As the accountable authority of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), I present the 2018-19 Annual Performance Statement of the ABS, as required under paragraph 39(1)(a) of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act). In my opinion, based on advice from ABS management and the Audit Committee, this performance statement accurately reflects the performance of the ABS against the performance criteria included in its Portfolio Budget Statement1 and ABS Corporate Plan, and complies with subsection 39(2) of the PGPA Act.
David W. Kalisch
The ABS purpose is to inform Australia’s important decisions by partnering and innovating to deliver relevant, trusted and objective data, statistics and insights.
Results against the criteria from the ABS Corporate Plan 2018-19 to 2021-22 and the ABS Portfolio Budget Statement (PBS) are described below. All results relate to Program 1.1: Australian Bureau of Statistics associated with Outcome 1 in the ABS Portfolio Budget Statement:
Measure result scale
Decisions on important matters made by governments, business and the broader community are informed by objective, relevant and trusted official statistics produced through the collection and integration of data, its analysis, and the provision of statistical information.
Program 1.1 – Australian Bureau of Statistics
This program contributes to the outcome through delivery of high quality statistical information to inform Australia’s most important issues and through engaging with users within government, business and the community to ensure they have the confidence in the statistical resources available to enable them to make informed decisions.
the target has been fully achieved
greater than two thirds of the target has been achieved
less than two thirds of the target has been achieved in some of the measures
no target results evident
|Strategic Priority 1: Providing high quality statistics|
|Planned Performance: Decision making by governments, business and the community is informed by high quality statistics|
|Target 1.1: Statistical standards met2|
The integrity and credibility of the ABS, and productive stakeholder relationships, are built on the ABS’ continued provision of quality statistics that meet expected standards. The ABS is required by legislation to meet particular standards in its products, as well as assure the Australian public that its products can effectively inform new legislation and policy.
The ABS subscribes to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Special Data Dissemination Standard (SDDS)3 which allows surveillance of its data provision regarding national accounts, labour market, price indexes, general government, balance of payments, international investment position and merchandise trade. The ABS avails itself of flexibility options4 within the standard: a periodicity option for production indices, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and the production price indices5 ; and timeliness flexibility for production indices6.
Regarding CPI periodicity, Australia is the only G20 country that does not produce the index monthly. While the ABS is taking steps to develop data sources and methodologies to enhance the accuracy of the CPI and pave the way for improved periodicity, at this time and following consultation with stakeholders, the ABS is not actively pursuing the matter.
However, there are instances where the ABS exceeds other SDSS standards. For example, labour market statistics which are required on a quarterly basis under SDDS, are released by the ABS on a monthly basis. Similarly, population data, required on an annual basis are released by the ABS on a quarterly basis. Further, the Balance of Payments (BOP) and International Investment Position’s (IIP) timeliness7 exceeds SDDS as does the quarterly release of general government data, which remains an encouraged category.
ABS official statistics adhere to published Australian and international standards which are available on the ABS website.
|How we will measure this||Results statement|
|1.1.1 Assessment of key ABS statistics against international standards||Result: Achieved
The ABS continues to produce key economic and population statistics with appropriate coverage, frequency and timeliness as independently assessed by the IMF against the SDDS.
The ABS currently meets SDDS across all data categories, including the use of the aforementioned flexibility options. Where flexibility options have been used, the ABS has made an explicit decision to do so, following consultation with stakeholders, based on Australian needs and circumstances. The ABS exceeds other SDSS standards, for both periodicity and timeliness and periodicity for some key statistics.
The ABS has implemented all of the recommendations of the first phase of the G20 Data Gaps Initiative (DGI) except for the semi-annual reporting of Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey (CPIS) data and the Coordinated Direct Investment Survey (CDIS).
The ABS’ adherence to the SDDS is published on the IMF website and reviewed periodically.
|Target 1.2: Stakeholders use ABS statistics and are satisfied with the quality, timeliness, range and value-add to their business2|
The core function of the ABS is to provide quality statistics to its users; the level of quality is determined by international standards and partner stakeholders. Failure to provide relevant, accurate and timely statistics reduces value to stakeholder business and may impact the ability of government, business and the community to make effective and informed decisions. Effective engagement with stakeholders and customers enables the ABS to monitor and assess the value of data products and services and identify areas for improvement.
|How we will measure this||Results statements|
|1.2.1 Stakeholder Relationship Health Assessment||Result: Substantially achieved
The annual Stakeholder Relationship Health Assessment (SRHA) survey was undertaken in mid-2019, with respondents from government, educational institutions, community groups, business and industry bodies. The survey aimed to assess their satisfaction as users of ABS data and products.
Consistent with 2018, survey results demonstrated that the majority of responding stakeholders use, and are satisfied with, ABS statistics.
Two thirds (66%) of stakeholders were very satisfied or satisfied with the timeliness of ABS statistics, whilst three quarters or greater were very satisfied or satisfied with the quality (84%), range (76%) and relevance (83%) of ABS statistics.
In addition, 95% of stakeholders or greater either strongly agreed or agreed that ABS statistics, information or services are valuable to their business or organisation, and that the ABS is a credible source and a national asset that provides value to Australia.
The ABS facilitated a broad range of consultative fora across the statistical work program in 2018-19, including (but not limited to): the Australian Statistics Advisory Council (ASAC), as the key consultative forum, and Population and Social Statistics Advisory Group, which each met three times each, and the Economic and Labour Statistics Advisory Groups and State Statistical Forum which each met twice. Outcomes of these meetings indicate that stakeholders are finding value in consultation and the opportunity to discuss strategic work program issues.
ABS Senior Executive Staff (SES) reported that in 2018-19 a number of secondments both inward and outward between the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), The Treasury, state government departments, and the Productivity Commission resulted in a deepening of bilateral relations. These relationships strengthened the understanding of data sources, methods and new insights into ABS microdata e.g. the Wage Price Index microdata analysis undertaken by the RBA.
In 2018-19, a range of stakeholders committed significant funding for the National Health Survey, Survey of Disability and Carers, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey and the Personal Safety Survey. This level of investment reflects partner confidence in the ABS to deliver quality statistics.
