6102.0.55.001 - Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods, Jun 2005  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 26/08/2004   
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Contents >> Methods >> Business Surveys >> Chapter 29. Survey of Employment and Earnings


29.1 The Survey of Employment and Earnings has been conducted on a quarterly basis since 1983. The purpose of the survey is to measure both the number of public sector wage and salary earners employed in the middle month of each quarter, and their total gross quarterly earnings. Data are used in developing and reviewing wages and labour market policies, and in the Australian National Accounts in estimates of compensation of employees and of labour productivity. Prior to March quarter 2002 the survey collected data for both the public and private sector. Private sector data on total quarterly earnings is now collected in the Quarterly Business Indicators Survey and is published in Business Indicators, Australia (cat. no. 5676.0).


29.2 Estimates from the survey are published quarterly in Wage and Salary Earners, Public Sector, Australia (cat. no. 6248.0). From the September quarter 2003 issue the printed publication was replaced with an electronic publication (cat. no. 6248.0.55.001) containing a small number of summary tables which is available free from the ABS web site. More detailed tables are available as electronic spreadsheets, through the ABS web site, AusStats and ABS@, or on request.

29.3 The population of interest is public sector civilian employee jobs, for which wage and salary payments were made in the survey reference period, excluding employee jobs based outside Australia. Two main series are published:

  • public sector wage and salary earners; and
  • gross quarterly earnings for public sector wage and salary earners.

29.4 Data published from the first series (public sector wage and salary earners) are available on the following bases: original; seasonally adjusted; and trend. Original estimates only are available for the gross earnings series.

29.5 Data can be cross-classified by: state and territory; industry (ANZSIC 2 digit level subject to confidentiality constraints); level of government; and public institutional sector. The following earnings components within the gross earnings series are available on request: gross wages and salaries; fees paid to directors and office holders; and severance, termination and redundancy payments.

29.6 Data collected within the survey are compiled according to the concepts and definitions outlined in Chapter 11. Earnings estimates from the Survey of Employment and Earnings are broader than, and thus not directly comparable with, earnings estimates from the Survey of Average Weekly Earnings (AWE), and the Survey of Employee Earnings and Hours (EEH). Earnings in the Survey of Employment and Earnings comprise earnings as defined in AWE and EEH, and a number of irregular remuneration components that are excluded from AWE and EEH (e.g. retrospective pay, pay in advance, and irregular bonuses and gratuities).


29.7 Public sector employing organisations operating in the Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing industries (ANZSIC Division A) are included in the scope of this survey. Otherwise, the standard scope exclusions for ABS labour-related business surveys (outlined in Chapter 23 ) also apply to this survey.


29.8 Details of the number of employee jobs and quarterly earnings are obtained on a quarterly basis from selected businesses using a mail-out/mail-back collection methodology. Data for some commonwealth and territory government organisations are collected electronically on a fortnightly basis from a centralised pay system.

29.9 The survey reference period for earnings data is all pay periods that end within the quarter. Earnings estimates may, therefore, be affected by variation in the number of pay periods from quarter to quarter. Number of employee jobs is collected for the middle month of the quarter (in respect of a particular pay period).

29.10 Employer units which do not mail back their completed questionnaire within a reasonable period of time after the reference period are followed up by mail and then phone if necessary. Response rates for the Survey of Employment and Earnings for the 2002-03 financial year averaged 99%.


29.11 The sampling (or selection) unit for the survey comprises all activities of an employer in a particular state or territory based on the Australian Business Number (ABN) unit or Type of Activity Unit (TAU). However, where the selection unit is unable to provide information required for the survey, it may be split into a number of 'reporting units'. For further information on statistical units used in ABS business surveys refer to Chapter 23 .

29.12 A probability sample of selection units is drawn from the ABS Business Register using the process outlined in Chapter 23 . Variables used to stratify the survey frame are:
  • state or territory;
  • industry - industry stratification is based on ANZSIC division; and
  • employment size - the ranges used vary between states and territories, sectors and industries.

29.13 Strata on the survey frame that are completely enumerated include those containing statistical units with benchmark employment greater than a set cut-off (this cut-off will vary for different states/territories) and strata with a very small number of sampling units. Strata which are completely enumerated because they contain a low number of units may become sampled strata if the number of units in those strata increases sufficiently.

29.14 In addition to constraints outlined in Chapter 23 , sample selection is constrained by the need to ensure that there is minimum overlap with other labour-related business surveys.


