The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) counts unpaid work, Aug 2001

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The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) counts unpaid work

And the ABS counts it in great detail via the Time Use Survey, according to Census Program Head, Mr John Struik.

This survey shows how much time was spent by Australian women and men on domestic work, child-care and voluntary work.

It shows this by occupation, income level, education level, age group and even country of birth.

The ABS estimates the value of unpaid work at around $250 billion a year - approximately half of GDP. Sixty-five per cent is done by women.

It is precisely because the ABS measures unpaid work that we know how valuable unpaid work is. The fact that all this recent information is available is one reason why a specific unpaid work question is not included in the 2001 Census, the content of which was agreed by Parliament.

John Struik stated the 2001 Census would also produce an invaluable source of information about Australian families.

"It is the only way of finding out how many mothers with young children there are in a local area, how many are in paid employment and how many are not. A question on unpaid work is not needed to determine this."

Further information on Australian families gathered through the Census includes household income levels, education levels of family members, ethnic background, proficiency in English, access to private transport and housing characteristics.

This information is available at locality level across the whole of Australia and is vital for planning the provision of transport systems, preschools, schools, shops, health services and more.

The next Time Use Survey is scheduled for 2005/2006 which will be before the next census in 2006. Even so, the government has asked that a question on unpaid work also be developed for inclusion in the 2006 Census.

"The measurement of unpaid work by the ABS in the recent past has placed a wealth of information about the subject in the public arena," Mr Struik said.

"It is surprising that some organisations which profess an interest in this issue seem to be unaware of firstly the wealth of statistics available right now, and secondly, the plans that are in place to update these statistics in the future.