4130.0 - Housing Occupancy and Costs, 2009-10  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 16/11/2011   
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1 This publication presents the housing costs and characteristics of households and persons resident in private dwellings in Australia, compiled from the 2009-10 and earlier Surveys of Income and Housing. The survey collected information on sources of income, amounts received, housing costs and characteristics of persons aged 15 years and over. Households in very remote areas are excluded.

2 The Household Expenditure Survey and Survey of Income and Housing, User Guide, Australia, 2009-10 (cat. no. 6503.0) is available to assist users evaluate and interpret results from this survey.

3 The SIH was conducted continuously from 1994-95 to 1997-98, and then in 1999-2000, 2000-01, 2002-03, 2003-04, 2005-06, 2007-08 and 2009-10. The 2009-10 SIH collected information from a sample of 18,071 households over the period July 2009 to June 2010. The SIH is now conducted every two years.

4 The 2009-10 SIH was integrated with the Household Expenditure Survey (HES), as it was in 2003-04. The 2007-08 SIH was run as a stand alone survey, as it was in 2005-06 and will be again in 2011-12.

5 The ABS will collect additional housing information in the SIH every six years. Additional housing topics were last collected in 2007-08, which included housing mobility, housing condition and dwelling characteristics, home purchase for first home buyers, loan financing for owners with a mortgage and rental arrangements. The summary data was published in Housing Mobility and Conditions, Australia, 2007-08 (cat. no. 4130.0.55.002) in November 2009.

6 Other household collections conducted by the ABS which cover housing are:

  • Census of Population and Housing, 2006
  • General Social Survey, 2010
  • Australian Housing Survey, 1994 and 1999.

7 Household collections conducted by the ABS which cover housing for Indigenous Australians are:
  • Community Housing and Infrastructure Needs Survey, 1999, 2001 and 2006
  • National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, 2002 and 2008.

8 Care should be taken when comparing data from the different sources due to the different methodologies used in these collections.

Changes in this issue

9 Key changes in this issue include:
  • an increase in sample size from 9,345 households in 2007-08 to 18,071 households in 2009-10 due to an expansion in the SIH sample for an extra 4,200 households, located outside capital cities as well as an additional sample of metropolitan households whose main source of income was a government pension, benefit and/or allowance
  • the inclusion of a benchmark for the value of government benefit cash transfers to ensure that the survey estimate of government benefit cash transfers is maintained at a proportion of aggregate benefit cash transfers that is consistent with previous SIH cycles (this benchmark was last used in the 2000-01 SIH)
  • additional housing topics collected in 2007-08, including housing mobility, housing condition and dwelling characteristics, home purchase for first home buyers, loan financing for owners with a mortgage and rental arrangements, were not collected in 2009-10
  • disability questions for persons aged 15 years and over were asked in the 2009-10 SIH.


10 The concepts and definitions relating to the statistics in this publication are described in the following section. Other definitions are included in the Glossary.


11 The household is the basic unit of analysis in this publication. A household consists of one or more persons, at least one of whom is at least 15 years of age, usually resident in the same private dwelling. The persons in a household may or may not be related. They must live wholly within one dwelling. A group of people who make common provision for food and other essentials of living but live in two separate dwellings are in two separate households.

12 The household is adopted as the basic unit of analysis because it is assumed that sharing of the use of goods and services occurs at this level. If smaller units, say persons, are adopted, then it is difficult to know how to attribute to individual household members the use of shared items such as food, accommodation and household goods. Intra-household transfers, however, are excluded. For example, if one member of the household were to pay board to another member of the same household then this is not considered as an increase in the amount of income or housing costs of the household. If such transfers were to be included there would be double counting.

Income unit

13 Although the household has been adopted as the basic level of analysis in this publication, tenure data have been included on an income unit basis in table 36. An income unit is a single person or a group of related persons within a household, whose command over income is assumed to be shared. Income sharing is assumed to take place within married (registered or defacto) couples, and between parents and their dependent children. The income unit is similar, but not identical, to the unit used in determining the eligibility of people for many government pensions and allowances such as Centrelink payments.

