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ABS Corporate Plan
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Priorities and activities

The Australian Statistician, assisted by the Executive Board, articulates the ABS strategic priorities to ensure activities planned and executed are coherent, complementary, and coordinated.

The ABS has five enterprise-level strategic priorities:

  • Priority 1:  Produce high-quality statistics
  • Priority 2:  Generate timely new insights
  • Priority 3:  Exercise leadership in the data landscape
  • Priority 4:  Reduce burden on data providers
  • Priority 5:  Enhance organisational capability, resilience, and adaptability.

The ABS sets these strategic priorities in collaboration with our partners and stakeholders, and in response to the external operating environment. They inform our employees and stakeholders of the highest priority areas of endeavour for the ABS.

Priority 1: Produce high-quality statistics

The ABS collects and analyses a broad range of social, economic, business, population and environmental data and produces valuable statistics and insights to inform Australia’s important decisions.

ABS data and statistics underpin fiscal and monetary policy and inform the delivery of programs and services vital to the health and wellbeing of Australians. They also support a strong well-functioning democracy and provide reliable information on a range of matters critical to public debate.

Economic and Environment

During 2023–24, the ABS will continue to deliver a range of economic, industry, environmental and agricultural statistics, and products to meet the needs of government, businesses and the community.

Key activities contributing to Priority 1 include:

  • producing high-quality, respected, well explained macroeconomic statistics, including the Australian System of National Accounts

  • making greater use of big data to enhance the measurement of Household Final Consumption Expenditure

  • producing quality price indexes, including a monthly Consumer Price Index (CPI) Indicator

  • enhancing the Monthly Household Spending Indicator and Monthly Business Turnover Indicator to better meet client needs

  • producing new environmental-economic accounts to measure the extent, condition and services provided by Australia’s terrestrial and ocean ecosystems in partnership with the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water.

Case study: Modernisation of agricultural statistics

The ABS will no longer undertake large agricultural surveys, including the annual Rural Environment and Agricultural Commodities Survey and the five-yearly Agricultural Census.

In 2022-23, the ABS shifted to primarily using existing data from government, industry, and commercial sources to produce official agricultural statistics. The ABS will run a small number of short surveys of agricultural businesses to complement these existing data sources.

This new approach reduces the burden on farmers and agricultural businesses from being required to fill in surveys by around 97% and continues to produce timely, high-quality agriculture statistics.

People and Place

During 2023–24, the ABS will continue to deliver a range of population, labour and social statistics such as quarterly population estimates and the monthly labour force series to meet the needs of government, businesses and the community.

Key activities contributing to Priority 1 include:

  • providing accurate and timely population estimates and components of growth to support planning and service delivery

  • publishing results from the Intergenerational Health and Mental Health Study (IHMHS). The IHMHS is the largest health study undertaken in Australian history, providing the most complete picture of people’s physical and mental health. The ABS will be releasing results on mental health and other key health statistics including long-term health conditions and health risk factors.

  • continuing to support the implementation and refinement of a needs-based school funding model (Capacity to Contribute) and to support the delivery of student training outcome statistics from the Vocational Education and Training National Data Asset

  • improving ABS industrial relations and regional labour market data

  • conducting an optimised Survey of Income and Housing in combination with increased use of administrative data such as superannuation and government payments to reduce the time it takes people to complete the survey

  • commencing release of data on barriers and incentives to labour force participation yearly (rather than every two years) and releasing some key measures quarterly

  • supplying geospatially enabled social and economic data via the Australian Climate Service to enable governments to prepare for, respond to, and recover from extreme weather events and climate challenges.

2026 Census of Population and Housing

As required by the Census and Statistics Act 1905, the ABS will conduct the next Census in 2026. The Census provides a snapshot of the economic, social and cultural make-up of our nation, and tells the story of how Australia is changing over time. The design and development of the 2026 Census continues in 2023-24.

