1005.0 - ABS Corporate Plan, 2020-21  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 11/12/2020   
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The ABS objectives respond directly to the Government’s Statement of Expectations for the ABS, the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975 and the Census and Statistics Act 1905. The Government’s Statement of Expectations requires the ABS to operate independently and objectively and in a way that maintains its reputation as a world-class statistical agency. This Statement also requires the ABS to appropriately align its work with key government policy objectives, be accountable and efficient, engage with stakeholders, and collaborate with other government entities. The Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975 and the Census and Statistics Act 1905 set out the primary functions, duties and powers of the ABS.

Objective 1 - Produce high-quality statistics

ABS data and statistics inform important decisions made by governments, business and the wider community. They underpin sound fiscal and monetary policies and inform the delivery of programs and services vital to the wealth and wellbeing of Australians. The ABS produces statistics on the health and educational engagement of Australians, the cost of living, housing, environmental management and the use of energy in Australia.

ABS data and statistics also support a strong well-functioning democracy. In particular, ABS data contributes to fair electoral boundaries by accurately showing the relative population growth of communities in different locations and changing population densities. Just as importantly, ABS statistics provide accurate information on a range of matters critical to public debate.

The detailed ABS statistical work program for 2020-21 is provided in ABS Forward Work Program

Key Activities

Economic, Industry and Environmental Statistics

During 2020–21, the ABS will continue to deliver a range of economic, industry, agricultural and environmental statistics.

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen the fastest and largest fiscal response to an economic event in Australia’s history, with hundreds of individual policy interventions being announced across all levels of government. During 2020-21, the ABS will continue to review and explain the COVID-19-related impacts in its statistical publications. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ABS developed vital, new statistical series including the Weekly Payroll Jobs and Wages in Australia, Business Impacts of COVID-19 Survey and Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey.

Population and Social Statistics

The ABS population and social statistics program produces information about Australia’s population, including size and composition, and measures of social and economic wellbeing. The ABS will continue to deliver these statistics, particularly its quarterly population estimates—which are required by legislation.

In 2020-21, the Time Use Survey is being conducted for the first time since 2006. The survey collects information about how Australians balance their time between work, family, leisure, caring and other activities. The survey informs important decisions about employment, families, child care and volunteering.

Over the next three years, the Intergenerational Health and Mental Health Study will collect information on the physical and mental health of the Australian population. The survey will provide data to enable Australian Governments and other providers of health services to better develop and coordinate health services. The Intergenerational Health and Mental Health Study is the largest and most comprehensive health survey conducted in Australia and is being undertaken in collaboration with the Australian Government Department of Health.

As part of measuring the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Australian households, the ABS is undertaking an extraordinary cycle of the Survey of Income and Housing throughout 2020–21. Estimates will provide information about changes to household income, wealth and housing costs. The survey will provide further information on financial stress by income level, household wealth, employment, family makeup, age and geographic location.

Social and Economic Impacts of COVID-19

In 2020, the ABS developed a range of new, high frequency statistical products to inform stakeholders about the social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. These products included new surveys, interactive maps, preliminary estimates and short-term indicators. The ABS will evolve these products in 2020–21.

The monthly Business Impacts of COVID-19 survey will continue to measure the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on business revenue, operating expenses and workforce. The monthly Household Impacts of COVID-19 survey will continue to measure the impacts of COVID-19 on households, including responses to health messages, financial stress and emotional and mental well-being.

The ABS will continue to produce the Weekly Payroll Jobs and Wages release as a weekly estimate of changes to job numbers in, and wages paid by businesses who report to the Australian Tax Office through Single Touch Payroll (STP). The ABS has developed an interactive map using this data—Weekly Payroll Jobs Interactive Map—which examines percentage change in payroll jobs since Australia recorded its hundredth case of COVID-19 in mid-March 2020.

2021 Census of Population and Housing

During 2020–21, the ABS is continuing preparation for the next Census of Population and Housing, to be held on 10 August 2021. Preparations included an operational readiness exercise in October and November 2020 to test the preparedness of ABS staff, systems, processes and vendors.

During this period, some 100,000 households in Sydney, Adelaide, Darwin and Canberra and the regional centres of Karratha and Warrnambool were invited to participate in a major test of the Census. This test assessed whether the 2021 Census is easy for people to complete and will produce quality data. It has also provided insights into the efficiency of completing and submitting the Census (both online and on paper). The ABS will continue to assess alternative data sources, including big data, for their potential to enhance the value and operational efficiency of the Census.

2020–21 Agricultural Census

During 2020–21, the ABS is preparing for the next Agricultural Census. This census will be dispatched in July 2021 with results expected to be released mid-2022. The ABS will collect information about agricultural production in Australia from some 100,000 agricultural businesses. This information will include the size of land holdings, number of livestock kept, types of crops grown, and use of water. The ABS will also collect information about the contribution of agriculture to the national economy.

The ABS will use 2020–21 Agricultural Census as an opportunity to further modernise the way it produces agriculture statistics. The ABS is working with industry and government to better integrate data collected from this census with data on levies and earth observation data. This will reduce the reporting burden on agricultural businesses without affecting the quality of official statistics produced.