Housing costs

14 Housing costs are the recurrent outlays by household members in providing for their shelter for themselves. The data collected on housing outlays in the SIH are limited to major outlays on housing, that is, mortgage repayments, rent, property and water rates as well as body corporate fees. Housing costs are shown in this publication as weekly equivalents.

15 Only payments which relate to the dwelling occupied by the household at time of interview, that is, a respondent's usual place of residence, are included. Housing costs only include mortgage/loan payments if the purpose of the loan at the time it was initially taken out was primarily to buy, build, add to or alter the occupied dwelling.

16 There are a number of limitations to the housing costs information obtained in the SIH, due to practical data collection considerations. These limitations should be especially borne in mind when comparing the housing costs of different tenure and landlord types, that is, when comparing the costs of owner occupiers with the costs of renting households, and when comparing the costs of households renting from state and territory housing authorities with the costs of other renters.
  • Households are sometimes reimbursed some or all of their housing costs. Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA), paid by the Australian Government to qualifying recipients of income support payments and family tax benefit, is the most important type of reimbursement of relevance to these statistics. If rent assistance receipts were subtracted from gross housing costs, it has been estimated that the housing costs of households receiving rent assistance would be about 30% lower on average, and the housing costs of all households renting from landlords other than the state/territory authorities would be about 10% lower on average.
  • Mortgage repayments made by owners with a mortgage include both the interest component and the principal or capital component. For many purposes it is more appropriate to consider repayments of principal as a form of saving rather than as a recurrent housing cost. It reflects the purchase of a housing asset by increasing the equity in the property held by the household and is an addition to the wealth of the occupants. The 2009-10 SIH indicated that about 33% of the housing costs of owners with a mortgage comprised repayments of the principal on loans. The equivalent proportions in 2007-08, 2005-06 and 2003-04 were 32%, 36% and 40% respectively.
  • A fuller measure of housing costs would include a range of outlays necessary to ensure that the dwelling can continue to provide an appropriate level of housing services. These include repairs, maintenance, and dwelling insurance, and are costs that tend to be incurred by owner occupier households but not by renting households. HES data shows that if these costs were added to SIH housing costs estimates, the estimates of average housing costs would be more than doubled for owners without a mortgage and would increase by about 13% for owners with a mortgage.

Housing costs and household income

17 Housing costs are often a major component of total living costs. Therefore housing costs are often analysed as a proportion of total income, sometimes referred to as affordability ratios. However, comparisons between these measures are subject to the limitations of housing cost estimates obtained in the SIH that are described in the previous paragraph. Housing affordability ratios derived from SIH data are further impacted by the inclusion of CRA in the value of income collected. CRA is estimated, on average, to represent about 8% of the reported income of households receiving CRA and about 2% of the reported income of all households renting from landlords other than the state/territory authorities.

18 To illustrate the difficulties discussed above, consider two couples that are renting their dwellings. Both receive government pensions of $400 per week. One rents from a public housing authority and pays rent of $100 per week. The other pays $135 rent per week to a private landlord and receives CRA of $35 per week. In SIH, the housing costs of the latter household would be recorded as $135 and their income would be recorded as $435. The couple renting from the public housing authority has a housing costs/income ratio of 25%. The housing costs/income ratio for the latter household would be derived as 31%. However, if CRA receipts are excluded from housing costs and income the housing costs/income ratio for the latter couple is also 25%, highlighting that there is no substantive difference between the housing costs or income situation of the two couples. The treatment of CRA is of particular importance when considering changes in affordability ratios over time, since there has been a shift from providing public housing to providing CRA as a means of supplying affordable housing to low income people.

19 While housing costs can be a major component of total living costs, the difference between the housing costs of a larger household and a smaller household would not be expected to be as great as the difference in many other costs, such as food or clothing. In other words, larger households can be expected to experience economies of scale in the supply of housing. This means that if a larger household and smaller household both have the same standard of living, it could be expected that on average the larger household will have a lower housing costs/income ratio. Therefore relatively high housing costs/income ratios are more of a concern with respect to larger households than smaller households. This should be borne in mind when comparing ratios across different household sizes.

