6107.0 - Information paper: Outcomes of the Labour Household Surveys Content Review, 2012  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 19/02/2013  First Issue
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Contents >> Introduction



The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) collects a range of data on the labour market through its suite of household and business surveys. These data support the compilation of important economic and social indicators. They provide insight into the economy and the effects of labour market policy; they are also about people - their participation in the labour force, success in finding employment, earnings and other benefits, type of work and working hours.

The labour household survey program currently comprises:

  • the monthly Labour Force Survey (LFS), which provides key indicators of the labour market, including monthly estimates relating to employment, unemployment, participation, hours worked, and labour force transitions (gross flows); and quarterly estimates relating to underemployment, underutilisation, industry and occupation;
  • a number of labour supplementary surveys, which provide more detailed information on particular labour market issues and population groups of interest, to complement and extend the information collected in the LFS; and
  • a number of labour topics (collected on a financial year basis) on specific labour market issues and population groups of interest collected in the Multipurpose Household Survey (MPHS).

Labour supplementary surveys are currently conducted across five months of the year:
  • the Labour Mobility survey and Labour Force Experience survey are conducted two-yearly in February, in alternate years;
  • the Job Search Experience survey is conducted annually in July;
  • the Employee Earnings, Benefits and Trade Union Membership (EEBTUM) survey is conducted annually in August (with an expanded benefits module every six years);
  • the Underemployed Workers survey and Persons Not in the Labour Force survey are both conducted annually in September; and
  • the Forms of Employment survey (FOES) is conducted annually in November. This survey also includes a Working Time Arrangements survey conducted every three years, a Labour Hire module conducted every three years, and a Locations of Work survey conducted every six years.

The following labour topics are currently included within the MPHS program:
  • Barriers and Incentives to Labour Force Participation (two-yearly);
  • Retirement and Retirement Intentions (two-yearly); and
  • Work Related Injuries (four-yearly).

In addition to these surveys, the Survey of Employment Arrangements, Retirement and Superannuation (SEARS) includes a labour component. SEARS was last conducted in 2007.


In late 2010, the ABS commenced a review of its labour household surveys program. The review aimed to improve the relevance of data released, maximise the coherence of interrelated topics and minimise the duplication of content. The scope of the review included the LFS, labour supplementary surveys and labour MPHS topics. Consideration was given to the program's continued relevance in contemporary labour market indicators, its ability to meet emerging priorities, and the relationships between content of the LFS, the supplementary surveys and MPHS topics.

Considering all of these aspects of the labour household survey program ensured that the proposed new program was based on a holistic 'labour household survey information set' perspective, rather than being constrained on the basis of the existing content of current surveys.


Over recent years there have been many changes to the structure of the labour market and the nature of work. It had also been many years since the ABS undertook a holistic review of its labour household surveys program; many of the current labour surveys have origins in the 1970's and 1980's, and as a result they, to some extent, reflect an outdated view of work and the labour market, and the interest therein. Ad-hoc and survey specific reviews have been conducted from time to time to keep the program as relevant as possible, but a holistic review was needed to ensure ABS labour statistics continue to deliver high quality, coherent, conceptually robust and relevant statistics into the future.

There have also been increasing cost pressures on the ABS. As one of the larger survey programs within the ABS, there was both the potential, and the necessity, to consider how the program could be refined so that it continues to meet user requirements, but in a more efficient and effective manner.


User consultation was a critical component of the labour household surveys content review and was conducted in a number of stages. Initial discussions were held with key users and members of the ABS's Labour Statistics Advisory Group in early 2011, which shaped some of the broad requirements, potential developments and initial priorities.

A user consultation package, which comprised background information and a range of questions and issues on which to provide feedback, was then distributed to a wide range of users in mid 2011. A number of discussions and meetings were held with key users, who were also encouraged to provide written submissions to the review. A note outlining the review was included in Australian Labour Market Statistics (cat. no. 6105.0) and on the Labour Topics @ A Glance Page on the ABS web site, inviting comments.

The consultation process was generally constructive, with many users providing valuable feedback on unmet needs and priorities, as well as suggestions for improvements to the survey program. All comments and views were considered, with practicalities, cost and feasibility of the changes determining the extent to which they were adopted.


The outcomes of the labour household surveys content review will lead to improvements across the survey program to provide a more comprehensive suite of labour statistics. The main advantages are summarised in the four areas below.
  • More information will be available from the core LFS, resulting in a richer array of data with key measures released more frequently. Key data, such as underemployment and underutilisation rates, will be released monthly rather than quarterly, while some information that had been released annually from the supplementary surveys will be released quarterly from the LFS. Some additional measures will also be included, such as educational attainment and retrenchments.
  • Richer datasets from the labour supplementary surveys, with interrelated topics combined to better enable analysis of key labour market linkages between groups and topics, for example earnings with employment arrangements. Some additional, higher priority data, such as overwork, will be added to the surveys to better inform on contemporary labour market issues.
  • More capacity in the ABS household survey program to run additional supplementary surveys - either existing topics more frequently or new user funded surveys to respond to emerging labour or social issues.
  • An overall reduction in the burden placed on survey respondents across the labour household surveys program, due to reduced duplication and better coherence of content. Despite this overall reduction in respondent burden, there may be a small increase in average interview times in some specific months, for example August.


This information paper outlines the intended changes to the labour household survey program resulting from the review, as well as expected timing for their implementation. The directions and changes that are outlined in this paper may change subject to testing and an assessment of statistical impact, to ensure that the changes will not have an adverse impact on respondent burden or on LFS estimates.

A second information paper is planned to be released in 2014 following testing in late 2013 and early 2014. This subsequent paper will provide more detailed information on the content of each of the surveys and the dissemination of the statistics.

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