6361.0 - Employment Arrangements, Retirement and Superannuation, Australia, Apr to Jul 2007 (Re-issue)  
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1 This publication presents summary results from the 2007 Survey of Employment Arrangements, Retirement and Superannuation (SEARS 2007), a household survey of persons aged 15 years and over resident in private dwellings throughout Australia between April and July 2007. The survey collected detailed information about employment arrangements, working patterns, work and caring, retirement and retirement intentions, superannuation coverage and other characteristics.

2 The User Guide: Employment Arrangements, Retirement and Superannuation, Australia, April to July 2007 (cat. no. 6361.0.55.002) describes the definitions, concepts, methodology and estimation procedures used in the SEARS 2007.

3 SEARS 2007 was previously conducted in 2000 as the Survey of Employment Arrangements and Superannuation (SEAS 2000). The next SEARS is planned to be conducted in 2013.


4 While SEARS 2007 has a similar focus to SEAS 2000, and collected a similar range of data, changes in the survey scope and methodology, and in the collection and presentation of information in the seven years between the two surveys, mean that the estimates from the two surveys may not be strictly comparable. The major methodological change that occurred in SEARS 2007 was the introduction of computer assisted personal interview (CAPI), which replaced the pen and paper questionnaire format used for SEAS 2000. While not quantifiable, this change was expected to result in improvements in data quality by minimising non-sampling error associated with complex sequencing in the survey questionnaire.

5 Another significant change impacting on the comparisons of the survey results was the change in age scope, from all persons 15 to 69 years used in SEAS 2000 to all persons 15 years and over for SEARS 2007.

6 Two new topics on how people balance their work and caring responsibilities and about the retirement and retirement intentions of people aged 45 years and over have also been included in SEARS 2007.

7 A number of changes were made to: questions collecting employment arrangements data items; the populations applicable to particular employment arrangements data items; and to the underlying concepts of some employment arrangements data items. These changes were necessary to reflect current priorities of users, and to align SEARS 2007 estimates with estimates from other ABS surveys collecting similar information. Details of the changes impacting on the employment arrangements estimates and on comparisons between SEAS 2000 and SEARS 2007 are discussed in Appendix 1 of this publication.

8 Some of the superannuation data are comparable between 2000 and 2007. However, there were a number of changes to the superannuation data items that were introduced in SEARS 2007, including:

  • separate identification of salary sacrificed contributions to superannuation;
  • changes in output terminology: employer contributions (including salary sacrificed contributions) are now described as pre-tax contributions, and personal and spouse contributions are described as post-tax contributions;
  • separate identification of self managed and small APRA (Australian Prudential Regulation Authority) funds;
  • improved collection of statement reference periods to address a problem in SEAS 2000 that meant weekly contributions in that survey could only be published for people whose contributions had been made for two years or more;
  • change in the reference period for collecting lump sum payments from superannuation. In SEAS 2000, only payments received in the last year were collected. This was expanded in SEARS 2007 to include payments received in the last 4 years; and
  • collection of data on choice of superannuation fund.

9 Changes in the collection, and the quality, of superannuation data collected in SEARS 2007 are discussed in Appendix 2.

10 Some changes were also made to the income data items in SEARS 2007. These included the collection of salary sacrificed amounts in gross income (previously estimates included only some salary sacrificed amounts) and a change in output terminology from cash income to gross weekly income. In SEARS 2007 people who were living off savings, selling assets or living on partner/spouse income (for those aged 45 years and over), either as a supplement to their income or as their only source of finance, were separately identified. This change was introduced to complement similar information collected about expected sources of income for retirement and sources of income at retirement.

11 When undertaking comparisons with SEAS 2000 data, users should take care to compare items by using the supporting information, user guide and attachments, and data item lists available for both SEAS 2000 and SEARS 2007, as well as Appendix 1 and Appendix 2 in this publication. Particular attention should be paid to the definition of the data items, populations relating to the data items, and the reference periods that apply.

12 An error in SEAS 2000 estimates for sector of employment in main job that were previously published in Superannuation Coverage and Financial Characteristics, Australia (cat. no. 6360.0) have been corrected in this new publication: Employment Arrangements, Retirement and Superannuation, Australia, April to July 2007 (cat. no. 6361.0).

13 Due to an error detected in previously published SEAS 2000 estimates by principal source of income, comparisons with SEARS 2007 estimates by principal source of income are not available.