Qualitative survey responses and interviews conducted with key senior stakeholders by an independent consultant in late 2018 reveal a more detailed picture. Timeliness and accessibility to data are areas of concern for some stakeholders. Funding cuts and resourcing constraints on the ABS over the past decade are recognised by stakeholders and are impacting the ABS’ ability to service their current and future data requirements.
|1.2.2 Stakeholder case studies||Result: Achieved
Overall, an increase in the use of ABS statistics demonstrates that ABS stakeholders have continued trust in ABS delivery of high quality, relevant products that directly inform priority policy decisions. The following suite of case studies indicate how the ABS is partnering to ensure its statistics are widely used.
Case Study 1: Coordination of Health Care Study.
Case Study 2: Release of headline monthly underemployment and underutilisation statistics.
Case Study 3: ABS study identifies risk factors to enhance suicide data.
Case Study 4: New data insights provide more accurate information for school funding model.
Case Study 5: The great Australian commute: understanding the journey to work.
Case Study 6: New insights utilising the Business Longitudinal Analytical Data Environment (BLADE).
|1.2.3 Use of consultancy services, microdata products and ABS website||Result: Achieved|
There were 53,346,109 page views on the ABS website for 2018-19. This is down from 64,001,395 in the previous financial year; the difference can be attributed to the release of the results from the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey in 2017-18, which caused an atypical rate of website use in that year.
The number of DataLab sessions for 2018-19 was 6,589. This is a 19% increase on the 5,541 sessions recorded in the previous financial year.
The growth in the number of DataLab sessions is attributed to a wealth of new datasets resulting from the Data Integration Partnership for Australia (DIPA), which can only be accessed in the DataLab environment.
In demonstration of use of ABS statistics, the value of information consultancies8 for the 2018–19 financial year was $859K. This value represents a decrease from the previous financial year by $103k, attributed to a reduced demand for 2016 Census of Population and Housing (Census) data, which was released in the previous financial year. This is a cyclical trend experienced over all Census data releases.
Overall, these results represent a healthy level of use of information products and services, indicating ongoing and increasing use of ABS data, particularly in the area of microdata access through the DataLab. The latter is an indicator of the user community’s growing interest in, and use of, integrated data sets.
|Strategic Priority 2: Transform the ABS for the future|
|Planned Performance: The Transformation Program is effectively implemented, to deliver contemporary systems that will better meet ABS’ future needs|
|Target 2.1: Statistical collections are transitioned to SBTP capabilities2|
The Statistical Business Transformation Program (SBTP) was established to address a significant risk to the production of high quality statistics. The SBTP expects to replace a portfolio of aged, siloed and inflexible processes and systems with a new suite of standardised business processes, and new IT tools and infrastructure that will enable more responsive and effective collection, storage and compilation of data.
In September 2018, the SBTP approach was adjusted in light of the level of statistical and program risk which became apparent during early adoption of new processes and technology. The revised scope has allowed the ABS to better manage statistical impact and prioritise benefits to ABS customers and providers. The key focus of 2019 has been to increase the number of statistical collection areas using new data acquisition capabilities.
The SBTP was subject to a mid-stage Gateway Review conducted on behalf of the Department of Finance in January 2019.
At the conclusion of the Program (30 June 2020), it is expected that SBTP capabilities will be used to collect data and publish statistics for the majority of the ABS’ collections.
|How we will measure this||Results statement|
|2.1.1 Successful business uptake of new processes and technologies||Result: Partially achieved
Transitioning ABS collections to new capabilities delivered by the SBTP has proven to be more challenging than anticipated.
In light of these challenges, a decision was taken in September 2018 to focus on client-facing systems to maximise the benefits delivered to ABS clients and users by June 2020.
The program prioritised the adoption of processes and technologies which impact on ABS providers and customers. This includes businesses, other government departments and individuals who provide data to the ABS, along with decision makers and analysts who use ABS data through a range of delivery channels.
As a result, the focus for 2018-19 for the ABS business was the transition of statistical collections to the new SBTP ‘multi-channel’ data acquisition capabilities. These new capabilities enable respondents to provide information through on-line questionnaires or interviews, and allow provision of bulk data to ABS. Transition to these capabilities is underway for further collections, with remaining migration in line with the cyclical nature of the business.
Externally facing dissemination solutions have also undergone development to make it easier for people to find, access and consume statistical data.
The first of the new Application Programming Interface (API) services was launched into production in November 2018. This service is now being used to deliver timely headline economic data to key media agencies to support important decisions that impact financial markets.
The SBTP will also deliver a new ABS website into production next year. A new Beta Concepts website was launched in December 2018. The Beta Concepts website showcases new ways of presenting statistical information, and allows customers to provide feedback to help shape the solution.
From 2019-20 onwards, this measure will no longer be reported externally as a part of the ABS Annual Performance Statement. Reporting of SBTP results will continue through internal governance fora and Australian Government Assurance Reviews (Gateway Reviews), administered by the Department of Finance.
|Planned Performance: Transform the workforce to drive improved performance|
|Target 2.2: ABS staff capability is focused on meeting future needs2|
The ABS Workforce Strategy 2015-19 provides a framework for reshaping workforce capability during ongoing organisational transformation. The capability environment is dynamic, characterised by a rapid rate of technological and environmental change, and a heightened sense of competition for data globally. The ABS must leverage the skills of its people to position itself sustainably into the future, including uptake of new tools and processes resulting from the SBTP.
Data capability is more important than ever; the ABS is focused on building this capability to benefit all Australians. Through strategic workforce planning and job design, the ABS has begun to assess emerging people capability needs and build targeted development opportunities. These initiatives will equip ABS staff with a valuable and transferrable skill set that supports the ABS as Australia’s pre-eminent leader in statistics and data capability.
|How we will measure this||Results statement|
|2.2.1 Improved staff capability ||Result: Substantially achieved
The Australian Public Service (APS) Employee State of the Service Census (SOS) results show increases across key areas of capability compared to 2018 SOS results, including:
· ‘My supervisor provides time for me to attend learning programs’ (95% Positive/Neutral, +1%)
· ‘My supervisor provides me with opportunities to develop relevant capabilities for my career’ (90% Positive/Neutral, +3%)
· ‘My supervisor gives me the opportunity to apply what I learn in my day-to-day work’, (97% Positive/Neutral, +5%) and
· ‘I have a clear understanding of my development needs’ (92% Positive/Neutral, +4%)
In 2018-19, the ABS focused on building staff leadership and management skills. The internally delivered Management Fundamentals programs were offered face to face across ABS sites with over 330 registrations to these popular one day sessions.
