1005.0 - ABS Corporate Plan, 2021-22  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 30/08/2021   
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The objectives of the ABS correspond 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.

The detailed ABS statistical work program is provided in Part 2—ABS Forward Work Program. The Forward Work Program provides insight into the delivery of outputs from ongoing statistical collections over the life of this Plan, with an indication of how the ABS has prioritised these products.

Objective 1—Produce high-quality statistics
Objective 2—Generate timely new insights
Objective 3—Improve access to ABS statistics
Objective 4—Strengthen data capability across the APS
Objective 5—Reduce burden on data providers
Objective 6—Maintain a capable and well-governed Commonwealth agency

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 health and wellbeing of Australians. The ABS produces statistics to inform monitoring and decision-making for numerous aspects of the Australian economy and society.

ABS data and statistics also support a strong well-functioning democracy. 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.

Key activities
Economic, Industry, and Environmental Statistics
The ABS is partnering with the Bureau of Meteorology, CSIRO, and Geoscience Australia to deliver the Australian Climate Service (ACS). The ACS will create new knowledge to support Australia’s response to natural disasters, enabling the ABS to combine its data with weather, climate, and hazard information in new ways. The ABS will improve its ability to geo-spatially present socio-economic data, improve its business location dataset, and augment integrated datasets.

Labour, 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.

As part of the Australian Government’s commitment to end violence against women and children, the ABS is funded, over four years, by the Department of Social Services to continue the Personal Safety Survey (PSS). The ABS will also work with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community to develop measures of family domestic and sexual violence through an Indigenous PSS.

In 2020, the ABS produced a Weekly Payroll Jobs and Wages series to provide more timely and frequent information about the labour market during the COVID-19 pandemic. The ABS is committed to refining the quality and outputs of this series to meet user demand. In 2021–22, the ABS will collect detailed information from employers on the number of hours worked by employees and their earnings, in the two-yearly Survey of Employee Earnings and Hours.

Over the next two years, the ABS will update the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) and produce experimental data to reflect the occupations, and associated skill levels, of the following sectors: agriculture, forestry and fisheries; naval shipbuilding; and ICT (focussing on cyber-security). This work will incorporate the 25 emerging occupations published by the National Skills Commission. Work to implement the updated ANZSCO, in official quarterly labour force statistics, will commence in 2022.

The ABS will produce experimental agricultural labour force data by recoding 2021 Census data to support the Department of Agriculture, Water, and the Environment’s agricultural workforce strategy (scheduled for release in late 2022).

The ABS will update its Estimated Resident Population series to reflect a new base population provided by the 2021 Census. The Post Census Review, a large household survey, will check the coverage and accuracy of the Census population count.

2021 Census of Population and Housing
Every five years, the ABS conducts the Census of Population and Housing. Census night in 2021 is Tuesday 10 August. The Census is a legislated obligation under the Census and Statistics Act 1905.

The Census asks questions of all people in Australia on Census night on a range of topics such as age, country of birth, religion (optional), ancestry, language used at home, work, and education.

Census data is unique in its provision of detail for micro-geographies and small communities. It is used to inform important decisions about transport, schools, health care, infrastructure, and business. It also helps plan local services for individuals, families, and communities.

Running the Census is a large and complex exercise and involves the ABS working closely with key stakeholders to ensure everyone can participate. For the 2021 Census the ABS has established strong partnerships with the following entities:

    • Australian Cyber Security Centre and Digital Transformation Agency: supporting the delivery of the Census Digital Service and ensuring the security of Census data.
    • PricewaterhouseCoopers Australia and Amazon Web Services Australia: delivering the Census Digital Service, including the online form and Census website.
    • Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils of Australia: ensuring community groups representing people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds are well prepared to participate in the Census.
    • Woolworths: supporting the Census through the facilitation of pop-up hubs to promote the Census and directly assist citizens to participate.
    • Northern Territory Government: through the formation of the NT Census Steering Committee and Working Group. This partnership facilitates sharing information and networks to achieve shared objectives.
    • Queensland Government: through a range of areas of assistance, notably in a partner communications campaign.
    • Adecco Australia: assisting with the recruitment of the 2021 Census temporary workforce.

The first results from the 2021 Census will be available in June 2022.

Agricultural Census
The five-yearly Agricultural Census will be undertaken during the 2021–22 financial year. It will provide benchmark national, state, and regional data on the 2020-21 financial year to support research and decision-making by governments and businesses. The Agricultural Census reaches around 100,000 agricultural businesses and provides output at a more granular level than is available from the much smaller annual agriculture survey.