20 In comparing households' housing costs with their income, it should be noted that households have a variety of housing preferences. Some people may choose to live in an area with high property values because it is close to their place of employment and therefore they have lower transport costs. Some people choose to incur relatively high housing costs because they prefer a relatively high standard of housing compared with other consumption possibilities. High mortgage repayments might reflect a choice to purchase a relatively expensive home, or pay off a mortgage relatively rapidly, as a form of investment.

21 In this issue, households with nil or negative income have been excluded from calculations of housing costs as a proportion of gross income. These households make up 0.5% of all households.

22 Some households report extremely low income in the survey, which places them well below the safety net of income support by social security pensions and allowances. As explained in paragraphs 45 to 48 below, the incomes of these people are not always an appropriate indicator of the economic resources available to them. These households are likely to have high housing costs/income ratios.

Housing stress

23 Households with relatively low income, and housing costs greater than a certain proportion of income, often 30%, are sometimes said to be in "housing stress". Table 5 provides information on housing costs as a proportion of gross income separately for all and lower income households. (Lower income households are defined here as those containing the 30% of people with equivalised disposable household income between the 10th and 40th percentiles). However, such measures should be interpreted with care because of the lack of comparability of the ratios across tenure and landlord types and the difficulties of comparing across different household sizes, as described in the previous paragraphs.

Housing utilisation

24 The concept of housing utilisation in this publication is based upon a comparison of the number of bedrooms in a dwelling with a series of household demographics such as the number of usual residents, their relationship to one another, age and sex. There is no single standard or measure for housing utilisation. However the Canadian National Occupancy Standard presented in this publication is widely used internationally.

25 The Canadian National Occupancy Standard for housing appropriateness is sensitive to both household size and composition. The measure assesses the bedroom requirements of a household by specifying that:
  • there should be no more than two persons per bedroom
  • children less than 5 years of age of different sexes may reasonably share a bedroom
  • children less than 18 years of age and of the same sex may reasonably share a bedroom
  • single household members 18 and over should have a separate bedroom, as should parents or couples
  • a lone person household may reasonably occupy a bed sitter.

26 Households living in dwellings where this standard cannot be met are considered to be overcrowded.

Tenure type and landlord type

27 The concept of housing tenure is based on the type of legal right of the occupant/s to occupy the dwelling. Tenure is determined according to whether the unit (household, income unit or person) owns the dwelling outright, owns the dwelling but has a mortgage or loan secured against it, is paying rent to live in the dwelling or has some other arrangement to occupy the dwelling.

28 In this publication, tenure information is provided at both the household and income unit levels. Person level tenure was also enumerated in the 2009-10 SIH and is available on the CURF. Tenure information at household, income unit and person levels enables users to analyse within household tenure arrangements, such as subletting and boarding.

29 Owners are divided into two categories - owners with mortgages and owners without mortgages. A household's tenure type is owner with a mortgage if there is any outstanding mortgage or loan secured against the dwelling. This mortgage or loan may have been initially obtained primarily for either the purchase or the building of the dwelling, or for undertaking alterations or additions, or for some other purpose such as the purchase of a vehicle or an investment property. However, mortgage payments where the initial purpose of the loan was not primarily for housing are not treated as housing costs. A household's tenure type is owner without a mortgage if there are no loans or mortgages secured against the dwelling.

30 Renters are occupants who pay money as rent to another person or organisation, referred to as the landlord, in return for being allowed to occupy the dwelling. Renters can be further classified according to type of landlord. The landlord may be a relative or an unrelated person in another dwelling, or can be a real estate agency, a state or territory housing authority, a community organisation, a trust, or an employer.


31 Household income consists of all current receipts, whether monetary or in kind, that are received by the household or by individual members of the household, and which are available for, or intended to support, current consumption.