The ABS recognises the significant contribution of graduate staff to future ABS capability. Since 2002, 1,483 graduates have joined the ABS. Large, business-driven, variations in the size of the intake are based on an annual assessment of need, with an annual average intake of 85 contrasting with 31 in 2018 and 43 in 2019. The ABS placed 16th (up from 17th in 2018) in the ‘Top 100 Graduate Employers in Australia’ survey in 2019.
Corporate capability in areas such as work health and safety, privacy, and the prevention of bullying and harassment have been a focus in 2018-19. These mandatory courses assist the ABS to comply with its legislative obligations and meet its duty of care to staff.
A key objective for 2018-19 has been support for organisational capabilities emerging from the SBTP. A series of ‘Writing for the Web’ face-to-face sessions were provided in 2019. The demand for these sessions was extremely high, with an uptake rate of almost 100% for available places.
This year, approximately 28% of ABS staff undertook statistical eLearning courses as part of our holistic approach to developing data, analytic and statistical skills.
These improvements translate to gains in data capability within the ABS, across the public sector and the broader labour market. Our focus within the ABS, is to continue to deliver contemporary resources and development approaches to meet changing needs of the ABS, and the rapidly evolving external data environment.
From 2019-20 onwards, this measure will no longer be reported externally as a part of the ABS Annual Performance Statement, however developing staff capability remains a priority for the ABS to remain a high performing organisation and will continue to be monitored internally.
|Target 2.3: Staff positively engage with contemporary ways of working2|
The ABS operates in an employment market where there is significant competition for the capabilities that we rely upon to deliver our work program. This creates a risk, identified in the Corporate Plan, in terms of capability and capacity to support the delivery of the regular work program alongside the implementation of transformation initiatives.
The ABS has actively responded to the evolving expectations of a contemporary labour force by implementing initiatives (such as Flex Works) that help us to attract and retain the capabilities we need. Working conditions including flexible working and work-life balance are important attraction and retention factors for employers.
The opportunity to work in an agency that empowers its people to live a balanced life represents a potential key differentiator of the ABS as an employer. By embracing contemporary and flexible working arrangements, the ABS has capitalised on the skills, knowledge and experience of all employees by enabling and empowering a more diverse workforce.
|How we will measure this||Results statement|
|2.3.1 Uptake of Flex Works|
The Flex Works initiative, launched in April 2018, is designed to aid employees to work more flexibly. Flex Works supports the many initiatives in place to help employees balance their work and home lives including access to part-time and job share arrangements, flex-time, time off in lieu, and purchased annual leave, all supported by technology, policies, guidelines and practices.
During 2018-19, there was an increase in the number of staff accessing Flex Works. There was an increase of 9.6% (up from 33.1% to 42.7%) in the use of formal teleworking agreements (ABS target of 65% of staff formally teleworking by 2020).
Staff using flexible working arrangements indicated ongoing satisfaction, with results showing:
· 90% were satisfied with their ability to access and use flexible working arrangements (up from 88%)
· 91% were satisfied with their non-monetary employment conditions (e.g. leave, flexible work arrangements). This rate was unchanged from 2018.
This measure will no longer be reported externally as a part of the ABS Annual Performance Statement, however Flex Works remains an important strategy for the ABS to attract and retain talented staff and will continue to be monitored internally.
|Target 2.4: ABS workforce is representative of Australian society2|
The ABS Inclusion and Diversity Strategy 2018-21 sets out the ABS' intention to continue to create workplaces that are more inclusive, and recognises the importance of having a diverse workforce. Inclusivity and diversity support us to become a higher performing and transformative organisation.
Our commitment is demonstrated through a range of workplace policies, strategies and initiatives including: flexible working arrangements, training and awareness programs, implementation of a Reconciliation Action Plan, policies that reflect community expectations (e.g. Domestic and Family Violence Leave and Cultural Leave), and employee diversity networks.
All vacancies advertised internally and externally are now able to apply the RecruitAbility scheme to attract and develop applicants with disability. The ABS has utilised affirmative measures and identified positions for the recruitment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees. These initiatives are aimed at assisting us make our workforce more representative of Australian society. The ABS is guided by APSC initiatives to support diversity and inclusion, and aims to meet targets set for the APS in these areas.
The ABS is a member of the Australian Network on Disability, Pride in Diversity and Diversity Council of Australia. SES are engaged and committed senior organisational champions for Inclusion and Diversity, Reconciliation, Disability and Carers, LGBTI+, Gender Equity, Leveraging Aspergers and Autism, and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse networks.
|How we will measure this||Results statement|
|2.4.1 ABS staff diversity||Result: Substantially achieved
During 2018-19, the ABS has been educating managers and their staff about fostering inclusive cultures (e.g. LGBTI+ and Disability Confident Training) so they are more comfortable in recruiting and retaining staff from diverse groups. It is envisaged this will ultimately assist in making our workforce more representative of Australian society.
Membership levels of all employee diversity networks have increased in the past 12 months which are supported by 12 SES diversity champions (unchanged from June 30, 2018).
The SOS diversity results indicated:
· 1.4% of staff identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander (down from 1.5% in 2018).
· 6.4% of staff identified as having a disability (down from 7.3% in 2018).
In June 2019, the proportion of females in operative, nominal SES roles was 46% (slightly down from 50% in July 2018).
While the implemented programs and initiatives have been deemed successful, the ABS has not achieved a meaningful increase in the rates of staff identifying as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, people with a disability etc. and therefore the ABS has not fully achieved the target of having a workforce more representative of Australian society within this reporting period.
From 2019-20 onwards, this measure will no longer be reported externally as a part of the ABS Annual Performance Statement, however staff diversity remains a priority for the ABS to ensure our workforce is more representative of Australian society and will continue to be monitored internally.
|Target 2.5: ABS exemplifies a high performing culture2|
Since 2015, the ABS has identified organisational culture as one of six critical success factors for organisational transformation. This responded to a number of independent reviews which called for cultural change to reposition the ABS for the future, with a shift to become a more open, engaged and outward-looking agency, working in partnership with others. In 2017, the ABS developed a culture change strategy and conducted a range of leader led initiatives including executive leadership interviews, workshops, 360 degree feedback assessments, and leadership summits to drive culture change. This work culminated in the development of ‘ABS: Our Culture’ statement9.
