2947.0 - Census Working Paper 99/2 - 1996 Census: Labour Force Status, 1996  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 15/04/1999   
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Census Working Paper 99/2


Jessica Carew,
Richard Woods,
Brendan Brady

April 1999


Within this paper, various aspects of the quality of labour force data collected in the 1996 Census of Population and Housing have been examined. The effects of various changes made between the 1991 and 1996 Census labour force components have been analysed, and comparison has also been made with data from the 1996 Census and the August 1996 Labour Force Survey. The changes made to the labour force status questions for the 1996 Census yielded mainly positive results. The main conclusions of the analyses were as follows:

    • The changes made to the labour force status questions helped to significantly reduce non-response rates for other related census questions such as 'Hours Worked', Method of travel to Work', 'Occupation' and 'Industry'.
    • The introduction of the 'Availability to Start Work' question greatly assisted in determining whether or not a person was either unemployed or not in the labour force as well as improving the comparability of Census Labour Force data and Monthly Labour Force Survey (MLFS) data
    • Changing the 'Hours Worked' question so that it asked for the number of hours worked in all jobs (rather than just the main job) helped to reduce the non-response rate for this question as well as improving the comparability of Census Labour Force data and MLFS data.
    • The 1996 Census non-response rate for Labour Force Status was comparable to the 1991 Census (2.4% in 1996 compared to 2.3% in 1991). The non-response rate for male respondents rose slightly from 2.1% to 2.6% and declined slightly for female respondents from 2.6% to 2.2%.
    • The addition of the Limited Liability component to the 1996 Census 'Job Last Week' question resulted in the 1996 Census overstating the number of employees and understating the number of employers and self employed in comparison to the MLFS. This appears to be the result of a significant number of respondents identifying themselves as being employed in a limited liability company (with or without employees) and thus being coded as Employees, when in fact, they were not employed in a limited liability and were thus either Employers or Own Account Workers.
    • Evaluation of the labour force component in future censuses will include continued monitoring of the performance of sequencing patterns, question design and non-response rates to establish the most effective sequence. The 1996 Census changes involving limited liability companies do appear to have confused respondents and may not have improved data on status in employment. Alternative approaches to distinguishing people employed in their own businesses are being investigated as part of the 2001 Census Testing program.