Product change

14 For SEAS 2000 information was published in two separate publications: Employment Arrangements and Superannuation, Australia, April to June 2000 (cat. no. 6361.0) and Superannuation Coverage and Financial Characteristics, Australia (cat. no. 6360.0). These publications have been combined for SEARS 2007 into this new publication Employment Arrangements, Retirement and Superannuation, Australia, April to July 2007 (cat. no. 6361.0).


15 SEARS 2007 collected information to describe:
  • the diversity of employment arrangements in Australia, including the types of employment people have, aspects of job stability and flexibility, and working patterns;
  • the working arrangements that people use, or would like to use, to balance their work and caring responsibilities;
  • plans that people aged 45 years and over have for retirement, including transitions to retirement, expected sources of income at retirement, reasons for retiring and retirement income; and
  • the superannuation coverage of individuals, including superannuation contributions and account balances.

16 Basic demographic and socio-economic characteristics were also collected, including age, sex, birthplace, country of birth of mother and father, education, employment and income.

17 A full list of the data items from SEARS 2007 is contained in the User Guide: Employment Arrangements, Retirement and Superannuation, Australia, April to July 2007 (cat. no. 6361.0.55.002).


18 The scope of SEARS 2007 includes persons aged 15 years and over who were usual residents of private dwellings throughout Australia, excluding the very remote areas, and covering about 97 per cent of the people living in Australia.

19 The survey collected information by personal interview from people who regarded the selected private dwellings as their main home. Visitors to selected dwellings were not selected to participate in the survey. Private dwellings are houses, flats, home units, caravans, garages, tents and other structures that are 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. At 30 June 2007, there were 374,000 people aged 15 years and over living in non-private dwellings throughout Australia. The exclusion of these people (2% of the population) is unlikely to impact on the estimates included in this publication.

20 The exclusion of the 1% of the Australian population living in very remote areas will have little impact on national estimates, and will only have a minor impact on any aggregate estimates that are produced for individual States and Territories, except for the Northern Territory where the excluded population accounts for over 24% of persons.


21 The majority of the survey information was collected directly from respondents by trained interviewers using computer assisted interview (CAI) technology. A series of questions relating to household composition and tenure were collected from an adult member of the selected households, and then all usual residents aged over 15 years in the selected households were separately interviewed.

22 To ensure the quality of the data collected, survey respondents were asked to refer to their superannuation statements when reporting their superannuation contribution and balance amounts. Some respondents who were unable to refer to appropriate superannuation records chose to authorise their superannuation fund to provide specific information to the ABS, on behalf of their fund member, about their superannuation contributions and balances.


23 SEARS 2007 was designed to produce reliable estimates for the following:
  • detailed person-level information for Australia;
  • detailed household-level information for Australia;
  • relatively detailed information for State or Territory; and
  • relatively detailed information for capital city/balance of State.

24 Private dwellings included in the survey in each State and Territory were selected at random using a stratified, multistage cluster design. All usual residents of the dwelling aged 15 years and over were asked to participate in the survey. The sample was spread across the States and Territories in order to produce estimates that have a relative standard error (RSE) of no greater than 10% for characteristics that are relatively common in the national population, that is, that at least 10% of the population would possess.

25 The initial sample for the survey consisted of approximately 18,500 dwellings. Approximately 16,000 households remained in the survey after sample loss (eg. households selected in the survey which had no usual residents in scope of the survey, vacant or derelict buildings, and dwellings under construction). Of these, 13,736 households (85%) were fully responding, that is, households where everyone in scope for the survey answered all the questions in the survey. In total, 26,972 people responded to the survey.

SEARS final sample: number of households, 2007


1 864
3 743
1 141
2 105
3 005
5 848
1 936
3 810
1 524
2 771
5 334
1 040
2 049
1 298
2 499
2 338
4 548
1 240
2 325
1 601
3 001
1 315
2 535
1 745
3 347
1 018
1 810
1 300
1 784
1 784
9 249
17 970
4 810
9 002
14 059
26 972

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



26 Weighting is the process of adjusting results from a sample survey to infer results for the total population. To do this, a 'weight' is allocated to each sample unit. 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 sample unit is to assign an initial weight, which is the inverse of the probability of being selected in the survey.

27 In SEARS 2007 there are two main types of 'sample units': persons and households. Weights were calculated separately for households and persons. Only complete households were given a household weight but all fully responding persons, including those who belonged to an incomplete household, were given a person weight. The use of all fully responding persons with person level estimates allows a higher level of accuracy to be achieved for those estimates. For this reason, an estimate obtained using the person weights will not exactly match the same estimate obtained using household weights. For example, if the estimate of all persons is calculated using person weights it will not exactly match the same estimate calculated by multiplying the number of persons in each household by the household weights.


