8167.0 - Selected Characteristics of Australian Business, 2008-09 Quality Declaration 
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 16/09/2010   
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The statistics presented in this release are compiled from the 2008-09 Business Characteristics Survey (BCS). The BCS provides population/cross sectional estimates for a range of business characteristics topics and themes (eg, use of IT and business innovation). The survey also provides characteristics data for the Business Longitudinal Database (BLD). The BCS is conducted under the authority of the Census and Statistics Act 1905.

For information on the institutional environment of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), including the legislative obligations of the ABS, financing and governance arrangements, and mechanisms for scrutiny of ABS operations, please see ABS Institutional Environment.


The Integrated Business Characteristics Strategy (IBCS) is the strategy for bringing together the collection of business characteristics statistics. There are two types of outputs - macro and micro. The BCS is the survey instrument for the IBCS. Macro outputs are the population or cross-sectional estimates and include general business characteristics, Business Use of Information Technology (BUIT) and Innovation; these are collectively referred to as Business Characteristics. The micro output will be the BLD in the form of Confidentialised Unit Record Files (CURFs); this will include business characteristics (unit record data collected as part of the BCS) and financial data from principally administrative sources.

The IBCS specifies the collection of annual core characteristics data including key indicators of IT use and Innovation with detailed information collected for these two topics in alternating years. The BCS aims to collect key measures on business characteristics to develop more relevant and effective government industry policies, supporting the Australian businesses particularly, the small and medium businesses. The data collected will support the BLD and will be used to build a statistical longitudinal database for public and private sector analysts. It is aimed to provide users with business characteristics data augmented with financial data from administrative sources and other existing ABS surveys.

Population and cross-classified outputs can be produced for most BCS content not just BUIT and Innovation. The much larger volume of characteristics data (particularly, annual indicators of innovation and the ability to produce cross-classified outputs) has expanded the range of information available about Australian business. These additional outputs, as well as the BLD CURFs (and other analytical outputs) when released, will result in a substantial increase in the nature and volume of these types of information.


The reference period for most of the characteristics items included in the 2008-09 BCS is the year ended 30 June 2009. Financial data relates to the most recent financial year ended on or before 30 September 2009.

The 2008-09 BCS forms were mailed to businesses in late October 2009. Key indicators related to IT Use and Innovation in Australian business are published within 12 months of the end of the reference period (and within 7 months of survey dispatch). Subsequent, and more detailed, releases are published in the 2-3 months after the first release.


The ABS aims to produce high quality data from its industry collections, while minimising the reporting burden on businesses. To achieve this, extensive effort is put into survey and questionnaire design, collection procedures and processing.

The 2008-09 BCS had a response rate of 94%. Some of the items collected in the BCS are dynamic in nature and the concepts measured are subject to evolution and refinement over time. As changes are made to the questions, survey scope and survey procedures; it is not possible to measure the impact of all of these changes on data quality.

In this publication, indications of sampling variability are measured by relative standard errors (RSEs). The relative standard error is a useful measure in that it provides an immediate indication of the percentage errors likely to have occurred due to sampling, and thus avoids the need to refer also to the size of the estimate. To annotate proportion estimates a value of 50% has been used in the calculation of RSE rather than the estimated proportion from the survey data. This avoids inconsistencies between the way very low and very high proportions are annotated. Relative standard errors for estimates in this publication have been calculated using the actual standard error and the survey estimate (referred to as x) in the following manner:

RSE%(x) = (SE(x)*100)/50

For more information about the sampling errors, please refer to the Technical Note for this release.

The approach to quality assurance for the BCS aims to make the best use of ABS resources to meet user prioritised requirements - both in terms of data quality and timing of release. The approach specifies the level and degree to which each data item is quality assured, noting that only some of the total output from the BCS is able to be quality assured to the highest standards. Different priorities are assigned to groups of data items, with highest priority being assigned to key point in time data on business use of IT and innovation.

In general, the biennial data items contained in this release have a lower user priority and, therefore, have been given relatively less attention during the quality assurance phase of processing. Most of the data contained in this release are 'as reported' by businesses with limited editing and cross-validation being applied. References to any relevant quality issues that the reader should take into consideration are made within the commentary associated with the respective data item.


There are established international frameworks or reporting models for the collection of BUIT and Innovation data (i.e. OECD model questionnaire and OECD OSLO manual respectively). The application of these in ABS collections is in the context of the Australian situation and, for some elements, it is not appropriate to adhere to the framework. Similarly, suggested question wording has only ever been used as a starting point. In this context, where possible these frameworks are used in the BCS. However, some compromise with the use of established frameworks and concepts to balance BLD and BCS population estimate requirements with the available resources is also required. The System of National Accounts and the Australian Accounting Standards are used for directly collected or administrative data as appropriate.

The survey uses Standard Question Wording (which are used in most ABS economic business-based collections) to collect standard financial data items. A core set of characteristics questions is being developed.


Further information on the technical aspects (including item definitions) associated with the statistics from the BCS can be found in the Explanatory Notes and Glossary associated with this release.


Outputs from the 2008-09 Business Characteristics Survey are available in the following suite of electronic releases and associated datacubes:

These are available free of charge from the ABS website. Included in the datacubes is an extensive range of releasable data from the 2008-09 BCS.