Since 2016, a biannual ‘Transformation Survey’ of staff has been used to benchmark and measure staff attitudes to ABS Transformation, including aspects of cultural change. In mid- 2017, the ABS used the Organisational Culture Inventory (OCI) to benchmark its culture, identify its preferred culture, and map out the steps to transition between the two.
|How we will measure this||Results statement|
|2.5.1 Results of Culture focused surveys||Result: Substantially achieved
Transformation Survey: For Transformation to be successful, the ABS requires its staff to demonstrate desired high performance behaviours. The seventh Transformation Survey was conducted during March and April 2019, with 1,128 ABS employees participating (46% of operative office-based staff). The results found that staff observed their work colleagues being: customer focused (84%), agile (80%), collaborative (79%), accountable (73%), innovative (72%) and self-aware (62%) in their day to day work. These results have improved slightly since the sixth Transformation Survey in October 2018.
The seventh Transformation Survey found that staff held more positive views in early 2019 (compared to mid-2017) about the following four key aspects of desired organisational culture: achievement (84% vs. 73%), self-actualisation (83% vs. 75%), being humanistic-encouraging (88% vs. 76%) and affiliation (79% vs. 69%).10
SOS: The SOS is run annually by the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) and collects confidential attitude and opinion information from across all APS agencies on important issues including their health and wellbeing, attendance, performance management, leadership, and general impressions of the APS.
Notable improvements for the ABS include:
· 63% of respondents agreed that ABS leaders (EL2 and SES) are driving a high performing culture (up from 57% in 2018)
· 75% believed that the ABS is a customer focused organisation (up from 67%)
· 75% felt that they adopted an agile approach to work within their section (up from 73%)
· 90% agreed that their supervisor gave them responsibility and held them to account for what they delivered (up from 89%)
· 93% believed that one of their responsibilities was to continually look for new ways to improve the work they do (up from 91%)
· 72% agreed that their supervisor encouraged them to try new things even if they didn’t always work out (up from 69%)
· 62% felt well prepared to succeed in the ABS professionally post transformation (up from 60%).
Many of these ratings are above APS and specialist agency scores.
From 2019-20 onwards, this measure will no longer be reported externally as a part of the ABS Annual Performance Statement, however maintaining a high performance culture remains a priority for the ABS to continue to become a more effective, engaged and outward looking agency.
|Strategic Priority 3: Delivering new statistical solutions to maximise the value of public data|
|Planned Performance: The ABS collaborates with stakeholders to use administrative data and data integration to meet policy and research needs|
|Target 3.1: Stakeholder partnerships and collaborations on statistical data integration activity2|
Data integration facilitates opportunities to build partnerships and collaboration with the goal of meeting policy and research needs. In the last year, ABS has improved stakeholder partnerships and collaboration on statistical data integration activity, as demonstrated by the range of data integration projects undertaken in partnership with other agencies.
Through DIPA, ABS collaborates with partners across government to make better use of existing public data to support cross-portfolio research and improved analytic capability within the APS.
ABS works closely with four analytical units to deliver DIPA research projects. These are the:
- Physical Environment Analytical Network (PEAN) - lead agencies are the Department of Environment and Energy (DoEE) and the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR)
- Economic Data and Analysis Network (EDAN) - the lead agency is the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science (DIIS)
- Health and Welfare Analytical Unit (SHWAU) - lead agencies are the Department of Health (Health) and the Department of Social Services (DSS)
- Central Analytics Hub (CAH) - led by Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C).
There is also high demand for ABS data integration capability beyond the DIPA program. The ABS works closely with state and Commonwealth government partners, the RBA and academic researchers to maintain a balance of work and ensure data integration activities support key policy priorities outside of DIPA.
ABS has maintained its relevance in the national statistical community by collaborating with stakeholders to advance the value of statistical data integration. Together with a variety of partners the ABS has innovated to harness the value of public data to create statistical products to meet the demands of Australian decision makers. The ABS continues to invest in the provision of innovative solutions that maximise the value of existing data sets thereby increasing customer satisfaction and meeting internal transformation objectives.
|How we will measure this||Results statement|
|3.1.1 Range of data integration projects undertaken in collaboration with other agencies, including DIPA||Result: Achieved
Effective partnerships and collaboration throughout 2018-19 enabled delivery of a wide range of data integration projects.
Through DIPA collaborations, all 33 Policy Delivery Plans (PDPs) have been delivered, with expected and significant progress on seven infrastructure projects. 2018-19 PDPs include research topics relating to mental health, older Australians, productivity, natural disasters and water policies. These PDPs make extensive use of the Multi-Agency Data Integration Project (MADIP) and BLADE integrated data assets, which have also been enhanced through DIPA collaboration (see Target 3.2.2 for further details).
As well as undertaking the data linkage to enable these projects, the ABS works collaboratively with analytical units to extract and assemble customised integrated data in line with research objectives, and is supporting researchers to build analytical capability, through secondments, training, and provision of methodological support and technical advice.
Through these collaboration initiatives, access to integrated data assets has increased considerably over the past year, with 266 researchers currently analysing MADIP and/or BLADE integrated data assets (up from 103 at June 2018).
Collaboration with partner agencies, including state and Commonwealth government departments, has also enabled delivery of a number of data integration projects outside of DIPA, with 16 projects initiated and a further 35 existing projects extended in 2018-19. Key projects include:
· Partnership with National Centre for Vocational Education Research to link data from the Census and the National Vocational Education and Training (VET) in Schools Collection, to track over time the post-school employment and further education destinations of VET students in secondary schools
· Collaboration with South Australian Government to link state business administrative datasets with the BLADE to explore industry and employment dynamics and inform economic development policy
· Partnership with Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) to deliver the Coordination of Health Care Study, which links data from selected health-related administrative datasets with patient-reported experiences of health care to enable analysis and understanding of the impact of coordination and continuity of care on health outcomes in Australia (See Case Study 1: Coordination of Health Care Study)
· Working with the Department of Education on new data insights to provide more accurate funding arrangements for non-government schools using different government information combined through the MADIP (See Case Study 4: New data insights provide more accurate information for school funding model)
· The RBA has utilised BLADE to examine: how Australian businesses manage their balance sheets and how their financial structure affects various outcomes like investment, growth and survival; the effects of changes in minimum and award wages on the labour market; and assess the causes and effects of changes in business productivity in Australia.
|3.1.2 Stakeholder Relationship Health Assessment||Result: Achieved
Feedback provided to ABS SES indicates that joint data integration initiatives provide benefit to Commonwealth and jurisdictional agencies. Such projects use pre-existing datasets and data capabilities to enable improved health, education and economic policy development.
