditure and Practices, Australia, 2001-02 (cat. no. 6362.0) during the year. The publication is based on the 2001-02 Training Expenditure and Practices Survey and is consistent with the concepts outlined in the framework above.

The classifications published in 2001 in Australian Culture and Leisure Classifications (cat. no. 4902.0) continue to be implemented and promoted by the ABS. The classifications are already being used in the results from the ABS’ sports industries survey conducted in respect of 2000-01 and government funded collections for culture and recreation. In 2002-03 a collection of statistics on government funding for sport and recreation activities, facilities and services, was published in Sport and Recreation Funding by Government, Australia (cat. no. 4147.0) for the reference period 2000-01. The data in the publication are aligned, where possible, with the categories specified in Australian Culture and Leisure Classifications. A web site-based Directory of Culture and Leisure Statistics - Website Version (cat. no. 1143.0.55.001) was also released in 2002-03. The directory provides a reference for sources of culture and leisure data.

The ABS has made substantial progress on a number of draft Information Development Plans (IDPs) during 2002-03. IDPs assist in identifying issues and data gaps in particular areas assessed, and help provide strategies to address these issues and data deficiencies. Key features of IDPs are the close involvement of stakeholders in identifying the issues and the systematic review of all available, including non-ABS, datasets as potential solutions. Several draft IDPs for use in consultation with stakeholders are underway including agriculture, transport, tourism, rural and regional statistics, crime and justice, education and training, and ageing. Additionally the IDP for the Australian Capital Territory Department of Disability, Housing and Community Services was formally endorsed in May 2003, and as such is the first fully complete IDP prepared by the ABS.

One of the ABS’ key objectives is to provide an expanded and improved National Statistical Service (NSS). It aims to achieve this by improving the coordination of the collection, compilation and dissemination of statistics produced by other official bodies - a key function of the ABS under section 6(c) of the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975. The ABS recognises that it has an important leadership role in assisting agencies to make better use of their administrative data, particularly in terms of quality assurance and dissemination. During 2002-03 the ABS continued to progress the concept of the NSS through collaboration and consultation with key Commonwealth and state/territory stakeholders. These included:
  • the first meeting of the Commonwealth Statistical Forum, held to discuss cross cutting issues at the Commonwealth level, and attended by agencies with significant administrative data holdings

  • bilateral discussions with various Commonwealth and state agency heads about the NSS and the respective roles

  • broad consultation with other agency heads and discussion through other groups (such as the Statistical Clearing House user group, Australian Public Service (APS) Stats Network and outposted officers)

  • the canvassing of the NSS within state statistical forums.

The ABS has already made a number of significant developments which will assist further implementation of the NSS objectives, including:
  • detailed material to support NSS partners improve statistical practices

  • training programs to improve statistical and data management skills

  • an NSS web site

  • a web site-based Directory of Statistical Sources.

The NSS will be officially launched by the ABS later this year.

In terms of state/territory data needs the ABS has made significant headway in 2002-03. The second meeting of the State Statistical Forum (SSF) which commenced in 2002 was held. Some of the key data requirements identified through the SSF were improvement in the quality of state accounts and population estimates, regional labour force information and state/territory input-output statistics. The ABS is working with state/territory users in addressing those issues. During the year the ABS was also closely involved with state/territory governments in a range of consultancies and the development of specialised new products such as regional small business statistics and the characteristics of 'baby boomers'.

The ABS held two meetings of the Australian Statistics Advisory Council (ASAC) in 2002-03. These meetings are important to the ABS as they help to identify major economic, social and environmental issues which are of policy significance in the coming three to five years. In addition ASAC assists by advising the ABS on work priorities.

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