32 Income includes receipts from:
  • wages and salaries and other receipts from employment (whether from an employer or own incorporated enterprise), including income provided as part of salary sacrifice and/or salary package arrangements
  • profit/loss from own unincorporated business (including partnerships)
  • net investment income (interest, rent, dividends, royalties)
  • government pensions and allowances
  • private transfers (e.g. superannuation, workers' compensation, income from annuities, child support, and financial support received from family members not living in the same household).

33 Receipts of family tax benefit are treated as income, regardless of whether they are received fortnightly or as a lump sum. The aged persons' savings bonus and self-funded retirees' supplementary bonus, paid as part of the introduction of The New Tax System in 2000-01, are regarded as capital transfers as they were designed to help retired people maintain the value of their savings and investments following the introduction of the GST. However, the one-off payment to older Australians paid in 2000-01, 2005-06, and 2007-08, the one-off payment to families paid since 2003-04, the one-off payments to carers paid since 2003-04, and the one-off stimulus payments paid in 2008-09 and 2009-10 on 2007-08 taxable income are included as income as they were primarily a supplement to existing income support payments. The Baby Bonus (formerly known as the Maternity Payment) introduced in July 2004 is also included as income.

Weekly income

34 Income is collected using a number of different reporting periods, such as the whole financial year for own unincorporated business and investment income, and the usual payment for a period close to time of interview for wages and salaries, other sources of private income and government pensions and allowances. The income reported is divided by the number of weeks in the reporting period. Estimates of weekly income in this publication therefore do not refer to a given week within the reference year of the survey.

Gross income

35 Gross income is the sum of the income from all sources before income tax and the Medicare levy have been deducted. Prior to 2005-06, family tax benefit paid through the tax system or as a lump sum was excluded from gross income for practical reasons but deducted in deriving disposable income. Since 2005-06, these payments have been included in gross income.

Disposable income

36 Disposable income better represents the economic resources available to meet the needs of households. It is derived by deducting estimates of personal income tax and the Medicare levy from gross income. The Medicare levy surcharge was also calculated and deducted from gross income while calculating disposable income (as it was for the first time in 2007-08).

37 Income tax is estimated for all households using taxation criteria for 2009-10 and the income and other characteristics of household members reported in the survey.

38 Prior to 2005-06 the derivation of disposable income also included the addition of family tax benefit paid through the tax system or as a lump sum by Centrelink since, for practical reasons, it was not included in the gross income estimates.

39 Note that while child support and other transfers from other households are included in the income of the households receiving the transfers, they are not deducted from the incomes of the households making the transfers in deriving disposable income.

Equivalised disposable income

40 Analyses by income quintile in this publication use equivalised disposable income rather than gross or disposable income since it enables comparison of the relative economic wellbeing of households of different size and composition. Equivalised disposable income is calculated by adjusting disposable income by the application of an equivalence scale. This adjustment reflects the requirement for a larger household to have a higher level of income to achieve the same standard of living as a smaller household. Where disposable income is negative, it is set to zero equivalised disposable income.

41 When household income is adjusted according to an equivalence scale, the equivalised income can be viewed as an indicator of the economic resources available to a standardised household. For a lone person household, it is equal to income received. For a household comprising more than one person, equivalised income is an indicator of the household income that would be required by a lone person household in order to enjoy the same level of economic wellbeing as the household in question.

42 Errors in processing the 2007-08 income estimates have been corrected, resulting in an average increase of $3 for mean equivalised disposable household income across all households. This was reflected largely in a 1.3% increase in the mean equivalised disposable household income of households in the highest quintile.

43 For more information on the use of equivalence scales, readers are referred to Appendix 2 in Household Expenditure Survey and Survey of Income and Housing, User Guide, Australia, 2009-10 (cat. no. 6503.0).

Lowest income decile

44 While equivalised income generally provides a useful indicator of economic wellbeing, there are some circumstances which present particular difficulties. Some households report extremely low and even negative income in the survey, which places them well below the safety net of income support provided by social security pensions and allowances. Households may under report their incomes in the survey at all income levels, including low income households. However, households can correctly report low levels of income if they incur losses in their unincorporated business or have negative returns from their other investments.