29.15 Approximately 2,500 public sector employer units are selected in the sample to yield a live sample of approximately 2,200 employer units.

29.16 The sample is allocated optimally across sampled strata using a technique designed to minimise the variance of total employment and gross quarterly earnings at both the national and state/territory level.


29.17 The sample is updated each quarter to reflect changes in the ABS Business Register. Approximately 8% of the sample from non-completely enumerated strata replaced each quarter.

29.18 Sample rotation is implemented for the majority of sampled strata with businesses with 50 employees or less. Sample rotation is not implemented where the population of a stratum is so small that units rotating out of the sample would be rotated back in after only a short interval.


29.19 Ratio estimation is used in all strata, except in cases where there is a large proportion of units with zero benchmark employment, in which case number-raised estimation is used.

29.20 Beta imputation is used in both the completely enumerated and sampled strata, provided that data have been reported in either of the two previous quarters. Otherwise, the Live Respondent Mean method is used to impute for missing data items.

29.21 Significance editing was introduced in September 1999. With this technique, editing is only performed on those survey values which will significantly impact on the survey estimate if left unaltered.

29.22 Survey outliers are dealt with using the 'surprise outlier' technique.

29.23 For further information on estimation methods used in ABS Business Surveys, refer to Chapter 23 .


29.24 Both seasonally adjusted and trend estimates are produced for key employment series from this survey.

Seasonal adjustment

29.25 Seasonally adjusted employment estimates were introduced in March quarter 1989. The seasonal factors are reviewed annually to take account of each additional year’s original data. The review takes place in time for the results to be incorporated in each March quarter issue of Wage and Salary Earners, Public Sector, Australia (cat. no. 6248.0.55.001).

Trend estimates

29.26 Trend estimates for those series that are seasonally adjusted were introduced in June 1993.


29.27 Estimates from the survey are subject to both sampling and non-sampling error. The standard errors of survey estimates are published in Wage and Salary Earners, Public Sector, Australia (cat. no. 6248.0.55.001).

29.28 The 'jack-knife' approach is used to calculate estimates of variance for this survey.


29.29 A sample survey of employers based on the existing ABS Business register was introduced in 1983. This survey replaced the payroll tax based Civilian Employees series which was discontinued in April 1980.
1983Survey of Employment and Earnings commenced.
1989Seasonally adjusted estimates introduced.
1992First data collected electronically.
1993Trend estimates introduced.
1995Publication suspended after March quarter, but collection continued.
1997Publication resumed with March quarter, with data published back to June quarter 1995.
1999Beta imputation introduced; introduction of significance editing.
2002Collection of private sector data discontinued from March quarter 2002.
Monthly employment and the full-time/part-time split of employment in the middle month of the quarter discontinued.


29.30 In order to provide a high degree of consistency and comparability over time, changes to survey methods, survey concepts, data item definitions, and time series analysis methods are made as infrequently as possible. Significant changes have included:

1983Public sector completely enumerated.
1988Size of private sector sample reduced.
Sampling introduced for public sector.
1992Sample size reduced.
1993Private sector sample size reduced.
1995Number of strata using number-raised estimation increased. Number of rotating strata reduced, and rotation increased form 5% to 8.33%.
Publication suspended after March quarter, but collection continued.
1996Male and female employment split last collected in May 1996.
1997Publication resumed with March quarter, with data published back to June quarter 1995.
Extensive revisions made to previously published data due to past deficiencies in the coverage of small businesses on the ABS Business Register.
New business provisions adjustment introduced and backcast to beginning of the series.
Survey redesigned on an ANZSIC industry basis and previously published ASIC estimates recompiled on an equivalent ANZSIC basis back to September quarter 1983.
Public sector sample size reduced, except for some industries with small populations in Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory, which became fully enumerated.
1998Live Respondent Mean imputation introduced for the sampled sector.
Introduction of priority Intensive follow-up.
Introduction of changes to estimation procedures.
1999Beta imputation introduced
Introduction of significance editing.
2001Private sector component of the survey last collected in December quarter 2001.
Employment for each month of the quarter and full-time/part-time split last collected in December quarter 2001.

Introduction of changes to the ABS Business Register and the ABS statistical units model arising from the New Tax System. These changes did not affect the continuity of the key statistical series.


29.32 For further details contact the Manager, Survey of Employment and Earnings on Perth (08) 9360 5141.

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