28 The initial weights were calibrated to align with independent estimates of the population of interest, referred to as benchmarks. The population and household benchmarks used in SEARS were for the not-very-remote population of Australia resident in private dwellings. Population benchmarks are projections of the Estimated Resident Population (ERP) data based on the 2001 Census of Population and Housing. Person level initial weights were calibrated to meet the benchmarks at designated State by area of usual residence by sex by age group classes. The household weights were calibrated to meet the household benchmarks at designated State by area of usual residence by household composition classes.

29 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. Calibration to population benchmarks helps to compensate for over- or under-enumeration of particular categories of persons and households which may occur due to either the random nature of sampling or non-response. Benchmarking also ensures that survey estimates have some consistency with other ABS surveys.

30 For more information about weighting and estimation in SEARS 2007 refer to the User Guide: Employment Arrangements, Retirement and Superannuation, Australia, April to July 2007 (cat. no. 6361.0.55.002).


31 The estimates provided in this publication are subject to sampling and non-sampling error:
  • Sampling error is the difference between the published estimates, derived from a sample of households or persons, and the value that would have been produced if all households or persons in scope of the survey had been enumerated. For more information refer to Appendix 3 ' Sampling Variability'.
  • Non-sampling errors are inaccuracies that occur because of imperfections in reporting by respondents and interviewers and errors made in coding and processing data. These inaccuracies occur in any enumeration, whether it is based on a sample or a full count such as a census. Every effort is made to reduce non-sampling error to a minimum by careful design and testing of the questionnaire, intensive training of interviewers and data entry staff, and thorough editing and quality control procedures at all stages of data processing. See Appendix 2 for more discussion of the quality of the superannuation estimates from SEARS.


32 The estimates in this publication are based on information collected over the reference period, and due to seasonal effects may not be representative of other time periods in the year.


Reference periods

33 Different reference periods were used for collecting various components of SEARS 2007 data to correspond with information that would be readily available to respondents of the survey. As in the Labour Force Survey, labour force status is determined on the basis of activity in the reference week, that is, the week prior to the interview. Details of employment arrangements were generally collected on a 'usual working arrangements' basis. This differs from SEAS 2000 which only collected details of working arrangements based on work undertaken in the last 4 weeks.

34 Income data were collected using the last financial year as the reference period for business and property income, and the last pay period for wages and salaries and other sources of private income. Reported income amounts were recalculated to a weekly amount.

35 The preferred reference period for collection of superannuation data was the 2005-2006 financial year. However, where information was not available for this period, information was accepted for other periods, providing they commenced no earlier than 1 July 2004. In a small number of cases, information up to August 2007 was also used. Superannuation contribution amounts were converted to a weekly contribution amount.

36 The different reference periods for different topics in the survey can lead to apparent inconsistencies in the estimates. For example, a person may be currently working for an employer but also report some business income that relates to an unincorporated business that they were operating in the previous financial year. Similarly a person may be unemployed but report employer contributions to superannuation that were made in the 2005-2006 financial year when they were employed. The data as reported are assumed to be correct.

Jobs data

37 SEARS 2007 collected detailed information for a person's main job and second job (where applicable). A reduced set of information was also collected for a person's third and fourth job. Tables in this publication generally refer to the main job, however, information about working patterns and preferred working patterns are based on the overall commitment to work, that is, for all jobs. For example, respondents were asked about leave entitlements, for example, in relation to each specific job, but were asked whether they usually do any work between 7pm and 7am, or on weekends in relation to all jobs.


38 SEARS 2007 collected information about the caring responsibilities that people have and the working arrangements they use, or would like to use, to help them manage these caring responsibilities. Every adult in the household was asked about their caring responsibilities and the work arrangements used to facilitate that care provision, either within or outside the household. While some information was collected on the characteristics of persons receiving the care, the focus of SEARS 2007 was on the care providers. Only one of a child's parents was asked to report the household's use of formal and informal child care provided to their children from outside the household. More detailed information about the use and demand for child care is available from Child Care Australia, June 2005 (cat. no. 4402.0) and information about disabled or aged persons and their carers is available from Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia, 2003 (cat. no. 4430.0).

39 Inadequate information was collected for a small proportion of households (<1%) in relation to the children that lived in the household, which affected questions about caring arrangements and working arrangements used to care. Persons from these households are shown in a 'not determined' category for applicable data items.


40 Inadequate information was collected to determine the retirement status (whether retired or not retired from the labour force) of a small number of people aged 45 years and over (2.5%). Inadequate information was also collected regarding the retirement plans of a small number of people currently working part-time, and a number of people who did not know whether they were going to work part-time as a transition to retirement, but did intend to retire. These people are shown in a 'not determined' category for applicable data items.


41 This publication uses both gross personal income and equivalised gross household income estimates. People's economic well-being is largely determined by their command over economic resources, and the amount of income to which they have access is an important component of these resources. While income is usually received by individuals, it is normally shared between family members. Even when there is no transfer of income between members of a household, they are still likely to benefit from the economies of scale that arise from the sharing of dwellings. Household income therefore provides an indication of people's economic well-being. However, larger households need greater income to achieve the same standard of living as smaller households, so to make meaningful comparisons, household income is adjusted, or equivalised, to take account of differing household size and composition.

42 Equivalised gross household income estimates are presented in this publication in quintiles. The quintiles are groupings that result from ranking all persons in the population in ascending order according to their equivalised gross household income and then dividing the population into five equal groups, each comprising 20% of the estimated population. The population used for this purpose includes all people living in private dwellings, including those under the age of 15 years. As the scope of this publication is restricted to only those persons aged 15 years and over, the distribution of this smaller population across the quintiles is not necessarily the same as it is for persons of all ages, i.e. the percentage of persons aged 15 years and over in each of these quintiles may be larger or smaller than 20%.


43 Where estimates have been rounded, discrepancies may occur between sums of the component items and totals.

44 Where respondents were able to provide more than one response to a question, sums of the component items may exceed population totals.


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


46 The range of products and services to be made available from SEARS 2007 is described below. Products available on the ABS web site are indicated accordingly.

Datacubes of publication tables

47 Electronic versions of the tables released in this publication, in spreadsheet format, will be available on the ABS web site in November 2008 (cat. no. 6361.0.55.004).

State/Territory tabulations

48 Versions of the tables from this publication compiled separately for each State and Territory will be available on the ABS web site in November 2008 (cat. no. 6361.0.55.003). These tables will be customised depending on the size of the sampling error.

User guide

49 The User Guide: Employment Arrangements, Retirement and Superannuation, Australia, April to July 2007 (cat. no. 6361.0.55.002) will be released in conjunction with microdata. It provides detailed information about the survey content, methodology and data interpretation. It also contains the list of survey data items, questions and prompt cards. The User Guide will be available free of charge on the ABS web site in November 2008.


50 For users who wish to undertake more detailed analysis of the survey data, microdata from SEARS 2007 will be released in the form of a confidentialised unit record file (CURF) Microdata: Employment Arrangements, Retirement and Superannuation, Expanded CURF, Australia, April to July 2007 (cat. no. 6361.0.55.001). The CURF will only be available via the ABS Remote Access Data Laboratory (RADL), which is a secure internet-based query service. Technical information describing the content and use of the CURF will be available within the User Guide.

51 A full range of up-to-date information about the availability of and access to ABS CURFs is available via the ABS web site <https://www.abs.gov.au> (see Services, Confidentialised Unit Record Files (CURFs)). Inquiries to the ABS CURF Management Unit should be emailed to: microdata.acess@abs.gov.au, or telephone (02) 62527714.

Special data services

52 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 specific data items and populations. Tables and other analytic 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.


53 ABS publications which may also be of interest include:
  • Employment Arrangements and Superannuation, Australia, June 2000 (cat. no. 6361.0)
  • Superannuation Coverage and Financial Characteristics, Australia, June 2000 (cat. no. 6360.0)
  • Labour Force Australia: Labour Force Status and Other Characteristics of Families, June 2008 (cat. no. 6224.0)
  • Persons Not in the Labour Force, Australia, September 2007 (cat. no. 6220.0)
  • Retirement and Retirement Intentions, Australia, June 2007 (cat. no. 6238.0)
  • Barriers and Incentives to Labour Force Participation (cat. no. 6239.0)
  • Employee Earnings, Benefits and Trade Union Membership, Australia, August 2007 (cat. no. 6310.0)
  • Working Time Arrangements, Australia, November 2006 (cat. no. 6342.0)
  • Forms of Employment, Australia, November 2007 (cat. no. 6359.0)

54 All publications produced by the ABS are freely available at www.abs.gov.au, under 'Statistics', by catalogue number, release date, title or topic.