45 Studies of income and expenditure reported in HES surveys have shown that such households in the bottom income decile and with negative gross incomes tend to have expenditure levels that are comparable to those of households with higher income levels (and slightly above the average expenditures recorded for the fifth income decile). This suggests that these households have access to economic resources such as wealth, or that the instance of low or negative income is temporary, perhaps reflecting business or investment start up. Other households in the lowest income decile in past surveys had average incomes at about the level of the single pension rate, were predominantly single person households, and their main source of income was largely government pensions and allowances. However, on average, these households also had expenditures above the average of the households in the second income decile, which is not inconsistent with the use of assets to maintain a higher standard of living than implied by their incomes alone.

46 It can therefore be reasonably concluded that many of the households included in the lowest income decile are unlikely to be suffering extremely low levels of economic wellbeing. Income distribution analysis may lead to inappropriate conclusions if such households are used as the basis for assessing low levels of economic wellbeing. For this reason, tables showing statistics classified by income quintile include a supplementary category comprising the second and third income deciles, which can be used as an alternative to the lowest income quintile. (For an explanation of quintiles and deciles, see Appendix 1 of Household Income and Income Distribution, Australia, 2009-10 (cat. no. 6523.0)).

47 A more detailed analysis of people living in low economic resource households is published in a feature article in Household Wealth and Wealth Distribution, Australia, 2009-10 (cat. no. 6554.0).

Income quintiles

48 In this publication, the income quintiles are calculated with respect to persons, including children. Such measures are sometimes known as person weighted estimates. Nevertheless, as most of the relevant characteristics of persons relate to their household circumstances, most of the tables in this publication primarily describe households.



49 The SIH and HES collect information by personal interview from usual residents of private dwellings in urban and rural areas of Australia (excluding very remote areas), covering about 97% of the people living in Australia. Private dwellings are houses, flats, home units, caravans, garages, tents and other structures that were used as places of residence at the time of interview. Long-stay caravan parks are also included. These are distinct from non-private dwellings which include hotels, boarding schools, boarding houses and institutions. Residents of non-private dwellings are excluded.

50 Usual residents excludes:
  • households that contain members of non-Australian defence forces stationed in Australia,
  • households that contain diplomatic personnel of overseas governments, and
  • households in collection districts defined as very remote - this has only minor impact on aggregate estimates except in the Northern Territory where such households account for about 23% of the population.

Data collection

51 Information for each household was collected using:
  • a household level computer assisted interview questionnaire which collected information on household characteristics
  • an individual level computer assisted interview questionnaire which collected information on income and other personal characteristics from each usual resident aged 15 years and over. It also collected information on child care costs, child care usage and barriers to labour force participation due to child care related reasons.

52 Sample copies of the above documents are included in the Household Expenditure Survey and Survey of Income and Housing, User Guide, Australia, 2009-10 (cat. no. 6503.0).

Sample design

53 The combined SIH and HES samples were designed to produce reliable estimates for broad aggregates of total income and total expenditure for households resident in private dwellings for Australia, for each state and for the capital cities in each state and territory. More detailed estimates should be used with caution, especially for Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory (see Appendix 2).

54 The SIH sample was designed in conjunction with the HES. In the combined sample, some dwellings were selected to complete both the SIH questionnaire and the HES questionnaire, while other dwellings were selected to complete the SIH questionnaire only. Dwellings were selected through a stratified, multistage cluster design from the private dwelling framework of the ABS Population Survey Master Sample. Selections were distributed across a twelve month enumeration period so that the survey results are representative of income and expenditure patterns across the year.

55 For the 2009-10 SIH and HES there was an additional sample of metropolitan households whose main source of income was government pensions, benefits and/or allowances. These households were enumerated using a separate sample design.

56 In the pensioner sample, dwellings were selected via two phase sampling to complete the HES questionnaire. Firstly, in order to target the pensioner households the 2006 Census information was used to identify areas where the number of households that were more likely to belong to the target population were higher. This frame prediction was then updated for known deficiencies and changes to the Australian population since 2006. Selections of small geographic (meshblock) first stage units were made to avoid overlap with the population master sample and distributed across a ten month enumeration period from September 2009 to July 2010.

