1. In 1993 the ABS began issuing standards on aspects of the family and the household in Australia. In 1995 many of these standards were consolidated in 'Standards for statistics on the family' (ABS Cat. no. 1286.0). As part of the ongoing cycle of reviews conducted by the ABS into all existing standards for social and labour statistics, the ABS has undertaken a review of the standards for family and household statistics resulting in a revised suite of standards.
2. The broad purpose of these standards is to provide an accurate statistical picture of the structures of families in society, so that debates related to social policy and social support can draw on objective evidence about families, taken from a range of statistical sources. The standards aim to achieve this by providing standard definitions of concepts, methods of data collection, derivation procedures and output formats, for use in all relevant ABS and external statistical collections. The standards are underpinned by a consistently defined concept of the family, which is sufficiently all embracing to inform such debate and sufficiently robust to be useful in a variety of statistical applications.
3. These applications often involve bringing to bear data from a variety of sources on an issue or problem.
4. Key issues include the diversity of families and the changing structure of households, relationship breakdown and family formation and dissolution, the value of caring in families, the value of unpaid household work, the combination of paid work and family responsibilities, the way in which men and women share family responsibilities, support from absent or extended family members, the needs of disadvantaged families, and the importance of secure and affordable housing for families.
5. This paper explains the precise concept of the family used in the ABS as the basis for standards for statistics on the household and family, and defines the concepts which are utilised in the particular standards. It contains a brief description of the standards themselves, and explains how operational procedures and standard question modules enable the collection of data which conform to the standards. It also contains a summary of the changes made between these standards and 'Standards for statistics on the family' released in 1995, and a glossary of terms containing definitions applicable to all the standards.
6. The standards which form the basic suite of ABS variables on the family and the household are:
- Relationship in household
- Registered marital status
- Income unit composition