ABS Strategic Partnership Managers and outposted officers are seen to be knowledgeable, helpful and responsive - helping stakeholders navigate the complex new world of data integration and microdata projects.
The ABS’ Statistical Services Group also undertook a number of projects with a range of Commonwealth agencies over the past year. An example of this is the Department of Foreign of Affairs and Trade and Australian Trade and Investment Commission funded project that provides an insight into the economic activity of foreign owned businesses in Australia by integrating detailed business characteristics from BLADE and other administrative data sets with official trade statistics.
Interviews conducted with key senior stakeholders by an independent consultant in late 2018 reveal an ever increasing demand for data integration projects from the ABS especially in the areas of health, education, human services, tax and employment.
Although stakeholders see the ABS as a willing collaborator on projects, and data access has improved as a result of deliberate and concerted work to streamline access processes and evolve our approach to managing data access to different classes of users, there is still unmet demand for data and data access, which stakeholders attribute largely to funding reductions to the ABS.
|Target 3.2: Use of public data through new statistical solutions2|
Public data is a valuable resource that has the potential to enable new insights and statistical solutions to inform important social and economic policy analysis, research and evaluation. However, the information needed to address complex policy issues and research questions is often spread across datasets held by a number of agencies. Data integration enables analysis that would not be possible using only separate, unlinked data sources.
The ABS is the primary Accredited Integrating Authority for the DIPA. Through DIPA, the ABS is growing new integrated data assets and delivering them to approved researchers to inform cross-portfolio social, economic and environment policy priorities. The ABS is also developing innovative data access solutions to enable more flexible and informative analysis of integrated data, while keeping private information secure and protected.
The capability developed through DIPA is enabling the ABS to deliver on a number of other data integration initiatives, to address unmet statistical need and to improve the efficiency of costly collections by better leveraging existing data to meet current and emerging information requirements.
|How we will measure this||Results statement|
|3.2.1 Initiatives to use public data||Result: Achieved
The ABS is collaborating with partners across government to enhance and deliver new integrated data assets, as well as expand access to integrated data assets for government and non-government researchers.
ABS collaborates with DIPA partners to acquire and safely integrate a wide range of public data. Throughout this process, ABS engages closely with data custodians to ensure approval and governance requirements are met.
Collaborative initiatives to use existing public data is also enabling a number of projects outside of DIPA. For example, the 2016 iterations of Australian Census and Migrants Integrated Dataset (ACMID) and Australian Census and Temporary Entrants Integrated Dataset link data held by Department of Home Affairs with Census data to create new statistical solutions that deliver novel insights into the population. For example, by combining 2016 Census data and temporary visa information from the Department of Home Affairs, a comprehensive picture is available of where groups of temporary residents live, the countries they come from, what work they do, what they earn and if they are studying.
The ACMID also allows Census information to be cross-classified by migrants' entry conditions (e.g. visa status, location onshore or offshore and whether a main or secondary applicant), providing valuable insights into settlement patterns of overseas born persons by visa stream as well as information on citizenship, housing, income, labour force characteristics, changing occupations, educational pathways and family characteristics.
Better use of public data is also facilitating improvements to ABS collections. As a result of research led by the Census Futures team, the 2021 Census will use administrative data to improve the quality and efficiency of Census outputs. Use of public data will:
· improve the Census count by using counts of people from administrative data to better inform on the number of people living in houses where no form is received
· further improve these counts by providing a 'signs of life' indicator for houses to assist determining whether they were occupied on Census night, and
· assist Census collectors to efficiently follow up Australians where forms have not yet been received.
|3.2.2 New integrated datasets||Result: Achieved
In 2018-19, the ABS has improved the data available in its key integrated data assets, as follows:
· MADIP expanded from 8 to 13 ongoing linked datasets. The MADIP was also used to undertake 5 one-off linkage projects.
· BLADE expanded from 9 to 10 ongoing linked datasets, with one additional year of data added. The BLADE was also used to undertake 10 one-off linkage projects.
Other new integrated datasets released in 2018-19 include:
· A TableBuilder product for the Linked Employer-Employee Database (LEED) - allowing approved users to create their own customised and confidentialised tables with LEED data.
· 2016 Census data being included in the Australian Census Longitudinal Dataset (ACLD) - the ACLD now provides access to three years' of Census data (2006, 2011, 2016).
These enhancements provide new and customised integrated datasets for analysis by government researchers.
|3.2.3 New integrated data methods and infrastructure resources||Result: Achieved
In 2018-19, the ABS progressed seven significant and innovative projects to support broader whole of government access to, and use of, high quality integrated data. These projects are undertaken in partnership with a range of Commonwealth Agencies as part of DIPA.
1. Interoperability - the ABS and AIHW developed and tested the use of interoperable methods for combining integrated data assets. Trials demonstrated that data from each agency could be brought together to support policy research using a federated approach that preserves privacy, achieves high quality results and avoids duplication. Interoperability was used to generate research data sets for analysis of the use of government Services by older Australians. See Statistical Data Integration - MADIP Research Projects.
2. Location Index - the ABS, Department of the Environment and Energy, Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Geoscience Australia, the Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organisation, and the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science together developed the Location Integration Capability known as Loc-I. Loc-I is designed to streamline and quality assure the integration of datasets based on location.
3. Protari - in collaboration with Data61, the ABS conducted user trials of Protari. Protari is an Application Programming Interface that enables the generation of insights from tabular data in a way that preserves privacy, is secure and fosters innovation. As a part of the trial, approved Protari users generated tables from the MADIP Basic Longitudinal Extract using the 2011 and 2016 Censuses.