Objective 2 - Improve access to ABS statistics

ABS data and statistics are a valuable national asset. There are many users of ABS data and statistics including government entities, local councils, public and non-for-profit organisations, academics, researchers, students, businesses and local community groups. The ABS is committed to improving access, while ensuring privacy and confidentiality is maintained.

Key Activities

The ABS will continue to provide access to statistics through a range of avenues, including the ABS website, the DataLab, TableBuilder and customised data requests.

In 2020–21, a new website is making statistics accessible to users’ systems through an application programming interface (API). Machine-to-machine access provides a fast avenue for regular users to import data into their systems.

More microdata will also be released to the virtual DataLab which supports researchers to undertake complex research work more efficiently.

In March 2020, the ABS published its first edition of the Australian Statistician’s Analytical Series. Articles from this series bring together data from key ABS economic and social statistical releases, and business and household surveys in one place to provide insights into topical economic and social developments. These articles take either a wider view of a set of issues or an in-depth view of a particular issue, and are tailored to address community concerns and interests at the time of their release. This series will continue in 2020–21.

To increase awareness of ABS statistics, the ABS will continue to use social media platforms to engage with the Australian public, and proactively engage media and industry. The ABS will release a range of snapshots and infographics on its social media platforms which provide notice of key upcoming releases and highlight interesting statistics.

Objective 3 - Reduce burden on data providers

The ABS has been actively reducing the burden on data providers over the past decade and there is more to come. The ABS is committed to:

  • improving engagement with data providers, reducing the time required to complete surveys, and reducing the number of surveys a single business or household is selected for each year.
  • increasing its use of big data, including data collected by government and the private sector, to reduce the need to conduct surveys.

The ABS is implementing new online survey forms to reduce the effort required by businesses and individuals providing data and enable them to respond more quickly to data requests.

Key Activities

The ABS is exploring opportunities to simplify reporting for businesses. In 2020-21, the ABS will start a series of trials to investigate options for reducing regulatory burden. These trials will investigate options for:

  • streamlining and automating data submission processes for large businesses, noting that currently, large businesses may be asked to provide data for over 50 collections a year;
  • enabling small and medium businesses to report data using existing mechanisms such as business accounting software; and
  • reducing the reporting burden on businesses by enabling other Commonwealth entities to use data already provided by businesses to the ABS.

Objective 4 - Produce new statistics and data

The ABS engages with key stakeholders to ensure its data and statistics meet their needs. Last financial year, the ABS rapidly produced new statistical products to meet the critical demands of government and business for health, employment, consumer spending and other relevant information during the COVID-19 pandemic. This effort was welcomed by stakeholders and will continue this year. The ABS is also investing in new ways of integrating data and using new sources to produce statistical products that meet demands not currently met. This will continue work to address important social, environmental, economic, health, and other issues.

Key Activities

The ABS is committed to maximising the value of public data and statistics. One way to do this is to combine data from two or more sources—referred to as data integration.

The ABS is an Accredited Integrating Authority for combining data, providing access to authorised users via highly secure ABS systems, and safeguarding privacy in collaboration with its partners—ensuring that no individual person is likely to be identified.

The ABS will continue to support the analysis of integrated data. Specifically:

  • Business Longitudinal Analysis Data Environment (BLADE) combines business tax data information from ABS surveys and other big data over time to provide a better understanding of Australian businesses and the economy.
  • The Multi-Agency Data Integration Project (MADIP) is a partnership among Australian Government agencies to develop a secure and enduring approach for combining people-centred information on healthcare, education, government payments, personal income tax, and population demographics (including the Census) to create a comprehensive picture of Australia over time.

For 2020–21, approved ABS and collaborative projects supported through BLADE and MADIP include:

  • Further developing high-quality business linkage infrastructure
  • Administrative data research for the 2021 Census of Population and Housing
  • Feasibility studies: using microdata from the MADIP to help inform and evaluate government products and services relating to Disability, Ageing, Carers, and Mental Health, and vulnerable and disadvantaged children.
  • Validating government payments benchmarks for use in the ABS Survey of Income and Housing
  • Direct measures of capacity to contribute (CTC) for non-government school funding
  • Responsive COVID-19 impact analysis through the Treasury 'Real Time Tracker’ (RTT)
  • Trade Performance and Labour Market Analysis Using Graphically Linked Integrated Data Environment (GLIDE)
  • NSW Their Futures Matter

During 2020–21, the ABS will be undertaking a series of research projects to provide greater insights into productivity in the non-market sector. This will include developing experimental estimates of productivity for schools, universities, and hospitals (including market and non-market components).

The ABS is also exploring new data sources and the development of more monthly economic indicators. The initial areas of focus will be on using Single Touch Payroll (to generate a monthly indicator of compensation of employees) and Business Activity Statements (to generate a monthly indicator of industry output). This work program will expand to include scanner/web scraped data (for monthly prices) and other big data sources as they become available.

The 2021 Census will include new questions about long term health conditions, for example arthritis and diabetes; and service in the Australian Defence Force. These questions will address two areas of significant information demand such as that for small populations and in small geographic areas.