6102.0.55.001 - Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods, 2013  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 07/05/2013   
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23.1 The Survey of Employment Arrangements, Retirement and Superannuation (SEARS) is a household survey that was conducted throughout Australia between April and July 2007. Its predecessor, the Survey of Employment Arrangements and Superannuation (SEAS), conducted in 2000, was developed in response to the increasing demand for information on the working arrangements and superannuation of Australians. SEARS 2007 survey collected detailed information about employment arrangements, working patterns, work and caring, retirement and retirement intentions, superannuation coverage and other characteristics.


23.2 SEARS collected information to describe the diversity of employment arrangements in Australia, including the types of employment people have, aspects of job stability, flexibility, and working patterns; working arrangements that people use, or would like to use to balance their work and caring responsibilities; plans that people aged 45 years and over have for retirement, reasons for retiring and retirement income; and the superannuation coverage of individuals, including superannuation contributions and account balances.

23.3 Information is published in Employment Arrangements, Retirement and Superannuation (cat. no. 6361.0), with additional information accessible through the Confidentialised Unit Record File (CURF) or through customised tabulation and consultancy services. Further information on the CURF and the Remote Access Data Laboratory (RADL) can be found on the ABS website via Services: Find specialist information and services: Microdata CURFs and Table Builder.

23.4 The employment arrangements component of the survey focuses on a person's main job (the job in which they usually work most hours) and second job (where applicable). A reduced set of information was also collected for a person's third and fourth job, as well as specific details on all jobs (eg. working patterns).

23.5 Two new topics on how people balance their work and caring responsibilities, and about the retirement and retirement intentions of people aged 45 years and over were also included in SEARS 2007.

23.6 Estimates are produced on an original basis only (i.e. not seasonally adjusted) and include:
    Socio-demographic information

    State or territory of usual residence, capital city/balance of state, region of usual residence, sex, marital status, relationship in household, country of birth, year of arrival, age group and whether had child(ren) under 15 years.

    Employment characteristics

    Full-time or part-time status, occupation, industry, status in employment, hours actually worked, hours usually worked and employment type.

    Employment arrangements

    Paid sick leave and paid holiday leave, whether usually works extra hours or overtime, whether has say in start and finish times, whether usually works shift work, whether feels rushed or pressed for time, aspects of job stability, whether used working arrangements to provide care, whether earnings vary and whether had an arrangement with employer to work at home.

    Retirement and retirement intentions

    Retired from the labour force, age at retirement, reasons for retirement, retirement intentions, plans to phase in retirement and age intends to retire.


    Superannuation contributions, self-funding retirees, superannuation balance and superannuation lump sum payments.

23.7 Survey respondents were asked to refer to their superannuation statements when reporting their superannuation contribution and balance amounts. Some respondents who were unable to refer to appropriate superannuation records chose to authorise their superannuation fund to provide specific information to the ABS, on behalf of their fund member, about their superannuation contributions and balances.


23.8 The initial sample for the 2007 survey consisted of approximately 18,500 dwellings. Approximately 16,000 households remained in the survey after sample loss (eg. households selected in the survey which had no usual residents in scope of the survey, vacant or derelict buildings, and dwellings under construction). Of these, 13,736 households (85%) were fully responding, that is, households where everyone in scope for the survey answered all the questions in the survey. In total, 26,972 people responded to the survey.


23.9 The scope of the survey covered people aged 15 years and over who were usual residents of private dwellings throughout Australia, excluding very remote areas, and covering about 97 per cent of people living in Australia. In the previous SEAS 2000 survey, people over 69 were also excluded.

23.10 The survey collected information by personal interview from people who regarded the selected private dwellings as their main home. Visitors to selected dwellings were not eligible to participate in the survey. Private dwellings are houses, flats, home units, caravans, garages, tents and other structures that are used as places of residence at the time of interview. Long-stay caravan parks are also included. These are distinct from non-private dwellings which include hotels, boarding schools, boarding houses and institutions. At 30 June 2007, there were 374,000 people aged 15 years and over living in non-private dwellings throughout Australia. The exclusion of these people (2% of the population) is unlikely to have affected the estimates.


23.11 Private dwellings included in the survey in each State and Territory were selected at random using a stratified, multistage cluster design. All usual residents of the dwelling aged 15 years and over were asked to participate in the survey. The sample was spread across the States and Territories in order to produce estimates that have a relative standard error (RSE) of no greater than 10% for characteristics that are relatively common in the national population, that is, that at least 10% of the population would possess.

23.12 In SEARS there were two main types of 'sample units': persons and households. Weights were calculated separately for households and persons. Only complete households were given a household weight but all fully responding persons, including those who belonged to an incomplete household, were given a person weight. The use of all fully responding persons with person level estimates allows a higher level of accuracy to be achieved for those estimates. For this reason, an estimate obtained using the person weights will not exactly match the same estimate obtained using household weights. For example, if the estimate of all persons is calculated using person weights it will not exactly match the same estimate calculated by multiplying the number of persons in each household by the household weights.

23.13 The initial weights were calibrated to align with independent estimates of the population of interest, referred to as benchmarks. The population and household benchmarks used in SEARS were for the not-very-remote population of Australian residents in private dwellings. Population benchmarks are projections of the Estimated Resident Population (ERP) data based on the 2001 Census of Population and Housing. Person level initial weights were calibrated to meet the benchmarks at designated state by area of usual residence by sex by age group classes. The household weights were calibrated to meet the household benchmarks at designated state by area of usual residence by household composition classes.

23.14 Weights calibrated against population benchmarks ensure that the survey estimates conform to the independently estimated distribution of the population rather than to the distribution within the sample itself. Calibration to population benchmarks helps to compensate for over- or under-enumeration of particular categories of persons and households which may occur due to either the random nature of sampling or non-response. Benchmarking also ensures that survey estimates have some consistency with other ABS surveys.


23.15 Estimates from SEARS are subject to both sampling and non-sampling error (see Chapter 17 for more detail). The relative standard errors of survey estimates are included in each SEARS publication, and survey estimates with high relative standard errors are flagged with asterisks.


23.16 While SEARS 2007 has a similar focus to SEAS 2000, and collected a similar range of data, changes in the survey scope and methodology and data collected, result in the estimates from the two surveys not being strictly comparable.
    Household survey conducted between April and June 2000.
    Lump sum superannuation payments received in only the last year were collected in SEAS 2000 (this was expanded in SEARS 2007 to include payments received in the last 4 years).

    SEARS 2007 was conducted using computer aided personal interview from 2 April to 7 July 2007.
    Changes include a name change to reflect the addition of retirement and retirement intentions, plus changes to the underlying concepts of some employment arrangements data items.
    Superannuation changes to data items, including separate identification of salary sacrificed contributions to superannuation and separate identification of self managed funds.
    Change in scope from persons 15 to 69 years to all persons 15 years and over.


23.17 For further details contact the Labour Market Statistics Section in Canberra on (02) 6252 7206 or email <labour.statistics@abs.gov.au.>.

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