6269.0 - Information Paper: Labour Force Survey Sample Design, May 2013  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 30/05/2013   
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LFS information is collected from the occupants of selected dwellings by either trained interviewers (face-to-face or via telephone) or using a specially designed self-completion online electronic form. Most data is collected during the two weeks beginning on the Sunday between the 5th and 11th of each month. Follow-up of non-respondents continues after these two weeks. The information obtained relates to the week before the data is collected (referred to as the reference week). Selected dwellings usually remain in the survey for eight months. An exception is during the new sample introduction in 2013, where some dwellings will remain in the survey for only four months.

Changes in data collection of the LFS have occurred over time reflecting technological and methodological advances. Prior to August 1996, all interviews were conducted face-to-face with respondents. Over the period August 1996 to February 1997, the ABS introduced telephone interviewing (with the first interview generally still conducted face-to-face). From December 2012, the ABS has been progressively introducing the option for respondents to self-complete the LFS online. The online collection option is scheduled to be rolled out to all respondents by early 2014.

Respondents selected in the LFS are sent a letter and brochure informing them that they have been selected and that an interviewer will visit them to interview their household. The letter advises that they have the option of providing their contact details securely online or ringing the office so an interviewer will visit their house at a time suitable to them. They can also opt to complete the survey over the phone.

Respondents in a trial rotation group have been provided with a third option of self-completing their survey securely online in place of an interview. The trial of online self-completion of labour force data from households has been undertaken since December 2012. The expansion of the offer of online self-completion in the LFS coincides with the roll-out of the new sample.

Subject to the findings of analyses conducted on online collection, the ABS intends to progressively increase the offer to 100% of each incoming rotation group from September 2013. In the long term, it is proposed that online self-completion will become the primary form of collecting LFS data. Interviewer collection (both face-to-face and via telephone) will continue to be available for those respondents where it is inappropriate for operational, technological or personal reasons.

While the offer of online self-completion will gradually increase to 100% of the LFS, the ABS estimates that initially the completion of LFS online will only be around 10%-20% of those respondents who are offered the option. The take-up of online self-completion is expected to increase over time. For more information see the Transition to Online Collection of the Labour Force article in the April 2013 issue of Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0).

Information may be collected about each household member within the scope of the survey from any responsible adult living in the household and may not be collected, in all circumstances from the person themselves. Where one person is unable (or it is inappropriate) to report for another member of the household, separate interviews are available. Where the person interviewed is unable to supply all of the details for another member of the household, that individual is interviewed personally.

Special collection arrangements may be used for a small number of non-private dwellings where it is not appropriate to approach individuals (for example in hotels, motels, hospitals, homes for the aged, university colleges, boarding houses, predominantly non-long stay caravan parks etc). This may involve collecting the data from a suitable contact.

Collection arrangements for remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities utilise community based coordinators or specially trained interviewers.


The scope of a survey is the population about which information is to be collected. The LFS scope is restricted to the usually resident civilian population of Australia aged 15 years and over.

The LFS does not include:

  • members of the permanent defence forces;
  • certain diplomatic personnel of overseas governments, customarily excluded from census and estimated population counts;
  • overseas residents in Australia;
  • members of non-Australian defence forces (and their dependants) stationed in Australia, and;
  • Jervis Bay Territory, the Territory of Christmas Island and the Territory of Cocos (Keeling) Islands. They are out-of-scope for most ABS collections other than the Census of Population and Housing.

Coverage rules are applied to the LFS to ensure that each person is associated with only one dwelling, and hence has only one chance of selection in the LFS. Persons who are away from their usual residence for six weeks or less at the time of interview are enumerated at their usual residence. This information may be obtained from other usual residents present at the time of the survey. The chance of a person being enumerated at two separate dwellings in the one survey is considered to be negligible.

LFS estimates relate only to place of usual residence, and are calculated in such a way as to add to independently estimated counts (benchmarks) of the usually resident civilian population aged 15 years and over and compensate for any under-enumeration in the survey.


Non-response arises when no information is collected from one or more occupants of a selected dwelling.

Interviewers make a number of attempts to contact households at different times of the day and on different days during the week. For households and persons unable to be contacted by telephone, face-to-face visits are attempted. If the household still cannot be contacted within the survey period after repeated attempts (and if the dwelling has been verified as not vacant), it is listed as a non-contact. Non-contact is the most common form of non-response.

The response rate commonly quoted for ABS household surveys refers to the number of fully responding dwellings expressed as a percentage of the total number of selected dwellings excluding sample loss. Examples of sample loss for the LFS include:
  • households where all persons are out of scope and/or coverage;
  • vacant dwellings;
  • dwellings under construction;
  • dwellings converted to non-dwellings;
  • derelict dwellings, and;
  • demolished dwellings.

Averaged over the five years from May 2008 to April 2013, the LFS response rate was 96.5%, which is high by international standards.