Objective 2—Generate timely new insights
The ABS engages with key clients and users of its data to meet their needs.

The ABS will continue to release statistical products to meet the critical demands of government and business for health, employment, consumer spending, and other relevant information to aid the COVID-19 pandemic recovery. The ABS is also enhancing its data integration assets and infrastructure. The ABS is using new data sources to address emerging information needs, augment existing products, and validate existing methodologies. This will continue ABS efforts to inform important social, environmental, economic, health, and other policy issues.

Key activities
Data integration projects
The ABS is an Accredited Integrating Authority with responsibility for linking relevant data from a range of sources; providing access to authorised users via highly secure ABS systems; and safeguarding privacy— applying many layers of protection to ensure that information that could identify individuals is not disclosed.

In partnership with other agencies, the ABS supports the analysis of integrated data including through two key integrated longitudinal data assets:
    • Business Longitudinal Analysis Data Environment (BLADE) combines tax, trade, and intellectual property data with information from ABS surveys to provide a better understanding of Australian businesses and the economy.
    • The Multi-Agency Data Integration Project (MADIP) combines data from a range of sources on health, education, government payments, income, taxation, and population demographics (including the Census) to create a comprehensive picture of Australia.

For 2021–22, approved ABS and collaborative projects supported through BLADE and MADIP include:
    • Supporting the COVID-19 vaccine rollout by linking Australian Immunisation Register data with MADIP. This includes acquiring and linking other strategically important datasets to enable cross-agency, near real-time analysis of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout to inform the implementation strategy and targeted policy interventions.
    • Enabling near real-time analysis on the economy and labour market to support Commonwealth and jurisdictional COVID-19 response and recovery. This includes understanding the impacts on employment and unemployment, targeting of employment and training programs, and analysing labour market transitions.
    • Monitoring and modelling of the changing need for mental health and suicide prevention supports during COVID-19 through the Mental Health Pandemic Response Plan.
    • Contributing to an evidence base to support cross-agency analysis of vulnerability and resilience of people and businesses in natural disasters, supporting the National Recovery and Resilience Agency.
    • Enhancing the understanding of employment and social outcomes of Vocational Education and Training (VET) students in Australia to support the National Skills Commissioner inform policy for more targeted, outcomes-based investment in the VET system.
    • Providing direct measures of a school community's capacity to contribute to underpin the national non-government school funding model.
    • Integrating New South Wales and MADIP data to create an evidence-base to inform new policies and interventions to improve outcomes for vulnerable children and young people in NSW, and support the evaluation of policies and interventions to improve long-term outcomes for these children or young people and their families.
    • Integrating government business program data and BLADE to inform program evaluation, and future policy and programs designed to assist Australian businesses.
    • Creating an official ABS statistical product - the 2017–18 Personal Income of Migrants Integrated Dataset – to provide insights on migrant incomes for policy makers and researchers.
    • Assessing the feasibility of creating simulated MADIP and BLADE microdata that preserves relationships between key variables and maintains confidentiality.

Over four years, commencing in 2021–22, the Department of Social Services will fund the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, in collaboration with the ABS, to undertake a pilot to assess the feasibility of linking crime and justice data with other social datasets. This project aims to develop a comprehensive data and reporting system on family, domestic, and sexual violence that provides a more complete picture and greater insights into the life outcomes of people experiencing family and domestic violence, including victim-survivors and perpetrators.

New statistics
The ABS will use big data to deliver more timely economic indicators of the Australian economy. This project will deliver:
    • a set of monthly economic indicators comprising: business turnover (using monthly Business Activity Statement data); household spending (using bank transaction data and supermarket scanner data); and earnings of employees (using Single Touch Payroll data).
    • more frequent and more geographically detailed information, such as business turnover at the regional level and earnings by workforce characteristics.

During 2021–22, the ABS will continue 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).

Objective 3—Improve access to ABS statistics
ABS data and statistics are valuable national assets. There are many users of ABS data and statistics including government entities, local councils, public and not-for-profit organisations, academics, researchers, students, businesses, public policy institutes, local community groups, and other private sector agencies. 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.

Users of ABS statistics can access them freely on the ABS website or by configuring their systems to an application programming interface (API). Machine-to-machine access provides a fast avenue for regular users to import data into their systems.

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

The ABS is committed to the return of information to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and organisations, delivering data in formats that are both useful and culturally appropriate.

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 topical statistics.