4. On-site DataLab - the number of analysts using the secure on-site DataLab for deep research rose to over 1,000 as a result of DIPA as well as increased use for other projects. The ABS improved the DataLab with additional statistical software and increased computing power.
5. Cloud DataLab - the ABS commenced a project to build a new, secure cloud DataLab for analysts to access integrated data products. The new DataLab will provide a more streamlined research experience in a secure, scalable and flexible environment. The platform will be used by researchers from across government, as well as by academics and other authorised researchers.
6. Person linkage spine - the person linkage spine, that provides the central index around which person-centred linkage is managed, continued to mature. An annual refresh process, including the addition of migration information, was instituted.
7. Integrated data platforms - the ABS continued to develop scalable data linkage, and content and assembly platforms; for use by specialist staff. These platforms ensure integrated data is stored and managed securely, and enables the more efficient creation of integrated person-centred datasets.
These projects supported increased access to, and use of, integrated data for policy and research. Further developments will continue to streamline data integration while maintaining privacy and security, creating high quality statistical products, and providing access in a scalable, useable and secure way.
|Case Study 1: Coordination of Health Care Study (Target 1.2, Measure 1.2.2)|
|The Coordination of Heath Care Study is a partnership between the ABS and AIHW providing important information on patients’ experiences of coordination of health care across Australia. |
Navigating health care systems can be difficult, especially for people with multiple conditions or complex, long-term health care needs. It is therefore crucial that relevant information is transferred between providers (for example, a general practitioner and a specialist) and settings (for example, emergency department and primary health care) to ensure patients receive the right type of care, at the right time, in a consistent and cohesive manner.
The study focused on people aged 45 years and over who saw a general practitioner at least once between November 2014 and November 2015, and was designed to provide robust data for local areas.
The first stage of the study, the Survey of Health Care was conducted throughout Australia in 2016 and explored participants’ self-reported experiences with health care providers and the broader health care system.
The second stage, undertaken in 2018, involved linking Medicare and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) information for consenting participants from the 2014 to 2018 Survey of Health Care. This provided an opportunity to understand patients’ experiences of coordinated care in the context of their use of Medicare services and PBS medicines. Administrative data was used to weight responses from the sample of study participants, enhancing data quality. Initial results released by ABS in December 2018 pave the way for future analysis, modelling and reporting by the AIHW.
A third stage of the study, underway in 2019, will, with explicit consent, link state and territory hospital admissions and emergency department data to Survey of Health Care data. This will facilitate further understanding of the impact of coordination and continuity of care on health outcomes and health system usage in Australia.
The sharing of methodological and technical expertise between the ABS and AIHW resulted in improved data quality and tailored outputs to better meet the information needs of AIHW, while seconding AIHW officers to the ABS facilitated mutual learning and improved data access to customised microdata, delivered via the ABS DataLab.
|Case Study 2: Release of headline monthly underemployment and underutilisation (Target 1.2, Measure 1.2.2)|
|Underemployment is recognised as a key measure of spare capacity in the labour market. The ABS was one of the first organisations to definitively measure underemployment in the 1980s, and previously published a quarterly time series.|
Australia’s underemployment rate has been increasing since it was first recorded in 1978, and has generally risen over periods of economic weakness, most notably in the early 1990s, and during the Global Financial Crisis.
In October 2018, the ABS launched a headline monthly series of underemployment and underutilisation (which includes both unemployment and underemployment) estimates as part of Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0). This followed a review of Labour Statistics content in 2012 and consultation with key stakeholders that identified a need to more frequently monitor underemployment.
The monthly estimates have been well received by labour statistics stakeholders; including the RBA who noted that, while the monthly unemployment rate remains the best indicator of spare capacity in the labour market, the addition of a monthly underemployment rate to the Labour Force release assists them in taking a timely, broader perspective on spare capacity in the labour market.
The Labour Force Survey uses the international standard of working one hour or more in a week to determine whether someone is employed. Underemployment statistics provide insights into the extent to which people are working but would like to work more hours.
More frequent underemployment estimates also help to mitigate some of the misconceptions that official unemployment estimates are understated, as noted by economic journalist Greg Jericho:
“This is a fantastic development that is rather remarkable in light of the very significant cuts to the ABS funding over the past five years. It should reduce the criticism of the ABS that it misses out on many ‘real’ unemployed because it counts being employed as working at least one hour a week".11
|Case Study 3: ABS study identifies risk factors to enhance suicide data (Target 1.2, Measure 1.2.2)|
|The ABS devised and piloted a method for identifying and recording psychosocial risk factors associated with suicide deaths. This pilot study aimed to enhance suicide data by providing information on complex factors associated with suicidal behaviour, enabling more targeted intervention strategies.|
Information on suicide deaths is critically important to help inform suicide prevention activities. National mortality data is used extensively to monitor trends in suicide deaths, providing insights into death rates, changes in demographics, and other diseases and conditions associated with suicide deaths.
In recognition of the need to understand factors relating to deaths – especially suicide deaths – the ABS devised a framework and trial method for capturing information on ‘risk factors’ using the International Classification of Diseases (ICD). The ICD is a global health information standard for mortality and morbidity statistics, used in clinical care and research to define diseases and study disease patterns.
In 2018-19, the ABS undertook a pilot study on 2017 Australian registered suicide deaths, capturing psychosocial risk factors through a comprehensive review of reports on the National Coronial Information System (NCIS). The NCIS is a repository of police, toxicology and pathology reports as well as coronial findings, which provide information on intent, mechanism and other relevant diseases or conditions. These reports also contain information on lifestyle factors that may have contributed to a death.
Examples of commonly identified risk factors included:
- personal history of self-harm
- disruption of family due to separation and divorce
- problems in relationship with spouse or partner including domestic violence
- problems relating to legal circumstance
- death of a family member or friend
- problems relating to economic circumstances, and
- limitation of abilities due to disability or chronic illness.
Recording psycho-social risk factors in national mortality data could provide a nationally consistent dataset that more comprehensively describes the combination of factors contributing to suicide deaths.
This dataset could be used to strengthen local and national suicide data infrastructure, and better understand suicidal behaviour amongst Australians, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. This richer source of information could also allow for targeted whole of government policy responses.
