1380.0.55.008 - Perspectives on Regional Australia: Business Owners in Regions, 2011  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 20/08/2013  First Issue
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  • Explanatory Notes



The Census aims to collect information about every person in Australia on Census Night, including where they live and work and the arrangements under which they work in their main job. In the Census, owners of unincorporated businesses are defined as "owner managers of an unincorporated business," which means people whose main job is to operate their own "business entity in which the owner and the business are legally inseparable, so that the owner is liable for any business debts that are incurred. It includes those engaged independently in a profession or trade" (Census Dictionary, 2011, cat. no. 2901.0).

The 2011 Census data used in this article provides a snapshot of owners of unincorporated businesses in August, 2011. As well as identifying people who work in an unincorporated business as their main job, the Census provides information about people's age, gender and the industry they work in. The Census collects information about the incomes people earn; however, as this is total income and does not identify income from unincorporated businesses, income reported in the Census is not used in this article.

Data quality issues may arise when people do not adequately respond to Census questions. In 2011, approximately 5% of people did not state whether they were employed and, of those who did, less than half a percent (0.4%) did not state whether they worked in their own business or for someone else.

Census data presented in this article excludes overseas visitors and people aged under 15 years (as they are not considered part of the labour force) and may have been adjusted to avoid the release of confidential data.


Estimates of Personal Income for Small Areas contains data collected when people submit a personal income tax assessment to the Australian Taxation Office. This data includes the number of income earners in regions, the amount of income earned and the sources of income, such as wages and salaries, income from unincorporated businesses and investments.

Income earners are a count of the people who earn income from a source included in Estimates of Personal Income. Some people who earn income are not included in Estimates of Personal Income data, such as people aged under 15 years, people who earn income but do not submit a personal income tax assessment (for example, if they earn below the tax-free threshold) and people who earn income from government pensions and allowances. In regions with a high proportion of income earners from these sources, the exclusion of these income earners may result in an overestimate of the proportion of business owners.

People who earn income from more than one source, such as people who earn a salary and also receive income from an unincorporated business, are counted in each relevant income category. This means that, unlike the Census, which identifies only business owners who manage a business as their main job, business owners identified in Estimates of Personal Income may carry out their business as a second job or source of supplementary income.

There is also a difference in timing between the two collections. The most recent Census data was collected in August, 2011. However, the most recent Estimates of Personal Income data refers to the 2009-10 financial year.

Income from unincorporated businesses is defined as "Own Unincorporated Business Income" and follows the ABS income standard (see Survey of Income and Housing Costs: User Guide (cat. no. 6553.0)). It includes the following items on the individual income tax return:
  • Net business income (or loss);
  • Distributions from partnerships and trusts for primary production (agricultural, forestry and fishing) activities;
  • Distributions from partnerships for non-primary production activities; and
  • Net personal services income.

Own Unincorporated Business Income excludes distributions from trusts for non-primary production activities as this income generally comes from a range of other activities (mainly investments). It also excludes the income of working directors/owners of incorporated businesses, whose income is included under wage and salary income.

For more information, see the explanatory notes of Estimates of Personal Income for Small Areas (cat. no. 6524.0.55.002).

Average incomes used in this article refer to the mean.

Estimates of Personal Income data used in this analysis may have been adjusted to avoid the release of confidential data.

This article looks at business ownership in Greater Capital City Statistical Areas (GCCSAs) and Statistical Areas level 4 (SA4s).

GCCSAs are used to show the differences between Greater Capital City regions and the rest of each state or territory. The Greater Capital City regions are not limited to the built-up areas of the capital cities, but include the capital cities and the nearby small towns and rural areas whose populations are likely to work, shop or socialise in the capital cities. Thus, they are designed to represent a socio-economic definition of the capital cities. There are 16 spatial GCCSA regions: 8 regions representing each of the Australian State and Territory capital city socio-economic regions and 8 regions covering the rest of each State and Territory, except for the Australian Capital Territory which is a single GCCSA region. As the Australian Capital Territory is a single GCCSA, territory figures are used in this article. There is also a GCCSA region for the "Other Territories" of Jervis Bay, Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Non-spatial GCCSA regions include Migratory - Offshore - Shipping and No Usual Address regions. People whose usual residence was in the Other Territories, Migratory - Offshore - Shipping and No Usual Address regions were included in the totals for Australia, but were not included in regional analysis presented in this article.

SA4s provide further breakdown of the GCCSA regions. SA4s were designed to provide sub-state socio-economic data, especially labour force data. An important aspect of their design was to include both the places where people live and where they work in these regions, so that SA4s could be used to represent labour markets or, where populations are small, groups of labour markets. There are 88 spatial SA4s in Australia, with a minimum of 100,000 residents. In metropolitan areas, SA4s tend to have between 300,000 and 500,000 residents; while in regional and remote areas they tend to have between 100,000 and 300,000 residents. There are non-spatial SA4s for Migratory - Offshore - Shipping and No Usual Address in each state and territory.

More information on the GCCSAs and SA4s is available in the Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS): Volume 1 - Main Structure and Greater Capital City Statistical Areas, Australia, July 2011 (cat. no. 1270.0.55.001).