Non-responding households

57 Of the selected dwellings for the combined SIH and HES sample there were 18,285 in scope of the survey. Of these, 3,421 did not respond at all to the questionnaire, or did not respond adequately. For the additional pensioner sample there were 4,804 households initially selected for inclusion, of which 227 households were actually out of scope, and 1,370 did not respond at all to the questionnaire, or did not respond adequately. Non-responding households include:
  • households affected by death or illness of a household member
  • households in which the significant person(s) in the household did not respond because they had language problems or refused to participate
  • households in which the significant person(s) did not respond to key questions.

Partial response and imputation

58 Some other households did not supply all the required information but supplied sufficient information to be retained in the sample. Such partial response occurs when:
  • income or other data in a questionnaire are missing from one or more non-significant person's records because they are unable or unwilling to provide the data
  • all key questions are answered by the significant person(s) but other data are missing.

59 In these cases, the data provided are retained and the missing data are imputed by replacing each missing value with a value reported by another person (referred to as the donor).

60 Donor records are selected by finding fully responding persons with matching information on various characteristics (such as state, sex, age, labour force status and income) as the person with missing information. As far as possible, the imputed information is an appropriate proxy for the information that is missing. Depending on which values are to be imputed, donors are randomly chosen from the pool of individual records with complete information for the block of questions where the missing information occurs.

61 In the 2009-10 SIH, responses were also imputed when not every person aged 15 or over residing in the household responded, but the significant person(s) provided answers to all key questions.

Final sample

62 The final sample on which estimates were based is composed of persons for which all necessary information is available. The information may have been wholly provided at the interview (fully-responding) or may have been completed through imputation for partially responding households. Of the selected dwellings, there were 18,285 in the scope of the survey, of which 14,864 (81%) were included as part of the final estimates. For the additional pensioner sample 4,804 dwellings identified as being in scope, of which 3,207 dwellings (67%) were included on the final file. The final combined sample consists of those 18,071 households, comprising 33,999 persons aged 15 years old and over.

SIH FINAL SAMPLE:Number of households, 2009-10


2 245
4 294
1 069
2 071
3 314
6 365
2 027
3 834
1 079
2 018
3 106
5 852
1 588
2 991
1 115
2 155
2 703
5 146
1 686
3 043
1 114
2 079
2 800
5 122
1 532
2 800
1 212
2 321
2 744
5 121
1 399
1 085
2 049
1 864
3 448
1 054
1 891
1 891
11 324
21 179
6 747
12 820
18 071
33 999

- nil or rounded to zero (including null cells)
(a) Number of persons aged 15 years and over.


63 Weighting is the process of adjusting results from a sample survey to infer results for the total in scope population whether that be persons or households. To do this, a 'weight' is allocated to each sample unit e.g. a person or a household. The weight is a value which indicates how many population units are represented by the sample unit. The first step in calculating weights for each unit is to assign an initial weight, which is the inverse of the probability of being selected in the survey. For example, if the probability of a household being selected in the survey was 1 in 600, then the household would have an initial weight of 600 (that is, it represents 600 households).

64 An adjustment is then made to the initial weights to account for changes in the sample across the four quarters of survey enumeration; the sum of the weights after this initial adjustment of households in each quarter is equal. In the 2009-10 survey cycle, as in the 2007-08 SIH, the four quarters of survey enumeration have been aligned across the financial year with pension indexation dates rather than calendar quarters to better control sample allocation.

65 The quarterly adjusted initial weights for SIH are then calibrated to align with independent estimates of the population of interest, referred to as 'benchmarks'. Weights calibrated against population benchmarks ensure that the survey estimates conform to the independently estimated distribution of the population rather than to the distribution within the sample itself.

66 In the 2009-10 SIH, all persons in each household were assigned a quarterly adjusted initial income weight.

67 The 2009-10 SIH was benchmarked to the in scope estimated resident population (ERP) and the estimated number of households in the population. The 2009-10 SIH used population and household benchmarks based on the 2006 Census of Population and Housing.

