8167.0 - Selected Characteristics of Australian Business, 2016-17 Quality Declaration 
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 16/08/2018   
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The statistics presented in this release are compiled from the 2016-17 Business Characteristics Survey (BCS). The BCS provides population/cross sectional estimates for a range of business characteristics topics and themes (e.g. use of information technology and innovation). The survey also provides characteristics data for the Business Characteristics Longitudinal Statistics (BCLS). 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. The BCS is the survey instrument for the IBCS.

The data collected by the BCS supports the BCLS and are used to build a statistical longitudinal database for public and private sector analysts. It aims to provide users with business characteristics data augmented with financial data from administrative sources and other existing ABS surveys. Access to the BCLS is through a Confidentialised Unit Record File (CURF).

The IBCS specifies the collection of annual point in time core characteristics data including key indicators of information technology (IT) use and innovation with more detailed information collected for these two topics in alternating years. Population and cross-classified outputs can be produced for most BCS content not just use of IT 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 represent a substantial increase in the nature and volume of this type of information.


The reference period for most of the characteristics items included in the 2016-17 BCS is during the year ended 30 June 2017 or as at 30 June 2017. Financial data relates to the most recent financial year ended on or before 30 September 2017.

The 2016-17 BCS forms were despatched to businesses from early October 2017. Key indicators related to use of IT and innovation in Australian business are published within 12 months of the end of the reference period. Subsequent, and more detailed, releases are published in the two 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 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.

The 2016-17 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 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.


There are established international frameworks or reporting models for the collection of use of IT and innovation data (i.e. the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) model questionnaire and 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 international framework, although they are used, where possible, in the BCS. However, some compromise is required to balance BCLS and BCS population estimate requirements with the available resources.

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 have been 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 2016-17 BCS will be available in the following suite of electronic releases and associated data cubes:

    Summary of IT Use and Innovation in Australian Business, 2016-17 (cat. no. 8166.0), released 14 June 2018;
    Innovation in Australian Businesses, 2016 (cat. no. 8158.0), released 19 July 2018; and
    Selected Characteristics of Australian Business, 2016-17 (cat. no. 8167.0), released 16 August 2018.

    These are available free of charge from the ABS website.