6232.0 - Information Paper: Questionnaires Used in the Labour Force Survey, July 2014  
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  • Major Changes to the Labour Force Survey (Appendix)

Major Changes to the Labour Force Survey

November 1960

Quarterly survey commenced.

State Capital cities only, including persons aged 14 years and over, but excluding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Sample of 1% of households Australia wide, with 1/8 rotation in private dwellings and 1/4 rotation in other dwellings.

February 1964

Quarterly national survey commenced but excluding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Capital city series continue in absence of release of national series. Capital city estimates and population benchmarks based on 1961 Census of the Commonwealth of Australia data.

August 1966

Scope of survey population reduced to persons aged 15 years and over, due to changes in the school leaving age and to conform with definitions used in the 1966 Census of Population and Housing. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples included. Additional questions introduced on the steps taken to find a job by persons looking for work.

The grouping of hours worked changed to reflect recommendations from the 1961 International Conference of Labour Statisticians.

August 1967

Additional questions introduced to better identify employees of incorporated enterprises (some of whom had previously been incorrectly classified as employers or self-employed).

February 1972

Questions seeking information on country of birth and year of arrival in Australia introduced.

February 1975

Persons who were not employed were asked whether they were looking for work during the previous four weeks, instead of during the previous week only (i.e. the reference week). Those who were looking for work during this period were asked whether they would have been able to take a job in the reference week had one become available.

February 1978

Monthly national survey commenced. The Labour Force Survey adopted as the official source of unemployment statistics. New questionnaire, with substantial redesign of question wording, structure and sequence to improve data quality collected on 0.5% sample. Changes included separate questions on looking for full-time/looking for part-time job; active search more clearly identified; availability and future starters better identified. Some impact on employed, main impact on unemployed seeking part-time work.

November 1981

Minor amendments made to questions which seek to determine whether or not persons reporting that they were looking for work had taken active steps to find a job during the previous four weeks. No impact on data or definitions.

October 1982

Additional questions to identify usual residence and family relationship, with marital status questions reworded and de facto relationships coded as married.

An additional response category was included to identify persons whose standard working arrangements were less than 35 hours in the reference week.

April 1986

The questionnaire was amended to reflect a revised definition of employed persons, to include persons working 1 to 14 hours without pay in a family business or farm. This revised definition aligned the Australian labour force concepts with a set of changed international definitions adopted by the 13th International Conference of Labour Statisticians in October 1982. In consequence, there was a significant break in series for employed, employed part-time, unemployed and related unemployment rates. The number of questions was also increased to accommodate additional topics, for example, persons aged 15–24 attending an educational institution full time.

November 1989

Optical Mark Recognition questionnaire design and data capture method introduced.

August 1996 To February 1997

Telephone interviewing implemented progressively. Initial impact on data dissipated by the end of the implementation period.

February 2000

Computer assisted coding introduced for industry and occupation in place of manual coding and reference to the ABS Business Register. Breaks in series for Status in employment, Industry and Occupation series.

April 2001

New questionnaire implemented to better reflect contemporary labour market developments, as well as reflecting developments in international standards and practices for collecting labour force statistics. A small number of definitions were modified and additional data items included to provide more precise, more consistent and more detailed data. New or extended information was introduced on job tenure, underemployment, hours worked, duration of unemployment, and marginal attachment to the labour force. The format of the questionnaire was improved, and the question wording updated to improve the efficiency of the survey, enhance the quality of the data collected, and reflect current terminology or labour market conditions.

February 2003

An additional question was added to identify underemployed workers who prefer to and are available to start extra hours within four weeks.

October 2003 to August 2004

Computer Assisted Interviewing implemented progressively. Analyses confirmed that Computer Assisted Interviewing had not materially affected aggregate estimates.

February 2004

The definition of unemployed persons was changed to include 'future starters' (persons who had not actively looked for work because they were waiting to start a new job within four weeks from the end of the survey reference week, and could have started in the reference week if the job had been available then). These persons had previously been classified as not in the labour force. Historical series from April 2001 were revised to the new basis as part of the benchmark revision undertaken at the same time.