Now the pilot study is complete, work will commence with the NCIS, researchers and other government departments including the AIHW and the Department of Health to refine the methods and future scope of this work. Successful integration of risk factors into national mortality data could help target future intervention strategies and enable better monitoring of both emerging trends and the effectiveness of prevention strategies.
The ABS has also worked with international partners and the World Health Organisation to embed psycho-social factors in the structure of the revised International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). The revision is now able to systematically capture these factors, and while adoption of ICD-11 may be several years away, this will provide a viable longer term mechanism for systematically capturing this critical health information.
|Case Study 4: New data insights provide more accurate information for school funding model (Target 1.2, Measure 1.2.2)|
|The ABS is working with the Department of Education on new data insights to provide more accurate funding arrangements for non-government schools.|
Using different government information combined through the Multi-Data Agency Integration Project (MADIP), the ABS and the Department of Education are developing data that will give a more accurate analysis of parents’ capacity to contribute to school funding and will inform the distribution of over $170 billion in funding to non-government schools over the period 2019 to 2029.
The research is supporting one of the priorities of the National School Resourcing Board (the Board), which was established in 2017 to provide independent oversight of Commonwealth school funding. The Board wanted to review current arrangements related to one of the key inputs to funding arrangements, notably the capacity of non-government school communities to contribute to the operational costs of their school.
Historically, this capacity to contribute had been determined using an area-based Socio-Economic Status (SES) score, which was based on the best available data when it was implemented in 2001. These scores take into account the income, education and occupation of residents of small geographic areas. Although accurate in many cases, these scores can overstate the SES of some schools and understate that of others.
The data obtained through MADIP measures the school community’s capacity to contribute based on the income of parents or guardians based on the safe, anonymised linking of personal income tax data and residential address information.
Through research undertaken within the secure ABS DataLab facility, the Department of Education is continuing work to refine the direct income measure. The new funding arrangements will use this new direct income measure utilising data provided by the ABS, to ensure funding flow to the schools that need it the most.
“In keeping with recommendations from the 2011 Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling, utilising data available through MADIP will be significant in transforming historical ways that schools have been funded and will provide confidence to non-government schools that the new measure is fairer and backed up by data and evidence.” (Department of Education)
|Case Study 5: The great Australian commute: understanding the journey to work (Target 1.2, Measure 1.2.2)|
|Many Australians face the daily commute to work, placing pressure on transport infrastructure. The ABS is using Census data to shed new light on commuting patterns and assist with local planning and urban design.|
The ABS in 2018 released new information from the 2016 Census that measured the shortest road distance between where people lived and where they usually worked. This information is referred to distance to work, or commuting distance.
The ABS is using Census data on commuting distance for each employed Australian to assist analysts to understand commuting patterns and how they are associated with other detailed Census characteristics, such as sex, occupation, income and family type. Analysts now understand which occupations travel longer or shorter distances to work (for example, nurses and doctors), and that higher incomes are associated with greater commuting distances. The detailed geographic nature of this data means that regional and local commuting patterns can also be analysed and factored into local planning.
This new commuting distance data is vital to understanding the use of transport infrastructure and the functioning of labour markets (for example, how far people will travel for certain types of work). It also provides insights into the impacts of commuting on Australian workers and families, and the relationship with housing markets and urban design.
The ABS engaged with a range of key infrastructure and transport departments and experts across Australia during the development of the commuting distance data. These stakeholders, including the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities & Regional Development, provided direct input into statistical methods and the format of the outputs. This collaboration will help to ensure that the commuting distance information can inform key policy questions on road and transport infrastructure, and feed into research on urban design. This project provides a strong example of how the ABS can maximise the use of existing data to derive new statistical insights to meet an identified information need.
Users can access commuting distance information in many ways, including analytical reports, interactive maps, detailed data cubes, and through the Census TableBuilder service.
|Case Study 6: New insights utilising the Business Longitudinal Analytical Data Environment (BLADE) (Target 1.2, Measure 1.2.2)|
BLADE combines business tax data and information from ABS surveys and other sources to produce an important data asset for Australia. The BLADE data asset contains data on all active businesses from 2001-02 to 2016-17, sourced from:
- the Australian Taxation Office: Business Activity Statements (BAS), Business Income Tax (BIT) filings and Pay as You Go (PAYG) summaries
- ABS surveys, including the Business Characteristics Survey (BCS) and Management Capabilities Module (MCM), Economic Activity Survey (EAS), Business Expenditure on Research and Development (BERD), Private Non-Profit Expenditure on Research and Development (PNPERD), Survey of Research and Experimental Development, Government (GOVERD)
- Intellectual Property Australia: Intellectual Property Longitudinal Research Data (IPLORD)
- Government program data is also regularly integrated to the BLADE frame. The primary source of government program data is the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science. Some of these program data include: R&D Tax Incentives program, Entrepreneurs Program, Commercialisation Australia program, and Venture Capital program.
The BLADE data asset is being utilised by policy makers and researchers to provide insights into the performance of businesses in Australia; the impact of government programs on businesses; and understanding structural change in the Australian economy.
BLADE is specifically enabling important insights into wage growth in Australia. The RBA has examined the effects of changes in minimum and award wages on the labour market. The Australian Treasury is currently exploring the extent to which changes in the wages-productivity link and job switching patterns – can explain low aggregate wage growth in Australia. BLADE will help policy makers better understand one of the major macro-economic challenges of our time – low wage growth, which is critical due its bearing on individual wellbeing, tax revenues and potential implications for broader economic policy making in Australia.
End-year analysis of performance against purpose 2018-19
As Australia’s official statistical agency, the ABS plays a key role in assisting the government, business and the community by delivering trusted, world-class statistics, and providing information necessary to drive innovation and to meet the evolving information needs of our economy and society.
In 2018-19, the ABS performed strongly against the majority of the performance measures outlined in the 2018-19 to 2021-22 Corporate Plan. Of the fourteen performance measures, the ABS ‘fully achieved’ nine, ‘substantially achieved’ four and ‘partially achieved’ one. The reasons why 5 measures were not fully achieved include the revised scope of the SBTP to manage risk, increasingly detailed and complex stakeholder demands for data access, and slower than expected progress in addressing emerging statistical capability requirements. Whilst the ABS aims to achieve a high performing work place culture and a diverse workforce representative of Australian society, further improvements are required to meet targets.
