1002.0 - Australian Statistics Advisory Council - Annual Report, 2000-01  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 18/01/2002   
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Contents >> Chapter 2 - ABS Forward Work Program – ASAC priorities for future work

Chapter 2 - ABS Forward Work Program – ASAC priorities for future work

The first chapter of this report highlighted the cumulative impact of Council discussion over the past few years on the ABS statistical forward work program outputs in 2000-01 and beyond. It is clear that that impact has been significant. Reflecting the continuing role of Council in influencing the statistical work program, this chapter discusses the key policy issues requiring statistical support over the next five years. Council drew them to ABS attention in 2000-01 in the expectation that they will be adequately addressed in future ABS statistical forward work programs.

In encouraging ABS to consider these issues, Council does not necessarily envisage new ABS statistical collections. Rather, ABS may bring together existing data sources in new analytical frameworks or cross cutting presentations that offer new perspectives on issues. An important aspect of this will be vigorously exploring existing administrative data sources to identify new data series that may have relevance to the policy issues. Council is of the view that data analysis will increasingly be an important part of the ABS role.

The key policy priorities and the statistical responses associated with them are discussed below.

Further work on the ageing population

Council has considered the ageing population to be a key policy issue for some time. Chapter 1 notes the ABS response to date, particularly in respect of 2000-01, and while positive, Council encouraged ABS in 2000-01 to increase its efforts in respect of this increasingly important issue. Areas identified by Council for future consideration by ABS included:

  • measures of the positive contribution of the aged such as information on employment and income, extent of self funded retirees, culture/leisure activities, involvement in voluntary work etc;

  • greater information on the wealth of the aged and inheritances. Council noted that a possible explanation for the run-down in savings in the economy could reflect the impacts of anticipated inheritances;

  • the affect of the ageing population on demand for infrastructure in the areas of health and aged care and recreational and leisure facilities. Associated with this is the need for information on the spatial dimensions of internal migration of the aged;

  • a general need to provide more detailed age groupings for data in respect of the aged population; and

  • life expectancy issues associated with ageing Indigenous Australians.

Rural and regional statistics

Progress has been made in respect of rural and regional statistics but Council believes more emphasis is necessary. The key future statistical needs in this area are a well defined range of consistent and comparable small area indicators Australia-wide. State Government representatives stress the urgency of the work. With this objective in mind, Council saw a major role in setting statistical standards, and ensuring the quality and reliability of administrative and other external data sources.

Unemployment and employment (changing nature and intensity of work)

As a continuation of the development of relevant statistical indicators relating to the labour force set out in Chapter 1, Council believes that unemployment and employment remain a major economic and social issue but with new dimensions and additional complexity. Council noted the very comprehensive array of existing ABS data on the topic but also noted the need for longitudinal analysis and qualitative data on the impact of unemployment, in terms of how people respond to being without work and the need for social support systems.

Council saw the potential of a theme publication on the topic. The objective and benefits of such a publication would result from bringing together available data in a consistent and coherent manner, to provide a comprehensive picture of key labour force issues.

Education and training statistics

Council welcomed the establishment during 2000-01 of the ABS National Centre for Education and Training to provide a greater focus on the coordination and comparability of data for each of the sectors, both public and private sectors. Council saw very close links between the issues of employment, education and training.

Issues identified for consideration include:
  • the role of skill formation in the knowledge economy;

  • the demographic change and its impacts on delivery of education services;

  • approaches to IT skill formation in schools and its possible social impacts (eg loss of ‘people’ skills and physical inactivity);

  • access to higher education for people of lower socio-economic status; and

  • transition between the education sectors, and between employment and education and training.

Wealth and well-being of Australians

Council has noted that wealth has increasingly become an influence on economic behaviour and activity. As a result, there is a need for information on the distribution and extent of wealth across Australia. Issues for consideration include the relationship between wealth and income, and analysis of the different population cohorts ie high wealth/low income, low wealth/high income etc. Each of these cohorts is likely to have different patterns of economic activity. Council continues to encourage the ABS to undertake further work in this area.

Innovation and science

The ABS work program in respect of information technology data is extensive and expanding. Research and development expenditure statistics have been published for many years. Council has encouraged further ABS initiatives in these areas, particularly in the area of innovation.

The key unmet need identified by Council was the requirement for more information on the impacts of expenditure on information technology, research and development, and innovation; that is, emphasis on outputs as well as inputs. Such data were viewed by Council as essential to assist policy makers in understanding the economic impacts particularly as it relates to productivity.

Social capital, social cohesion, alienation and related issues

The preliminary work by ABS on social capital issues has been welcomed by Council.However, with the many emerging social issues in modern society, it is the view of Council that it is important that the ABS continue to expand its development of indicators and analysis in this area. One important aspect is the need to measure and understand social capital as a contribution to social and economic development. This issue is of particular relevance at the regional level.

Environment management (costs etc)

Appropriate environmental data has been a priority of Council for some years and the ABS has responded with a significant program of collection, analysis and reporting.

Council members encouraged the ABS to expand its activities in this area. Another environmental issue that came to the forefront in 2000-01 was salinity.

Business failures, financial risk management

The importance of small business in the Australian economy is reflected in a range of statistics released by the ABS. An aspect of small business on which Council considers there is a need for more information and analysis is the important issue of business failures. Specifically, there is a need for more data on the rate and cause of business failures so as to better understand the needs of small businesses and the overall business demographics of Australia.

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