2006 Census

Population benchmark
Australian Population Benchmark(a)
21 178 235
Persons in Non Private Dwellings Excluded
371 636
Persons in Very Remote Excluded
163 470
Total Population Exclusions
535 106
Final Population Benchmark
20 643 129
Household benchmark
Australian Household Benchmark(a)
8 136 593
Households in Very Remote Excluded
61 348
Final Household Benchmark
8 075 244

(a) at 31 December 2007

68 The benchmarks used in the calibration of the final weights for the 2009-10 SIH were:
  • number of persons -
      • by state or territory by age by sex
          • by five year age groups up to 80+ years for all states and territories (excluding the NT)
          • by five year age groups up to 70+ years for the NT
      • by state or the ACT by labour force status ('Employed', 'Unemployed' and 'Not in the labour force')
      • by state by capital city/balance of state (excluding the NT and the ACT which use only state).
  • numbers of households -
      • by household composition (number of adults (1, 2 or 3+) and whether or not the household contains children) (excluding the NT which uses only number of adults of 1+)
  • the value of government benefit cash transfers.

69 The benchmark for the value of government benefit cash transfers was used for 2009-10 because, without it, the survey estimates of the number of people receiving income from government benefit cash transfers was lower (81% coverage) than the expected 85% coverage of payments reported by the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs; the Department of Veteran's Affairs; and the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. This benchmark was last used in compiling results from the 2000-01 SIH. The benchmark is intended to address likely differences between the characteristics of those who did not respond. The economic circumstances between 2007-08 and 2009-10 SIH collections saw strong growth in the number of recipients for the Age Pension and Disability Support Pensions. Introducing an additional benchmark is a means of addressing this. The benchmark ensured that the survey estimate of government benefit cash transfers is maintained at a proportion of aggregate benefit cash transfers that is consistent with previous SIH cycles.

70 The independent person and household benchmarks are based on demography estimates of numbers of persons and households in Australia. The benchmarks are adjusted to include persons and households residing in private dwellings only and to exclude persons living in very remote areas, and therefore do not, and are not intended to, match estimates of the Australian resident population published in other ABS publications.

71 In weighting the pensioner sample, independent initial probability weights were assigned to the pensioner sample as it was selected separately from the SIH and HES samples. The initial probability weights were then adjusted by the results of the first phase screening results with respect to the observed proportion of identified screened pensioner households. This pensioner sample was only able to be collected in three of the four quarters of survey enumeration and the initial probability weights were further adjusted accordingly.

72 The pensioner weighted estimates for persons and household were calibrated to the main SIH sample estimates of persons, households, and total weekly household income.

73 Composite estimation was used to obtain the optimal proportions for combining the pensioner sample and main SIH sample for age pensioner households and other pension beneficiary households at a state by quarter of enumeration level. For more details see Household Expenditure Survey and Survey of Income and Housing, User Guide, Australia, 2009-10 (cat. no. 6503.0).


74 Estimates produced from the SIH are usually in the form of averages (e.g. average weekly income of couple households with dependent children), or counts (e.g. total number of households that own their dwelling or total number of persons living in households that own their own dwelling). For counts of households, the estimate was obtained by summing the weights for the responding households in the required group (e.g. those owning their own dwelling). For counts of persons, the household weights were multiplied by the number of persons in the household before summing. The SIH collects data on the number of people, including children, in each household but separate records with income and other detailed data were only collected for people 15 years and older.

75 Average income values are obtained in two different ways, depending on whether mean gross household income or mean equivalised disposable household income is being derived. Estimates of mean gross household income are calculated on a household weighted basis. They are obtained by multiplying the gross income of each household by the weight of the household, summing across all households and then dividing by the estimated number of households. For example, the mean gross household income of couple households with dependent children is the weighted sum of the gross income of each such household divided by the estimated number of those households.

76 Estimates of mean equivalised disposable household income are calculated on a person weighted basis. They are obtained by multiplying the equivalised disposable income of each household by the number of people in the household (including children) and by the weight of the household, summing across all households and then dividing by the estimated number of people in the population group. Appendix 3 in Household Expenditure Survey and Survey of Income and Housing, User Guide, Australia, 2009-10 (cat. no. 6503.0) illustrates the differences between mean gross household income calculated on a household weighted basis and mean equivalised disposable household income calculated on a person weighted basis.


