1220.0.55.001 - Occupation Standard, 2018  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 23/03/2018   
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Statistical units

'Occupation' is an attribute of the statistical unit 'job'. Individual persons are classified by occupation through their relationship to a past or present job. In household surveys it is collected in relation to the person by reference to the job(s) held by that person.


There are three standard question modules for collecting Occupation:

  • preferred standard question module for household surveys
  • alternative standard question module for household surveys
  • question module for employer surveys

The choice of module may be informed by the following factors:
  • information needs
  • mode of data collection, and
  • respondent burden.

These question modules are applicable to any collection mode: online (e-form), telephone interview, and/or face-to-face interview. Depending on the context of the information collection, the questions may be sought of the person concerned directly or they may be asked about another person indirectly. The question modules below are adaptable for either situation and include allowable word substitutions shown in square brackets (e.g. [your], [the person's]).

The question modules below are for collecting the variable Occupation of Main Job but can be easily modified to collect other occupation-related variables by making appropriate word substitutions. For example, to collect the variable Occupation of Last Job, the words "last job" are substituted for the words "main job".

Preferred standard question module for household surveys

The preferred standard question module for household surveys is a set of five open-ended questions and is suitable for self-completion and interviewer-administered collections. The first two questions are occupation specific, question three asks about the employer, and questions four and five ask about the employer's industry. Employer and industry information is used, where necessary, to assist with coding occupation.

The recommended question module for the variable Occupation of Main Job follows. The questions include instructions and examples which should be included to help respondents to answer the questions in sufficient detail.
      Q1. In the main job held last week, what was [your] [the person's] [(name)] occupation?
          Give full title.

          For example: Registered Aged Care Nurse, House Cleaner, Retail Sales Assistant, Ore Crushing Machine Operator.

          For public servants, write occupation title and level. For example: Customer Service Officer APS5.

          For armed services personnel, write rank and occupation.
      Q2. What are the main tasks that [you] [the person] [(name)] usually performs in that occupation?
          Give full details.

          For example: nursing the aged, cleaning houses, selling clothing in a department store, operating an ore crusher in a processing facility.

          For managers, write the function managed. For example: managing construction projects, managing a hotel, managing human resources.
      Q3. For the main job held last week, what was the employer's business name?
          For self-employed persons, write the name of the person's business.

          For teachers, write the full name of the school including the related education level e.g. primary school, high school.
      Q4. Which best describes the industry or business of the employer at the location where [you] [the person] [(name)] works?
          Examples for industry or business of the employer: Secondary School Education, Gold Mining, IT Consulting Service, Domestic Cleaning Service, Apartment Construction.
      Q5. What are the main goods produced or main services provided by the employer’s business?
          Describe as fully as possible, using two words or more.

          For example: providing education to secondary school students, mining gold ore, providing information technology advice, house cleaning, construction of residential buildings.

Open-ended questions give the most detailed information and enable coding to the most detailed level of the classification.

Industry information is almost always collected when data on occupation are required. The Industry and Employer questions are, therefore, included in the question module as they provide additional information which can assist coding without increasing respondent burden.

The use of a question module based on only Questions 1 and 2 above is often considered due to insufficient resources to ask the complete set of five questions. However, this option is not recommended as it may adversely affect the accuracy of coding.

It is often argued that the inclusion of the second (task) question is redundant. However, the use of an occupation title question only often elicits responses which do not provide a clear indication of the occupation. Omitting the task question, therefore, would mean that accurate coding at unit group or occupation level may frequently not be possible.

Alternative standard question module for household surveys

An acceptable alternative standard question module for household surveys, which is also suitable for self-completion and interviewer-administered collections, are the questions used in the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Monthly Population Survey (MPS) and ABS Special Social Surveys. These surveys use two questions on occupation title and tasks (slightly modified from Questions 1 and 2 above) as well as two industry-related questions:
      Q1. What [was/is] [your/name's] occupation in [your/his/her] [main job/that] [job/business]?

      Q2. What [were/are] [your/name's] main tasks and duties?
      Q3. What kind of business or service is carried out by [your/name's] [employer at the place where [you/he/she] work/s/business]?

      Q4. What is the name of [your/name's] [employer/business]?

Question for employer surveys

The following question module is recommended for use in employer collections:
      Q1. Occupation title
          Give the full title of each employee's occupation, stating trade, class or grade where applicable (e.g. primary school teacher, machine operator, 2nd year apprentice chef).

      Q2. Main tasks or duties of employee
          Describe, as fully as possible, the main tasks or duties usually performed by this employee (e.g. prepares lessons and teaches, operates extruding machine, food preparation).

It is usually unnecessary to collect industry information in employer collections as this information is typically available from the business survey frame.