6232.0 - Information Paper: Questionnaires Used in the Labour Force Survey, July 2014  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 19/12/2014   
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THE LABOUR FORCE SURVEY QUESTIONNAIRE

OVERVIEW

The questionnaire discussed in this paper is that used in almost all Labour Force Survey (LFS) telephone and face to face interviews. An online version of this questionnaire is also used. However, other survey forms are used in special circumstances. A paper self-enumeration form may be used where it is not possible for an interview to take place — for instance, where contact cannot be made with the occupants of selected dwellings or when a respondent refuses to be interviewed but will complete a form. A customised form is also used for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples living in sparsely settled areas and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities when interviewers encounter significant cultural and language difficulties, or when other operational difficulties occur such as the availability of suitably trained and skilled interviewers.


HISTORICAL QUESTIONNAIRE DEVELOPMENTS

Since the inception of the LFS in 1960, the survey questionnaire has undergone a number of developments. These developments have been required to maintain the integrity of the data and the efficiency of the collection. However, to provide a high degree of consistency and comparability over time, changes to the questionnaire have been infrequent. Recent significant questionnaire developments are described below with a summary of the major questionnaire changes included in the Appendix. A detailed history of changes to the LFS questionnaire and the survey methodology is documented in Chapter 20 of Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 6102.0.55.001).


THE CURRENT QUESTIONNAIRE — IMPLEMENTED IN JULY 2014

The current questionnaire, implemented in July 2014, is available from the Downloads tab.

Changes to the questionnaire introduced from July 2014 will improve the conceptual robustness and relevance of the survey and result in more information being available with key measures released more frequently.

The main improvements made to the monthly LFS questionnaire are summarised below:

    1. All people not employed are asked both questions “looking for full-time work” and “looking for part-time work”. Previously those answering ‘Yes’ to “looking for full time work” were not asked about looking for part-time work;
    2. Addition of a question on number of jobs or businesses held by employed people;
    3. An additional category (unpaid trainee work) added to the questions used to derive status in employment. This enables unpaid trainee work to be excluded from employment. In addition, persons who are paid commission without a retainer are now considered to be employees. They were previously considered as owner managers;
    4. Addition of a question on usual hours in main job for multiple job holders regardless of whether at work or away from work;
    5. Some changes to response categories for reasons actually worked fewer hours than usual, reasons away from work and period away from work;
    6. Improvements to underemployment statistics including the addition of questions on the willingness and availability of persons to work additional hours and asking all who worked fewer than their usual hours the reason. These questions were previously asked quarterly and applied to a subset of those who worked part-time. Further, a new question for all employed people who would like to work more hours than they usually work, asking about number of hours they would like to work. This question about the preference for more hours now also refers to "in all jobs' for multiple job holders;
    7. Addition of a question asking hours of work sought by people looking for work and addition of a question asking additional hours sought by underemployed persons;
    8. Addition of two active job search steps "had an interview with an employer for work", "taken steps to purchase or start your own business" and a change to the step "checked with or registered with an employment agency" to "checked or registered with a Job Services Australia provider";
    9. Two job search steps ("checked notice board" and "been registered with Centrelink as a job seeker") treated as passive instead of active job search steps;
    10. The question asked of people not employed and actively looking for work in the reference week was changed to “how soon could start work” to provide additional detail. The previous question was “if available to start in the next four weeks”;
    11. The duration of unemployment question changed to ask when a person last worked. The previous questionnaire asked about a period of work of two weeks or more. (This change does not impact on the number of people employed or unemployed.);
    12. The question on main reason stopped working in last job of unemployed persons now asks for "all the reasons stopped working";
    13. Removal of duration of unemployment since last full-time job. This was retained as an interim measure after the 2001 questionnaire and is therefore redundant. As a result the questionnaire can no longer identify people looking for their first full-time job; and
    14. Education participation is asked of all persons. This was previously only asked of persons aged 15–24. People are now asked "Are you currently a full-time or part-time student at a TAFE, university or other educational institution?" Previously only data on full-time students was captured. Level and field of educational attainment is collected monthly from all people aged 15 years and over.

The main improvements made to the quarterly LFS questionnaire are summarised below:
    1. Removal of job search steps for the underemployed;
    2. Addition of questions on leave entitlements (entitlement to paid holiday and/or paid sick leave);
    3. For employed persons with their employer for more than 12 months, additional questions on how many years they have been with their employer;
    4. Additional response categories for the question on reason expected to finish work; and
    5. Addition of questions on number of jobs left and all reasons left in the last three months as well as some changes to the categories of reasons.

For further information, refer to Information Paper: Forthcoming Changes to Labour Force Statistics, Oct 2014 (cat. no. 6292.0).

ONLINE COLLECTION

From December 2012 to April 2013, the ABS conducted a trial of online electronic data collection. Respondents in one rotation group (i.e. one-eighth of the survey sample) were offered the option of self completing their labour force survey questionnaire online instead of via a face-to-face or telephone interview. From May 2013, the ABS expanded the offer of online electronic collection to 50% of each new incoming rotation group. For more information see the article in the April 2013 issue of Labour Force, Australia, (cat. no. 6202.0). From September 2013, online electronic collection has been offered to 100% of private dwellings in each incoming rotation group. From April 2014, 100% of private dwellings are being offered online electronic collection.

COMPUTER ASSISTED INTERVIEWING

Between October 2003 and August 2004 the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) progressively implemented computer assisted interviewing (CAI) into the LFS. Under CAI, interviewers record responses directly onto an electronic questionnaire in a laptop computer. Previously, survey responses were recorded onto a paper questionnaire.

To reduce the potential impact on survey estimates, CAI was introduced with minimal change to the LFS questionnaire and processes. The use of CAI results in significant benefits over pen and paper, such as applying edit checks during the interview to improve data quality and automating the sequencing.