In 2018–19, the ABS undertook a diverse range of activities to achieve its purpose, such as:
- Continuing the development of enhanced labour market information, including the production of quarterly and annual labour accounts
- Continuing to enhance the CPI through the adoption of new techniques and methodologies, maximising the use of transaction and web scraped data
- Delivering a significant household survey program, including the conduct of the National Torres Strait Islander Health Survey; the Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers; and the Longitudinal Study of Australia’s Children
- Improving the quality and range of environmental information to inform policy through the development of the Loc-I in partnership with other Australian government agencies
- Informing government decisions on the content of the 2021 Census based on the public consultation process
- Preparing for the 2021 Census, including extensive planning and engagement of major suppliers
- Undertaking a broad range of data integration activities as a primary integrating authority for the DIPA
- Increasing the use of online data collection to improve survey response rates
- Providing technical advice and assistance to the newly established National Data Commissioner to support the reform of the national data system
- Delivering new and enhanced statistical collection capabilities and improved and standardised business processes through the SBTP, including the use of these new capabilities
- Implementing a new ABS job design framework to support a new statistical production model.
The ABS’ achievements in 2018-19 have occurred within an increasingly complex operating environment and data landscape. A number of factors which have influenced performance outcomes include (but are not limited to):
Priority-specific factors influencing performance
- Exponential growth in information and evidence sources outside the ABS
- High stakeholder demand, rising costs and difficulty sustaining high response rates
- Continuing budget constraints on the ABS, now apparent for the past decade
- Highly publicised privacy failures in public and private institutions threatening public support for data use
- New technologies (machine intelligence, cloud-based services) providing new opportunities for data and statistical services
- Customers increasingly considering alternative data sources, often trading timeliness for quality
- Partner entities under greater fiscal pressure, seeking more efficient and innovative statistical and information solutions
- Evolution of state government data sharing legislation.
Strategic Priority 1
: Providing high quality statistics
The 2018-19 ABS Forward Work Program (FWP) reflects extensive external consultation and consideration of the ABS’ current environmental and financial context. Extensive partner consultation ensured the FWP was relevant as well as financially responsible, confirming the most efficient use of ABS resources on the highest priority work program to meet stakeholders’ needs.
The ABS continues to provide proactive communication and undertake engagement with the ASAC, the Minister’s office, key stakeholders and the media.
Strategic Priority 2
: Transforming the ABS for the future
Building staff capability had a dual focus in 2018-19: building key statistical skills to meet the changing demands of the external data environment, as well as ensuring the necessary expertise to deliver transformed operating environments. Staff have been highly engaged in developing the skills required in the future ABS, either in direct response to the transformation agenda or with a view towards the role and work of the ABS in the next 3-5 years.
The scope of SBTP was adjusted in late 2018 to reduce an unacceptable level of statistical and Program risk which became apparent during early experiences with adoption of new processes and technologies. The key focus of 2019 was to increase the number of statistical collection areas using new data acquisition capabilities. This revised approach is consistent with the advice provided by the Gateway Review conducted by the Department of Finance in January 2019.
Strategic Priority 3:
Delivering new statistical solutions to maximise the value of public data
All results for this strategic priority were achieved, despite there being a range of challenges in the data integration operating environment. The most significant factor is balancing the need to ensure community trust in the ABS and building social licence, against the growing demand for increased access to ABS data. Achieving this balance will enable stakeholders, and the nation as a whole, to benefit from ABS data activities, capabilities and resources.
Quality assurance of ABS Performance Measures for 2018-19
The measures demonstrate both an internal and external focus on ensuring the ABS achieves its purpose of informing important decisions through quality statistics, partnerships, and innovation.
In 2018-19, an internal audit of the mid-year performance process was undertaken to:
- assess whether the methodology and formula for the collection of data to support the performance measures is appropriate; and
- evaluate the type of evidence to be collected and assess whether it is relevant, reliable and complete.
The audit also included a deep dive on three performance measures. This involved a review and assessment of the methodology used to collect and report information in relation to quality assurance and maintaining supporting evidence.
Overall, evidence sources were assessed as fit for purpose, with methodology and data collation processes adequately documented. Quality control and assurance tasks were consistently undertaken. The audit noted the outcomes of the ABS’ recent efforts to improve its approach to quality control and assurance, contextualising measure results, and working with business areas to produce outcome focused performance narratives.
Targets and measures will be replaced or rephrased in 2019-20 to align with a contemporary suite of agency objectives that draw a clear line of sight to the ABS purpose, and reflect the changes as the organisation moves beyond transformation to the next phase of the ABS’ capability and expertise being used for greater government, business and community benefit across the broader data landscape.
1 ABS Portfolio Budget Statement is contained in Budget 2018-19 – Portfolio Budget Statements 2018-19 – Budget Related Paper No. 1.16 – Treasury Portfolio
2 Source: ABS Corporate Plan 2018-19 to 2020-21, pg. 24-25
4 The SDDS sets out standards for how frequently data should be released (periodicity) and how quickly it should be released (timeliness). A flexibility option within the SDDS means that the ABS may vary its periodicity or timeliness for selected collections and still be assessed as compliant with the standard.
5 Australia compiles and disseminates quarterly data and not monthly data as required
6 Australia disseminates the index no later than one quarter after the reference quarter and not within six weeks as required.
7 BOP and IIP statistics are released approximately two months after the end of the reference quarter
8 Information consultancies: cost recovered customer requests for customised data
9 ABS: Our Culture’ statement: ‘It is our intent that the ABS culture brings out the best in all our people, enabling us to increase our impact through outstanding service delivery. To achieve this cultural intent, our employees will need to be customer-focused, collaborative, accountable, agile, innovative and self-aware.’
10 Achievement - I am expected to know the business, think ahead and plan, pursue a standard of excellence and take on challenging tasks.
Self-Actualising - I am expected to maintain my personal integrity, communicate ideas, do even simple tasks well and enjoy.
Humanistic Encouraging - I am expected to help others grow and develop, resolve conflicts constructively, be a good listener and encourage.
Affiliative - I am expected to treat people as more important than things, cooperate with others and deal with others in a friendly, pleasant way.