1269.0 - Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC), 2016  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/06/2016   
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The Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC) has a three-level hierarchical structure that consists of major groups, minor groups and countries.

Major Group

The major group level is the highest level of the classification. Each of the nine major groups of the classification contains between two and six geographically proximate minor groups.

Minor Group

The minor group level is the middle level of the classification. Each of the 27 minor groups of the classification contains approximately five to twenty country categories.


The country level is the base level of the classification. There are 255 country categories including four residual ('not elsewhere classified') categories. Residual categories are explained in 'About Codes'.

Hierarchical LevelExample

Major Group5South-East Asia
Minor Group51Mainland South-East Asia


The main criterion by which SACC categories are aggregated to form broader levels of the classification is geographic proximity. The SACC structure is designed to ensure that progressively higher levels of the classification reflect progressively broader geographical units. For example, the principal reason that Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam are aggregated within the minor group '51 Mainland South-East Asia' is that these countries are in close geographic proximity with one another. Countries and minor groups that are not in close geographic proximity with one another are not aggregated within the same level of the classification.

Another important criterion of classification used within the SACC is that of category groups reflecting some level of shared social, cultural, economic or political common ground. This criterion is secondary to the principle of geographic proximity and it is not applied uniformly across the classification. Nevertheless, this criterion can be used to guide the composition of major groups and minor groups where the principle of geographic proximity alone may be insufficient.

An example of the application of this secondary criterion is the organisation of Pacific countries at the minor group level of the classification. In broad terms, the cultural geography of the Pacific can be understood in terms of its Melanesian, Micronesian and Polynesian heritage. These broad cultural contours of the Pacific inform the structure of the classification such that 'Melanesia', 'Micronesia', and 'Polynesia' are each separately listed as minor groups within the 'Oceania and Antarctica' major group of the classification.

In summary, the minor groups and major groups of the classification generally represent geographically contiguous groups of countries or regions that share some social, cultural, economic or political characteristics.


As a general principle, a classification used for the dissemination of statistics should not have categories at the same level in its hierarchy which are too disparate in their population size. That is, similar numbers of real world entities should be classified to each category at a particular level. This approach serves to minimise large variations in standard errors and the suppression of cells in statistical tables at particular levels of the structure when using output from sample surveys. It also allows the classification to be used effectively for the cross-tabulation of aggregate data and the dissemination of data from sample surveys.

Categories which have been defined to reflect the real world, however, will not always be statistically balanced. To force categories to conform to size limitations would mean that the categories would not always be meaningful or useful.

In developing the SACC, a balance between these competing requirements was sought. The application of the classification criteria generally led to a balanced classification structure. However, considerations of statistical balance, practicality and usefulness were also used in developing the structure including:
  • splitting Europe into two major groups
  • combining the two American continents to form one major group, and
  • creating the minor group 'United Kingdom, Channel Island and Isle of Man' due to its statistical significance in Australian migration.

2011 Census data for 'Birthplace' aggregated to the SACC major group level are:

SACC Major Group
2011 Census 'Birthplace' Counts

1 Oceania and Antarctica
15 630 945
2 North-West Europe
1 441 874
3 Southern and Eastern Europe
689 180
4 North Africa and the Middle East
305 869
5 South-East Asia
701 865
6 North-East Asia
535 484
7 Southern and Central Asia
500 745
8 Americas
223 749
9 Sub-Saharan Africa
272 520

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