Key activities include:

  • continuing the review of and consultation on Census content

  • conducting the first and second phases of the 2026 Census Privacy Impact Assessment to support the ABS in our ‘privacy by design’ approach to the 2026 Census. The ABS considers privacy from the development of Census topics and questions through to the use of existing data sources to enhance Census data quality.

  • establishing partnerships with commercial, government and non-government organisations to assist with the preparation and delivery of the Census, including procurement of a commercial partner to support the Census Digital Service.

Performance Measure: Complete public consultation on 2026 Census topics

Every Census, the ABS undertakes a review to inform our recommendation to the Australian Government on the topics that could be included in the Census, to ensure information collected in the Census remains relevant.

The review of topics includes two phases of public consultation, as well as stakeholder engagement and testing. In late 2023, the ABS will publish outcomes from the final phase of consultation, including the topic changes that will be tested.

The ABS will make its recommendation to the Government in mid-2024.

Statistical Standards and Infrastructure

The production of high-quality statistics relies on contemporary, high-quality statistical standards and infrastructure. The following investments are planned for 2023-24:

  • continuing the comprehensive review of the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO). ANZSCO is used in the collection, publication and analysis of occupation statistics, and used across the APS in a variety of ways. The review will be completed by December 2024 for use in the 2026 Census.

  • developing a coding capability using machine learning technology to code text to statistical classifications. This capability will be deployed as a whole of government facility for occupation coding and support ABS internal use across a number of classifications.

  • releasing a major review of the Religious Affiliation Standard in December 2023. The Religious Affiliation Standard is used for collecting, processing and presenting quality statistics about the religious beliefs and practices to which people adhere or the religious groups to which they belong.

Priority 2: Generate timely new insights

The ABS uses a range of survey and administrative data to create insights into aspects of our nation. The ABS continues to build relationships with all levels of Australian government, academia, business, and the not-for-profit sector to generate statistical information to inform and to assess the effectiveness of economic, social, and environmental policies. The ABS consults key clients and users of ABS data and statistics to ensure innovative statistical products are relevant and valued.

There is a growing number of integrated data assets in use across the public sector to support research, policy development and analysis. The ABS hosts the Business Longitudinal Analysis Data Environment (BLADE) - a large business-centred integrated data asset, and the Person-Level Integrated Data Asset (PLIDA), otherwise known as the Multi-Agency Data Integration Project (MADIP) - a large person-centred integrated data asset. The ABS has developed and enhanced these data assets over the last eight years in partnerships with Commonwealth agencies and departments.

Key activities contributing to Priority 2 include:

  • delivering phase two of the Big Data, Timely Insights (BDTI) program over the next two years. BDTI will enable the ABS to produce a full monthly CPI and continue to modernise and replace ageing IT systems.

  • linking new administrative data assets to MADIP through the Life Course Data Initiative to improve data coverage at the community level. This will focus on the early years of people’s lives to support policies and programs aimed at addressing entrenched disadvantage.

  • continuing the new Monthly Employee Earnings Indicator to give more timely and granular information than is currently available from the existing suite of ABS employee and earnings statistics. It provides measures of wages and salaries paid over the month and changes over time and paves the way for future changes to surveys.

  • adding a new quarterly updated Business Locations dataset to BLADE enabling detailed geospatial economic analysis. Along with quarterly updates to Business Activity Statement data, this allows the ABS to provide the National Emergency Management Agency with detailed geographic business counts and economic information for areas across Australia impacted by flood or bushfire.

  •  contributing data and expertise as part of a cross-Government collaboration on supply chain resilience. This will help in developing targeted and proportionate responses to disruption risk in supply chains providing priority commodities.

Case Study: NDDA/ANDII.

The National Disability Data Asset (NDDA) will enable researchers to better understand the life experiences of people living with disability, and will improve inclusion and opportunity for them.

The Australian Government Department of Social Services is leading the project and the Disability Reform Ministers Council is overseeing the project. The ABS is partnering with the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare to design, develop and deliver a new national data integration infrastructure, known as the Australian National Data Integration Infrastructure (ANDII). The NDDA will be the first integrated data asset to be hosted on ANDII.