77 The estimates provided in this publication are subject to two types of error, non-sampling and sampling error.

Non-sampling error

78 Non-sampling error can occur in any collection, whether the estimates are derived from a sample or from a complete collection such as a census. Sources of non-sampling error include non-response, errors in reporting by respondents or recording of answers by interviewers, and errors in coding and processing the data.

79 Non-sampling errors are difficult to quantify in any collection. However, every effort is made to reduce non-sampling error to a minimum by careful design and testing of the questionnaire, training of interviewers and data entry staff, and extensive editing and quality control procedures at all stages of data processing.

80 One of the main sources of non-sampling error is non-response by persons selected in the survey. Non-response occurs when people cannot or will not cooperate or cannot be contacted. Non-response can affect the reliability of results and can introduce a bias. The magnitude of any bias depends upon the level of non-response and the extent of the difference between the characteristics of those people who responded to the survey and those who did not.

81 The following methods were adopted to reduce the level and impact of non-response:
  • Primary Approach Letters were posted to selected SIH and HES households prior to enumeration
  • document cards were provided to respondents to suggest having financial statements and similar documents handy at the time of interview to assist with accurate responses
  • face-to-face interviews with respondents
  • the use of interviewers who could speak languages other than English, where necessary
  • Proxy Interviews conducted, when consent is given, with a responsible person answering on behalf of respondents incapable of doing so themselves
  • follow-up of respondents if there was initially no response
  • imputation of missing values
  • ensuring that the weighted data is representative of the population (in terms of demographic characteristics) by aligning the estimates with population benchmarks.

Sampling error

82 The estimates are based on a sample of possible observations and are subject to sampling variability. The estimates may therefore differ from the figures that would have been produced if information had been collected for all households. A measure of the sampling error for a given estimate is provided by the standard error, which may be expressed as a percentage of the estimate (relative standard error). Further information on sampling error is given in Appendix 2.


83 ABS publications draw extensively on information provided freely by individuals, businesses, governments and other organisations. Their continued cooperation is very much appreciated: without it, the wide range of statistics published by the ABS would not be available. Information received by the ABS is treated in strict confidence as required by the Census and Statistics Act 1905.


84 The ABS offers specialist consultancy services to assist clients with more complex statistical information needs. Clients may wish to have the unit record data analysed according to their own needs, or require tailored tables incorporating data items and populations as requested by them. Tables and other analytical outputs can be made available electronically or in printed form. However, as the level of detail or disaggregation increases with detailed requests, the number of contributors to data cells decreases. This may result in some requested information not being able to be released due to confidentiality or sampling variability constraints. All specialist consultancy services attract a service charge, and clients will be provided with a quote before information is supplied. For further information, contact ABS information consultants on 1300 135 070 from 9:00am to 4:30pm AEST Monday to Friday (International callers +61 2 9268 4909).


85 A basic SIH and HES confidentialised unit record file (CURF) is available on CD-ROM. A more detailed SIH and HES CURF is also available through the ABS Remote Access Data Laboratory. All clients wishing to access the SIH 2009-10 basic and expanded CURF should refer to the ABS Website <https://www.abs.gov.au> (see Services, ABS Microdata) and read the Microdata Entry Page, and other linked information, before downloading the appropriate Guide, Application and Undertaking forms and applying for access.

Australian universities

86 University clients should refer to the ABS web site <www.abs.gov.au> (see Services, Services for Universities). The SIH 2009-10 basic and expanded CURF can be accessed by universities participating in the ABS/Universities Australia CURF Agreement for research and teaching purposes.

Other clients

87 Other prospective clients should contact the Microdata Access Strategies Section of the ABS at <microdata.access@abs.gov.au> or on (02) 6252 7714.


88 Users may wish to refer to the following ABS products which are produced from the SIH:
89 Other ABS products which relate to housing statistics include: