6227.0.30.001 - Survey of Education and Work, Australia - Confidentialised Unit Record File, May 2003  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 12/07/2004   
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  • For information about the 2003 Survey of Education and Work or about data contained on the confidentialised unit record file contact the National Centre for Education and Training Statistics on 02 6252 7934. For information about obtaining access to the file, contact <curf.management@abs.gov.au> or telephone 02 6252 5853.


About the survey
About the microdata
About the files
Conditions of release
Accessing the CURF


1 Populations
2 Data items
3 Files


ABSAustralian Bureau of Statistics
ASCEDAustralian Standard Classification of Education
Confidentialised Unit Record File
Labour Force Survey
n.f.d.not further defined
SEWSurvey of Education and Work
TAFETechnical and Further Education


This paper provides information about the release of microdata from the 2003 Survey of Education and Work (SEW). The data are available through a Confidentialised Unit Record File (CURF) released with the approval of the Australian Statistician. Two CURFs are available:
  • a CURF available on CD-ROM, and
  • a CURF accessible through the Remote Access Data Laboratory (RADL).

The RADL is an on-line database query system, under which microdata are held on a server at the ABS, to which users can submit programs to interrogate and analyse the data, and access the results.

For further information about the data contained on the CURF, contact the National Centre for Education and Training Statistics on 02 6252 7934.

Further information about the RADL facility and information about obtaining access to the file is available on the ABS website <https://www.abs.gov.au> (see Access to ABS CURFs listed under ABS Products and Services).

More detailed information to assist in using the CURF, and in interpreting the data, is also provided in the documentation on or accompanying the CURF.


The SEW was conducted throughout Australia in May 2003 as a supplement to the monthly Labour Force Survey (LFS). Respondents to the LFS who fell within the scope of the supplementary survey were asked further questions.

Information collected included socio-demographic characteristics (such as age, sex and birthplace), employment characteristics (such as labour force status, occupation and industry), educational qualifications obtained (such as level and field of qualification), whether attended an educational institution and type of attendance in 2002, and whether attending an educational institution and type of attendance in May 2003.

Estimates from the survey, as well as more information on the survey sample, conceptual framework, definitions and methodology, explanatory notes and glossary, were published in Education and Work, Australia 2003 (cat. no. 6227.0). This publication is on the CURF as an Acrobat file 62270_2003.PDF.

Classification of education

The Australian Standard Classification of Education (ASCED) (cat. no. 1272.0) was introduced into ABS collections in 2001. It replaced a number of education classifications used prior to 2001, including the ABS Classification of Qualifications (ABSCQ) (cat. no 1262.0). ASCED comprises two classifications: Level of Education and Field of Education.


The scope of this survey was persons aged 15-64 years, excluding the following:
  • members of the permanent defence forces
  • certain diplomatic personnel of overseas governments, customarily excluded from the census and estimated resident population figures
  • overseas residents in Australia
  • members of non-Australian defence forces (and their dependants)
  • persons permanently unable to work; and
  • institutionalised persons (e.g. patients in hospitals; residents of homes, e.g. retirement homes, homes for persons with disabilities; and inmates of prisons).

Students at boarding schools were in scope for this survey. The 2003 survey yielded an estimate of 9,500 boarding school pupils aged 15 years or more. The only other information collected on these persons was sex and age.

The survey was conducted in both urban and rural areas in all states and territories, but excluded persons living in very remote parts of Australia who would otherwise have been within scope of the survey. The exclusion of these persons will only have a minor impact on any aggregate estimates that are produced for individual states and territories, with the exception of the Northern Territory where such persons account for around 20% of the population.

Information was collected via face-to-face or telephone interviews conducted by trained interviewers who asked members of each household, or a responsible adult answering on behalf of other household members, detailed questions about their educational attainment and recent participation in education.


The data are released under the Census and Statistics Act 1905, which has provision for the release of data in the form of unit records where the information is not likely to enable the identification of a particular person or organisation. Accordingly, there are no names or addresses of survey respondents on the CURF and other steps have been taken to protect confidentiality of respondents, such as not including all data items that were collected and suppressing the detail of some other data items.

The SEW 2003 CURF contains approximately 44,000 confidentialised respondent records. A range of predefined populations and a list of data items, to assist in analysing data in the CURF, are provided in Appendices 1 and 2.

Subject to the limitations of sample size and the data classifications used, it is possible to manipulate the data, produce tabulations and undertake statistical analyses to individual specifications.

Use of weights

As the survey was conducted on a sample of all households in Australia, it is important to take account of the method of sample selection when deriving estimates from the CURF. This is particularly important as a person's chance of selection in the survey varied depending on the state or territory or, in some cases, area of state or territory in which they lived.

Each person record contains a weight. This weight indicates how many people are represented by that person.

Where estimates are derived from the CURF, it is essential that they are calculated by adding the weights of persons in each category and not just by counting the number in each category. If each person's 'weight' were to be ignored, then no account would be taken of a person's chance of selection or of different response rates across population groups, and the resulting estimates could be seriously biased.

The application of weights will ensure that the subsequent estimates conform to an independently estimated distribution of the population by age and sex, rather than to the age and sex distribution within the sample itself.

Due to differences in scope and sample size between this supplementary survey and that of the LFS, the estimation procedure may lead to some small variations between labour force estimates from this survey and those from the LFS.

For further information see the Explanatory Notes in the publication Education and Work, Australia 2003 (cat. no. 6227.0). This publication is on the CURF as an Acrobat file 62270_2003.PDF.

Data reconciliation

Steps to confidentialise the data set made available on the CURF are taken in such a way as to optimise the content of the file while maintaining the confidentiality of respondents. As a result, it may not be possible to exactly reconcile all statistics produced from the CURF with published statistics.

Ordering tables

Access to the full detail from the survey (including data items deleted from the CURF) is only available through tables produced by the ABS. Requirements for these tables should be discussed with the National Centre for Education and Training Statistics on 02 6252 7934.

Sampling error

Since the information on the CURF are based on information from a sample of dwellings, any statistics produced from the CURF will be subject to sampling error. Sampling error arises because the estimates are based on a sample of possible observations and so will differ from estimates that would have been produced if all households had been included in the survey.

One measure of the likely difference is given by the standard error (SE), which indicates the extent to which an estimate might have varied because only a sample of dwellings was included. There are about two chances in three (67%) that a sample estimate will differ by less than one SE from the number that would have been obtained if all dwellings had been included, and about 19 chances in 20 (95%) that the difference will be less than 2 SEs. Another measure of the likely difference is the relative standard error (RSE), which is obtained by expressing the SE as a percentage of the estimate.

Tables of standard errors (which are a measure of sampling error) are provided in the Technical Note of the publication Education and Work, Australia 2003 (cat. no. 6227.0).

Seasonal factors

Estimates are based on information collected in the survey month, and due to seasonal factors they may not be representative of other months of the year.


Both the CD-ROM and the RADL versions of the CURF are available in SAS and SPSS formats. If your analysis software is other than SAS or SPSS you may require the services of a computer programmer to use the ASCII file version of the data. The RADL can only be accessed using SAS and SPSS at this time. Full details of the files on the CURF are given in Appendix 3.

Four types of files relating to SEW 2003 data are provided on the CURF:
  • Data and metadata - an ASCII data file holding approximately 44,000 records, and metadata files that document the data file and every data item on that file. The metadata are provided in plain text file, for reading;
  • SAS user files - including a SAS version of the dataset, and the SAS programs that generated the SAS-formatted version;
  • SPSS user files - including an SPSS version of the dataset, and the SAS programs that generated the SPSS-formatted version; and
  • Information files - including several in Adobe Acrobat format.


Release of CURF

The SEW CURF is released in accordance with a Ministerial Determination (Clause 7, Statutory Rules 1983, No.19) in pursuance of section 13 of the Census and Statistics Act 1905. As required by the Determination, the information contained in the CURF can only be disclosed in a manner that is not likely to enable the identification of the particular person or organisation to which it relates.

All organisations and individuals within organisations who request access to the CURF will, prior to being granted access to the CURF, be required to sign an Undertaking to abide by the legislative restrictions on use. The Australian Statistician's approval is required for each release of the CURF. Organisations and individuals who seek access to the SEW CURF are required to give an undertaking which includes, among other conditions, that in using the data they will:
  • use the information only for statistical purposes;
  • not attempt to identify particular persons or organisations;
  • not disclose, either directly or indirectly, the information to any other person or organisation; and
  • not attempt to match the information with any other unit level list of persons.

Use of the data for statistical purposes means use of the information contained in the CURF to produce information of a statistical nature, i.e. the arrangement and classification of numerical facts or data, including statistical analyses or statistical aggregates. Examples of statistical purposes are:
  • manipulation of the data to produce means, correlations or other descriptive or summary measures;
  • estimation of population characteristics;
  • use of data as input to mathematical models or for other types of analysis (e.g. factor analysis); and
  • providing graphical or pictorial representations of the characteristics of the population or subsets of the population.
All CURF users are required to read and abide by the "Responsible Access to ABS Confidentialised Unit Record Files (CURFs) Training Manual" available on the ABS Website <https://www.abs.gov.au> (see Access to ABS CURFs). Use of the data for unauthorised purposes may render the user liable to severe penalties. Advice about the propriety of any particular intended use of the data is available from the CURF Management Unit of the ABS at <curf.management@abs.gov.au>.

Conditions of sale

All ABS products and services are provided subject to the ABS conditions of sale. Any queries relating to these Conditions of Sale should be referred to <intermediary.management@abs.gov.au>.


The price of the 2003 SEW CURF on CD-ROM or RADL as at June 2004 is $8,000, including GST, freight and handling charges as appropriate.

While the utmost care is taken in handling each CURF on CD-ROM, deterioration may occur between the time of copying and receipt of the file. Accordingly, if the CD-ROM is unreadable on receipt and this is reported to the ABS within 30 days of receipt, it will be replaced free of charge.


All clients wishing to access the SEW CURFs should refer to the ABS Website <https://www.abs.gov.au> (see Access to ABS CURFs) and read the "Responsible Access to ABS Confidentialised Unit Record Files (CURFs) Training Manual", and other relevant information, before downloading the Application and Undertaking to apply for access.

Australian universities

University customers should refer to the ABS Website <https://www.abs.gov.au> (under "Services to Universities"). The SEW CURF can be accessed by universities participating in the ABS/AVCC CURF agreement for research and teaching purposes. Universities wishing to use the CURF for commercial purposes outside this agreement may apply under the standard ABS application process detailed on the ABS website Access to CURFs pages.

Other Australian clients

Other prospective clients should contact the CURF Management Unit of the ABS at

The CURF is not available to overseas customers.