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STATISTICAL STANDARDS AND CLASSIFICATIONS
The ABS is committed to the development, maintenance and use of standards for a range of concepts, units, variables and classifications in all its own population statistics work and to the active promotion of these standards in administrative and statistical data collection activities conducted outside the ABS. Standards are to be developed for all variables, classifications and underlying concepts (such as 'Usual residence' and statistical units), which are collected regularly in a range of different collections and/or are applicable to a range of subjects. Variables, classifications and concepts of this type are referred to as core items and the standard is referred to as a core standard.
Processes in the Development of Standards
The development of standards involves a wide range of stakeholders both within and outside the ABS including international agencies.
Population Statistics Standards section (PSS) of the ABS in Canberra has prime responsibility for Population and Social standards while the Economic Standards Section (ESS) and the Geography Section have prime responsibility for the development and documentation of Economic standards and Geography standards respectively. Responsibility for the development and review of standards is shared with the ABS's subject matter areas particularly where a high level of subject matter expertise is required (e.g. Income, Labour Force, etc). There are also occasions where it is appropriate to consult with other agencies beyond the ABS e.g. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, in the preparation of standards.
To ensure that standards are used effectively in the full range of ABS collections, they must address all foreseeable operational considerations as well as be conceptually sound. The process of development is iterative and attempts to reconcile the requirements of the users of data with what is feasible and can actually be supplied by data providers within a national and international framework of comparability. Appropriate testing opportunities are identified and testing undertaken prior to wider implementation. The development of standards, therefore, is time consuming, and involves considerable resources.
Standards for entities other than variables are documented in a manner consistent with the standard format. These may include standards for statistical units (e.g. person, income unit), concepts underpinning a range of variables (e.g. dependency, usual residence, etc.), standards of an essentially technical or methodological nature (e.g. relative standard errors, the proposed address standard etc.), and standard classifications which may relate to several variables. Wherever this is appropriate, the ABS will aim to develop standards which are compatible with existing national and international standards and to influence the development and review of relevant international and national standards.
Implementation of Standards
Changes in standards, by their nature, have implications on data with respect to time series and other comparability issues. These changes are called "breaks in series" and their impact is considered as part of the initial development proposal. Therefore once a revised standard has been endorsed they are implemented as soon as is practicable in statistical collections and output and applied at the commencement of the next reference period.
Newly endorsed standards are widely circulated within the ABS staff and databases and to the ABS website as soon as is practicable. Any significant changes made to standards as part of routine maintenance are also be circulated.
4. The "Where and What" of standards and classifications
The standards and definitions that are used can be found in the various "Explanatory Notes" and in some case "Glossaries" that are either published with ABS data releases or in the case of electronic data cubes or spreadsheet releases are clearly referred to in the major data release.
Additionally, the ABS publishes various classifications and these can be found in Part 12 of Group 1 - General, in the Catalogue of Publications and Products (cat.no.1101.0 ).
This edition of Age Matters features, in New data releases, descriptions of ABS standards and classifications that have recently been released.
5. NASU's stake in standards and classifications
NASU's particular interest in standards and classifications is focussed on improving the level of information available for persons aged over 65 in ABS collections and ensuring that this age group are not considered to be an homogenous group. For example, people aged 65 to 74 have different housing arrangements, health and care issues and ability to participate in the community to those of people aged 85 and over.
There are a number of issues impacting on the capture of data from the population aged 65 and over including:
In order to further investigate the issues outlined above, in 2006 NASU will undertake a review of the Household Survey program with respect to its ability to meet the priority area of increasing data availability on older people.
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