The NDDA is being designed in collaboration and consultation with the disability community, Commonwealth agencies, and state and territory governments.

Priority 3: Exercise leadership in the data landscape

         "Data is more important than ever, and maintaining the public’s trust is a critical enabler in ensuring
          that quality information is available for informed decision making and service delivery. 

          "We have an opportunity to work together to support innovative ways to collect, share and use 
          data responsibly to meet the needs of the day.” ¹

          Dr David Gruen AO

The Australian Statistician continues to serve as a member of the National Data Advisory Council (the Council), set up under the DAT Act. The Council provides advice to the National Data Commissioner on matters including ethical use of public sector data; balancing data availability with privacy protection; technical best practice; and industry and international developments.

Other ABS engagement across the APS includes:

  • out-posting a team to support the Office of the National Data Commissioner in its stewardship of data sharing legislation

  • out-posting staff to other Commonwealth entities to support the delivery of the Data and Digital Government Strategy

  • contributing as a member of the Deputy Secretaries Data Group and Secretaries’ Data and Digital Committee to provide oversight of data initiatives

  • driving the Data Champions Forum and supporting the Office of the National Data Commissioner to implement new data sharing legislation.

APS Data Profession

The Australian Statistician’s role as Head of the APS Data Profession has been extended until July 2024. Dr Gruen continues to work closely with the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) and Heads of the APS Digital and Human Resources Professions to champion APS uplift in data capabilities.

The APS Data Profession’s Members’ Community Platform (MCP) connects data professionals across the Australian and State and Territory public services and promotes communities of practice. The MCP aims to raise the data capability of the public sector workforce for better national outcomes. The MCP had over 5,300 members across Australia as at 30 June 2023.

Key activities contributing to Priority 3 include:

  • continuing to lead the APS-wide graduate recruitment for the Data Profession, partnering with the APSC and over 40 Australian Government agencies as OneAPS, to attract, recruit, and retain the next generation of data professionals from diverse and varied disciplines

  • continuing to support and grow the data professional community through the MCP, including curating specialist learning offerings

  • developing and delivering training modules targeting the Senior Executive Service and executive level cohorts, covering data governance, management and leadership

  • reviewing the APS Data Capability Framework and developing an assessment tool to identify data proficiency as well as areas of capability that require further development and uplifting.

Improved access to ABS statistics

As Australia’s national statistical agency, the ABS is custodian of an extensive holding of data and statistical assets which are of national significance. Users of ABS data and statistics include government agencies, local councils, public and not-for-profit organisations, researchers, businesses, and community groups. We are committed to improving access to our products and services, while ensuring privacy and confidentiality is maintained.

Key activities include:

  • setting up a contemporary, secure, cost-effective solution for government partners to safely share and analyse their own data. The Secure Environment for Analysing Data (SEAD) service provides partner agencies with a ‘pod’ to serve as their own version of the cloud-based ABS DataLab infrastructure to manage risks while supporting data sharing activities.²

  • actively engaging with the Australian public through social media to increase awareness of ABS data and statistics. We will release a range of snapshots and infographics on our social media platforms to promote future releases and highlight topical statistics.

  • providing users of ABS statistics with access to data freely on the ABS website or by configuring their systems to an Application Programming Interface (API). Machine-to-machine access is a fast avenue for regular users to directly ingest data into their systems. Users can also access statistics through a range of self-serve portals and platforms including the ABS DataLab, TableBuilder and customised data requests.

Case Study: Digital Atlas of Australia

The ABS is delivering priority social, economic and environmental data as geospatially enabled web services for inclusion in the Digital Atlas of Australia. Led by Geoscience Australia, the Digital Atlas of Australia will bring together, curate and connect trusted national datasets from across government into an interactive, secure, and easy-to-use online platform. It will enable anyone, anywhere to explore, analyse and visualise location-based data on geography, people, economy, and the environment.