July 2011

Looking on the internet was added to looking in newspapers as a passive job search step and references to Centrelink touch screens were removed from job search steps. Job search step 'check factory noticeboards' was changed to 'checked noticeboards'

December 2012 to April 2014

From December 2012 to April 2013, the ABS conducted a trial of online electronic data collection. Respondents in one rotation group (i.e. one-eighth of the survey sample) were offered the option of self completing their labour force survey questionnaire online instead of via a face-to-face or telephone interview. From May 2013, the ABS expanded the offer of online electronic collection to 50% of each new incoming rotation group. For more information see the article in the April 2013 issue of Labour Force, Australia, (cat. no. 6202.0). From September 2013, online electronic collection has been offered to 100% of private dwellings in each incoming rotation group. From April 2014, 100% of private dwellings are being offered online electronic collection.

July 2014 to August 2014

The main improvements made to the monthly LFS questionnaire are summarised below:

    1. All people not employed are asked both questions “looking for full-time work” and “looking for part-time work”. Previously those answering ‘Yes’ to “looking for full time work” were not asked about looking for part-time work;
    2. Addition of a question on number of jobs or businesses held by employed people;
    3. An additional category (unpaid trainee work) added to the questions used to derive status in employment. This enables unpaid trainee work to be excluded from employment. In addition, persons who are paid commission without a retainer are now considered to be employees. They were previously considered as owner managers;
    4. Addition of a question on usual hours in main job for multiple job holders regardless of whether at work or away from work;
    5. Some changes to response categories for reasons actually worked fewer hours than usual, reasons away from work and period away from work;
    6. Improvements to underemployment statistics including the addition of questions on the willingness and availability of persons to work additional hours and asking all who worked fewer than their usual hours the reason. These questions were previously asked quarterly and applied to a subset of those who worked part-time. Further, a new question for all employed people who would like to work more hours than they usually work, asking about number of hours they would like to work. This question about the preference for more hours now also refers to "in all jobs' for multiple job holders;
    7. Addition of a question asking hours of work sought by people looking for work and addition of a question asking additional hours sought by underemployed persons;
    8. Addition of two active job search steps "had an interview with an employer for work", "taken steps to purchase or start your own business" and a change to the step "checked with or registered with an employment agency" to "checked or registered with a Job Services Australia provider";
    9. Two job search steps ("checked notice board" and "been registered with Centrelink as a job seeker") treated as passive instead of active job search steps;
    10. The question asked of people not employed and actively looking for work in the reference week was changed to “how soon could start work” to provide additional detail. The previous question was “if available to start in the next four weeks”;
    11. The duration of unemployment question changed to ask when a person last worked. The previous questionnaire asked about a period of work of two weeks or more. (This change does not impact on the number of people employed or unemployed.);
    12. The question on main reason stopped working in last job of unemployed persons now asks for "all the reasons stopped working";
    13. Removal of duration of unemployment since last full-time job. This was retained as an interim measure after the 2001 questionnaire and is therefore redundant. As a result the questionnaire can no longer identify people looking for their first full-time job; and
    14. Education participation is asked of all persons. This was previously only asked of persons aged 15–24. People are now asked "Are you currently a full-time or part-time student at a TAFE, university or other educational institution?" Previously only data on full-time students was captured. Level and field of educational attainment is collected monthly from all people aged 15 years and over.

The main improvements made to the quarterly LFS questionnaire are summarised below:
    1. Removal of job search steps for the underemployed;
    2. Addition of questions on leave entitlements (entitlement to paid holiday and/or paid sick leave);
    3. For employed persons with their employer for more than 12 months, additional questions on how many years they have been with their employer;
    4. Additional response categories for the question on reason expected to finish work; and
    5. Addition of questions on number of jobs left and all reasons left in the last three months as well as some changes to the categories of reasons.

Further information about the changes introduced in July 2014 to August 2014 can be found in the Information Paper: Forthcoming Changes to Labour Force Statistics, Oct 2014 (cat. no. 6292.0)