How the ABS work program is determined
The Australian Statistician is responsible for determining the ABS work program. The work program must align with the ABS’s mission, its legislative mandate and its values. The ABS seeks to provide a reasonable level of service across all its legislated functions.
How the ABS balances its work program
The ABS does not have the resources to undertake all of the activities that fall within its mandate and which users would ideally require.
In balancing the ABS’s program of collection and other activities, the Australian Statistician seeks to ensure that the ABS’s resources are used to the maximum benefit of governments and the broader community. In assessing this, the ABS takes account of the value of the information being sought, the extent to which the ABS undertaking the activity is consistent with its legislated mandate and with community expectations, and the costs that the activity would impose upon the ABS and the broader community.
In assessing the value of the information, the ABS takes account of:
- the importance of the issue from a public policy and/or community interest perspective
- the views of Australian, State and Territory government agencies
- the depth and breadth of user interest in the wider community
- the opinions of recognised experts in the field
- the extent to which the information would impact on decision making (as judged from history or from understanding the decision-making processes), and any international reporting obligations.
In assessing whether any proposed activity undertaken by the ABS would be consistent with its legislative mandate and community expectations, the ABS takes account of:
How the ABS understands client needs
- any specific legislative obligations on the ABS to undertake the activity
- the statistical measurability of the issue, including the ability to provide information that is ‘fit for purpose’
- the extent to which other available sources of information, both other ABS and non-ABS, could be used to inform decision making
- the extent to which the ABS’s independent authority and the ABS power to collect information is required
- in determining the timing and frequency of the activity, the decision making time-frames and the expected rate of change in the information sought
- the level of community support to provide the required information.
- In assessing the cost of the activity, the ABS takes account of:
- the full cost to the ABS of undertaking the collection activity
- the capacity and capability of the ABS to undertake the collection activity
- the workload and other costs imposed on providers
- the sensitivity of the information and the ABS’s requirement to maintain the trust of providers.
The ABS determines future priorities by consulting and planning with users of statistics. These consultations are a key input to decisions on the scope, content and frequency of statistical collections.
Consultation takes place through the ABS organised statistics user groups; direct discussion with Australian, State, Territory and local government agencies, academics, industry bodies, non-government and community organisations, social media blogs; and the release of information or discussion papers inviting comment.
Consultations cover both the need for data on new or emerging topics, and the need for changes to existing data collections including discontinuing some series. Contact with consulted groups continues throughout the statistical cycle to keep them informed on progress and as a check that developments towards statistical outputs remain on track to meet survey objectives.
The overall shape of the proposed work program and estimates of resources required to deliver it are considered by the Australian Statistics Advisory Council (ASAC).
A list of user groups is provided in the appendix.
The ABS work program can be extended by way of user-funded activities. The ABS undertakes user-funded work where:
- the work is consistent with the ABS’s mission, legislative mandate and values
- the work itself, or the related funding arrangements, does not ‘crowd out’, compromise public support for, or otherwise put at risk the core work program
- there is demonstrable value in the activity, the ABS undertaking the activity would make a difference, and the burden imposed on providers is acceptable
- the ABS has the capability and capacity to undertake the work
- the work is fully cost-recovered
- the ABS has full control over all aspects of the work, including ownership of statistics created from it.