4160.0 - Measuring Wellbeing: Frameworks for Australian Social Statistics, 2001  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 12/10/2001   
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Data sources

There are a range of national level data sources that provide insights into family functioning and individual wellbeing. However, it should be noted that a person's relationship within their household and their marital status are two variables collected in all ABS household based collections. These collections include the Census of Population and Housing and surveys concerned with health, education and training, labour force activity, time use, income, housing, crime and safety, and Indigenous people, to name a few. Most of these collections also identify families and households by type, thereby extending the opportunities for analysis of wellbeing at the person level to the wellbeing of specific types of families and households. As they are repeated, these collections allow an examination, across time, of the changing representation of various family and household types in particular circumstances. A survey of particular value in providing regular time series data on the prevalence of different household and family types is the ABS Labour Force Survey (referred to in more detail in Chapter 6 - Work) from which detailed family estimates are published on an annual basis.

If measured in terms of the circumstances of groups of people living in particular geographic areas (such as their average income, the level of unemployment, or their experience of crime), insights into various aspects of community wellbeing, can also be derived from these same data sources. Household surveys usually only allow such measures to be produced for areas involving large numbers of people. However, in the case of the data from the Census of Population and Housing, and various sources of administrative data, indicators of community wellbeing can also be obtained for small areas all over Australia.


Child Care is an ABS household based survey run every three years. It provides information on the supply of and demand for child care for children aged less than 12 years. Information is also available on the types of care used, cost of care, receipt of the Child Care Benefit and the working arrangements of parents with children under 12 years of age. The purpose of the survey is to monitor changes in the way families balance work and family responsibilities, and to establish and monitor child care use patterns.


This survey is run approximately every five to six years, and includes households and care accommodation. The last survey was conducted in 1998. It provides information on people with disabilities, older people and people who provide assistance to others with disabilities. This includes information on the type and severity of disability, the underlying health condition, the difficulty people with disabilities have with everyday activities, the assistance they need, their sources of assistance and their unmet need. Information on social and community participation is collected for people with a disability and/or those aged 60 years and over. The survey also includes information on schooling and employment restriction for people with adisability, characteristics of carers, relationships between care givers and recipients, and on some of the effects of caring on carers. The survey includes children under 15 years of age.


This survey was run in 1992. It provided information on the characteristics of families and family members, and the nature of family support. The structure and needs of families were identified to enable an understanding of the specific types of support required in relation to employment, income, housing, child care, personal care/home help, education and transport.


This survey is run approximately every five years, with the last survey being run in 1997. It provides information on the social and demographic characteristics of families and households, with particular emphasis on the characteristics of children, such as their age and family relationships. It also provides detailed information on family composition. A population group of special interest in the survey are children aged 0-17 years in step, blended and one-parent families. For these children and their families, information is available on family structure, child support, parental care arrangements and visiting arrangements.


This survey was last run in 1997 and is next planned for 2005. It provides information on the daily activity patterns of people in Australia. Information is provided on the differences between men and women in patterns of paid work and unpaid household and community work. The Time Use Survey also provides information on care for children and frail, sick or disabled people. The nature of family interactions can be explored using Time Use data as activities can be classified by who was present while the activity was occurring.

ABS uses data from the Time Use Survey to calculate the value of unpaid work. These estimates are based on domestic activities, voluntary work, care activities, and the purchasing of goods and services.


This survey is run approximately every five years, with the last survey being run in 2000. It provides information on participation in unpaid voluntary work through an organisation or group. Information is collected on the characteristics of volunteers, time spent volunteering, the perceived benefits of volunteering, reasons for volunteering, types of organisations with which the voluntary work is associated, and types of voluntary work activities. This survey excludes care and support provided to family members, these dimensions of care are available from the Disability, Ageing and Carers surveys and the Time Use surveys.


The five-yearly Census provides information on the number and key characteristics of people in Australia and the dwellings in which they live. The Census is an important source of family and community statistics as it provides information collected on a standard basis for the whole country, and presents this information in a detailed classification of living arrangements and family composition and detailed classifications of geographic areas which may be used to represent communities.


First produced for the period 1996-2021, and likely to be produced following the supply of information from each Census of Population and Housing, the ABS has produced projections of numbers of households and families categorised by type, at the national level and for each of the States and Territories. The projections, based on an analysis of previous trends in living arrangements and assumptions about possible future changes have been provided for a 25 year projection period. Those produced for the period 1996-2021, present various scenarios (referred to as series A, B and C) which each assume different rates of change in living arrangements.


The ABS also compiles statistics which have been generated as by-products of the administrative processes of government. Areas in which these statistics provide information about families and children include birth and death registrations (including infant mortality and causes of death), marriage and divorce registrations (including data on children affected by the divorce of their parents) and participation in education. ABS publishes information supplied by police forces in each jurisdiction on children who were victims of crime. Other bodies also hold administrative data, for example, family payments data held by Centrelink.


The Commonwealth Department of Family and Community Services (DFACS) has responsibility for national child care policy, research and data collection through the Commonwealth Child Care Program. The key objective of the Program is to assist families with dependent children to participate in the workforce and the general community by supporting the provision of affordable quality child care.

The Census of Child Care Services has been conducted regularly since 1986. The purpose of the Census is to collect information on the characteristics of the children, parents and staff in Commonwealth funded child care services. The information has been essential for monitoring the growth and operation of services, determining how the objectives of the Commonwealth Child Care Program are being met, and assisting in policy formulation and planning. Data from the 1999 Census of Child Care Services is now available and contains the most recent information on child care services funded under the Commonwealth Child Care Program. This information is expected in future to be available from administrative sources.


The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has played a central role in reviewing the Home and Community Care (HACC) program, with the aim of improving the amount and quality of information available concerning the HACC program. AIHW developed an instrument to monitor quality of care using the HACC Service Standards, and also a national minimum data set for the HACC program, both implemented in recent years. The HACC minimum data set is designed to provide information about the characteristics and circumstances of people assisted through the HACC Program, and the extent and nature of assistance they receive. The HACC Data Dictionary 1.0 has also been developed by the AIHW under the auspices of HACC officials.


The AIHW contributes to the development of consistent national data on children's services (child care and preschool services) in conjunction with the Children's Services Data Working Group which is sponsored by the National Community Services Information Management Group (NCSIMG).


The Commonwealth State Disability Agreement Minimum Data Set (CSDA MDS) collection was set up in 1994 as a 'snapshot day' data collection. The collection covers all services either funded or directly provided under the umbrella of the CSDA, with each jurisdiction having the responsibility for their own collection phase using nationally agreed standards and definitions. As well as being used within each jurisdiction for planning purposes, data are forwarded to the AIHW for national collation and analysis. The establishment of the minimum dataset allowed complete, nationally comparable data on disability services funded under the CSDA to be collected in Australia for the first time. Since its inception, the CSDA MDS collection has comprised both:

  • a set of data items and definitions that the National Disability Administrators agreed were significant for national collation and reporting purposes under the CSDA; and
  • an agreed method of collection and collation.

The CSDA MDS is currently being redeveloped, with the new collection anticipated to be introduced by July 2002.

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