1.  APS Data Profession | Australian Bureau of Statistics

2.  The SEAD service is separate to the ABS DataLab but uses the same rigorous set of controls using the Five Safes Framework, aligned with the Commonwealth Data Sharing Principles. Partners have exclusive control of the pod’s secure, self-contained environment. This allows each pod to function independently, while enabling safe data sharing under arrangements such as the DAT Act.

Priority 4: Reduce burden on data providers

The ABS is committed to reducing the burden on our data providers. We are constantly reviewing our data collection methods to ensure we collect information efficiently. In line with the Government’s Data and Digital Strategy, the ABS strives to collect information in the most efficient and timely way, with the smallest cost on businesses.³

The ABS is increasing its use of administrative data, including data collected by governments and businesses, to reduce the need to conduct surveys.

Key activities contributing to Priority 4 include:

  • building a secure reporting web application through the Accounting Software Project that uses public APIs to pull data from accounting software systems. The web application will provide small and medium businesses with an alternative way to report data instead of the burden and time of completing survey forms. The web application will be initially offered to eligible businesses in the Quarterly Business Indicators Survey (QBIS), and then expanded to the annual Economic Activity Survey.

  • modernising the ABS’ data sourcing capabilities and accelerating our use of digital technologies through the Data Acquisition 2026 Strategy. This work focuses on a digital first approach to encourage and support online participation and improve usability, accessibility, flexibility and security.

  • replacing the Survey of Employment and Earnings - Public Sector with an indicator based on administrative data. The new indicator: Public Sector Employment and Earnings will use Single Touch Payroll-based data for the 2022-23 reference period and will replace the estimates from the survey.

Case Study: Quarterly Business Indicators Survey

The ABS is introducing a new estimation approach – composite regression estimation – for QBIS, which will enable a 20% reduction in sample size (and hence business provider burden) while maintaining the quality of the statistical output from the survey.

Priority 5: Enhance organisational capability, resilience, and adaptability

As Australia’s national statistical agency, the ABS relies on the knowledge, skills and experience of our workforce to source, use and protect data, and deliver the relevant, trusted, and objective statistics and insights needed to inform Australia’s important decisions.

Our focus is to remain a highly professional, statistically expert, and data-capable workforce; a workforce that continues to adapt to meet the changing information needs of governments, businesses and the community, and harnesses technological advances to make sensible use of the increasingly complex data around us.

    Key activities contributing to Priority 5 include:

    • standing up a series of statistical practices, as a result of the new organisational design, to uplift the ABS’ capability in statistical infrastructure, data sourcing, statistical production, and digital products, channels and services

    • maintaining clear internal policies for effective and accountable decision-making to align with its purpose and priorities. This includes conducting formal annual workforce risk assessments and reviews of controls against legal obligations outlined in relevant legislation.

    • attracting, developing and retaining the workforce talent needed to meet the expectations of our clients and partners, now and into the future. Our workplace culture fosters inclusiveness, builds respect and capitalises on diversity. The ABS continues to provide targeted capability development offerings, linking to career pathway opportunities for our staff. The ABS offers flexible working arrangements and a progressive location strategy to support workforce attraction and retention.

    • creating and maintaining a psychologically safe work environment and identifying and controlling all psychosocial hazards. The ABS will continue to provide practical guidance and education to its staff and managers to identify and manage hazards and risks to workers’ psychological health and safety.

    •  embedding a contemporary IT infrastructure and mature its capability in cloud technologies. The new cloud-based capabilities will enable a more resilient environment and improve the ability to blend survey and administrative data. The use of cloud technologies provides a more flexible and scalable environment for producing statistics and statistical insights.

    • committing to the Government’s APS Net Zero 2030 policy, to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2030 and transparently reporting on its emissions from the latter half of 2023. The ABS, along with other APS agencies, will continue to build capability over time to set a standard of best practice for net zero government operations.

    • continuing to strengthen the ABS’ integrity culture including the ABS’ zero tolerance for misuse of market sensitive information.

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