Objective 4—Strengthen data capability across the APS
The Australian Government recognises the importance of using data to better understand and respond to the needs of Australians. It has committed to ensuring the APS has the right capability, tools, and processes to securely use, share, and understand data for better policy advice, regulation, and services. Following the appointment of the Australian Statistician, Dr David Gruen, as Head of the Data Profession, the ABS has partnered with the Australian Public Service Commission to establish the APS Data Profession. The ABS has welcomed the opportunity to drive collaboration, strengthen data capability, and build a more sophisticated expertise for data professionals. The ABS is working with 25 agencies to progress the initial two-year work program for the Data Profession.

The ABS has developed a Data Strategy that will help the ABS make decisions about funding and priorities, and develop the required culture, tools, knowledge, systems, and processes. The Data Strategy will better position the ABS to explore opportunities and meet the challenges of the coming years by enhancing its security settings, and maximising the value of the data it holds, while continuing to keep data safe. The Chief Data Officer will oversee the delivery of the Data Strategy, improve data governance, and lead the ABS’ data culture.

Key activities
The ABS will play a leadership role in building data capability across the APS by driving a range of practical initiatives being developed under the Data Profession, including: establishing an APS Data Capability Framework and embedding its use across agencies to ensure a common language and understanding of the data capabilities required by APS employees; building development-focused opportunities for people in data roles, including increasing mobility and knowledge sharing across the service; and creating development pathways to build skills for all APS staff, as well as the specialist and more advanced skills required by data professionals.

The ABS is leading the recruitment of data graduates for placements across the APS to help attract, recruit, and retain the next generation of data professionals. This work will support a service-wide approach to continually lifting the capability of the APS to maximise the value of data in delivering better outcomes for Australians.

Objective 5—Reduce burden on data providers
The Government’s deregulation agenda aims to design and implement regulation in the most efficient and timely way, with the smallest cost to businesses. The ABS has been managing the burden on data providers over the past decade and is committed to reducing this burden further.

The ABS collaborates with clients and providers with the aim of increasing their understanding of the value of their data, and minimising the burden placed on them. Where collecting data is needed, the ABS uses statistical techniques to ensure the load is shared as evenly as possible. In addition, the ABS aims to provide contemporary, tailored, and intuitive services to assist providers to meet their obligations.

The ABS continues to increase the use of non-survey data, including data collected by governments and the private sector, to reduce the need to conduct surveys, and to get the balance right between burden and delivering public value. The ABS is committed to improving engagement with data providers, reducing the time required to complete surveys, and reducing the number of surveys businesses and households need to complete each year.

The ABS is constantly reviewing data collection methods to reduce the effort required by businesses and individuals providing data and enable them to respond more quickly to data requests.

Key activities
In 2021—22, the ABS will continue 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
    • enabling small and medium businesses to report data using existing mechanisms such as business accounting software
    • reducing the reporting burden on businesses by enabling other Commonwealth entities to use confidentialised data already provided by businesses to the ABS.

Objective 6—Maintain a capable and well-governed Commonwealth agency
The ABS strives to be an effective, efficient, and flexible agency that cooperates across Government. The ABS maintains clear internal policies for effective and accountable decision-making to align its work and purpose.

The ABS is committed to continual improvement of management and governance practices, to assure Australians it works with integrity and accountability. The ABS will also focus on supporting its staff to deliver to a high standard against emerging priorities and business as usual functions in a connected and collaborative way.

The ABS relies on internal and external audit, as well as other independent performance and compliance reviews, to provide the assurance that operations are efficient, effective, lawful, consistent with legislative and policy obligations, and aligned to the expectations of government.

The ABS is committed to creating a collaborative, accountable, agile, innovative, and customer-focused agency. The ABS has developed enabling strategies to strengthen its capabilities, which cover its workforce, finance, data, customer experience, and information and communications technology.

The ABS assesses its performance against this objective through a number of measures reported to internal governance fora. The ABS does not publish performance measures against this objective, although aspects of performance are available in the ABS Annual Report.

Key activities
The ABS will enhance its Enterprise Portfolio Management Office (EPMO) to build capability and project governance practices. The EPMO will also support business planning and guide effective investment decisions.

The ABS will adopt cloud-based capabilities to blend big data with survey data. The new cloud-based capabilities, along with reengineering of some surveys, will enable a more resilient processing environment.

The ABS will continue to operate responsibly by reporting accurately on its financial position and performance. The ABS will also maintain appropriate systems of risk oversight and management, internal controls, and assurance (including an internal audit program).