1006.0 - Australian Bureau of Statistics - Forward Work Program, 2019-20  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 18/10/2019   
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2.1 Strategic objective one: ABS statistics are trusted and used to inform important decisions

The ABS released 496 statistical products in 2018-19, with a similar number of releases scheduled in 2019-20. Table 1 sets out the broad schedule for the ABS’ regular publications. This does not include the myriad of experimental, one-off or ad hoc releases that occur throughout the year. Appendix 1 sets out the statistical program in more detail.

With funding in 2019-20 similar to funding in 2018-19, the ABS is not contemplating significant changes to the statistical work program in 2019-20.

2.1.1 Economic and labour market measurement

Main Economic Indicators

The main economic indicators are the Consumer Price Index (CPI), the Labour Force Survey (LFS) and the National and International Accounts inclusive of the business survey, price deflators and administrative data that are critical inputs for these.

The ABS will continue to prioritise maintaining the quality of these core economic statistics. This includes continuing to embed enhanced statistical risk management and prioritising critical staff capability and availability. To the extent possible within diminishing resources, the ABS will continue to focus research activity on enhancing economic measurement to maintain relevance in a changing economy.

Australia is recognised internationally as a leader in economic statistics. We are one of very few countries that publishes all three measures of Gross Domestic Product in the National Accounts. The introduction of annual re-weighting of the CPI and use of scanner and web scraped data in the CPI are world leading. However, we remain the only G20 country that does not have monthly inflation estimates.

Australia’s LFS is first class by world standards (see Box 1). Our monthly labour force publication now includes monthly estimates of underemployment and underutilisation. Australia is the only country to release a comprehensive quarterly Labour Account. Denmark, the Netherlands and Switzerland release components of a Labour Account.

Maintaining high quality labour force statistics comes with challenges in terms of costs and response rates. In order to sustain the survey, the ABS has identified a range of essential changes in consultation with international and domestic experts. This includes the establishment of an “Innovation Panel” that allows randomised controlled trials with survey respondents to test communication and survey material. This is already yielding returns through increased use of e-forms making it easier for people responding to the survey and ameliorating some cost pressures associated with maintaining strong response rates.

Table 1: ABS schedule of statistical releases

Monthly Quarterly Annual Other frequencies
  • Labour market
  • Price indices
  • Australian national accounts
  • Social statistics
  • Labour Force
  • CPI
  • Input output tables
  • Household Income & Expenditure

  • International Trade
  • Supply use tables
  • National Health Survey
  • Economic indicators
  • Producer Price
  • Industry multi-factor productivity estimates
  • National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health Survey
  • Building approvals
  • Residential Property

  • Survey of Disability, Ageing & Carers
  • Retail Trade
  • Selected cost of living
  • Labour market
  • Family & Community Experiences
  • International Trade in Goods & Services
  • Wages
  • Labour Force Status & Other Characteristics of Families

  • Lending to households & business

  • Employment & Earnings, Public Sector
  • Census

  • Economic accounts
  • Jobs in Australia
  • Agriculture
  • Demographic
  • National Income, Expenditure & Product
  • Job Search, Participation & Mobility
  • Population & Housing
  • Overseas Arrivals & Departures
  • Finance & Wealth

  • Government Finance Statistics
  • Environment and sectoral
  • Demographic
  • Balance of Payments & International Investment Position
  • Water & Energy Accounts
  • Population projections

  • Energy Use & Electricity Generation
  • Household & family projections
  • Labour market
  • Agriculture commodities & production
  • Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander population estimates & projections
  • Labour Account
  • Motor Vehicle Use
  • Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander life expectancy
  • Job Vacancies
  • Tourism Satellite Account

  • Industrial Disputes

  • Other

  • Social statistics
  • Average Weekly Earnings (6 monthly)
  • Economic indicators
  • Income of Migrants
  • Business & Government Research & Development Expenditure
  • Quarterly Business Indicators
  • Gender Indicators
  • Australian Statistical Geography Standard
  • Private New Capital Expenditure & Expected Expenditure
  • Consumption of Alcohol

  • Building Activity & Engineering Constructions
  • Patient Experience
  • Mineral & Petroleum Exploration
  • Crime: prisoners, criminal courts, crime victimisation, recorded crime

  • Demographic
  • Demographic
  • Quarterly Estimated Resident Population by State, including net Overseas Migration
  • Life expectancy

  • Births & deaths
  • Regional population statistics
  • Marriages & divorces

Enhancing economic measurement

To ensure the way the ABS measures the economy is contemporary and adapting to trends in the economy the ABS continues to progress research to:

  • Measure digital activity in the economy, with the publication of experimental digital activity estimates (see Box 2) – the scheduled Time Use Survey will contribute to enhanced digital measurement;
  • Improve economic (output) and productivity measurement of the non market sector, with the publication of experimental disease based hospital estimates and plans to extend this work to the education sector; and
  • Improve the measurement of the housing sector by providing greater detail to estimates of housing stock and planning and zoning data.

BOX 1: International Labour Force Survey comparisons

AustraliaCanadaNew ZealandUnited KingdomUnited States


Responding sample size26,000 households56,000 households15,000 households40,000 households74,000 households
50,000 people100,000 people30,000 people100,000 people105,000 people
Response ratesAround 93%Around 90%Around 86%Around 49%Around 86%
Rotation groups86858*
Population compared to Australia1.5 times the size of Australia19% the size of Australia2.7 times the size of Australia13.3 times the size of Australia

Note: *4 months, and then the same 4 months a year later.

In 2019-20, attention has turned to investigating options for enhancing the measurement of consumption, including potential new data sources, noting that annual re-weighting of the CPI uses estimates of household final consumption expenditure.

Implementation of new economic and finance statistics data collected by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) will occur in 2019-20, significantly improving the quality of financial information in the National Accounts, and finance and lending publications.

These economic measurement challenges are common across the world and the ABS is collaborating through United Nations, OECD, IMF and country bi-laterals to ensure the ABS leverages and contributes to international research and enhancements. The ABS is also working with international statistical organisations to ensure international conceptual frameworks, standards and classifications are fit for purpose for an Australian economy.

Enhanced labour market measurement

Through the creation of an annual and quarterly Labour Account, the ABS has built an overarching picture of the labour market with coherent estimates of the number of jobs, people, hours worked and labour income in each industry. Quarterly Labour Accounts are now released a week after the National Accounts.

One input to the Labour Account, and a statistical asset in its own right, is the linkage of personal income tax, Pay As You Go Payment Summaries (PAYG), individual tax returns and the Business Longitudinal Analysis Data Environment (BLADE) to provide annual data on filled jobs for more than 2,200 different regions across Australia (see Box 3). Previously this detail was only available with the five yearly Census of Population and Housing.

BOX 2: Enhancing measurement of digital activities1

Adopting an approach developed by the US Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), the ABS has estimated the size and contribution of digital activities in the Australian economy. While digital activity is already included within the traditional measures of the economy, this work gives visibility to the growing contribution of digital activities occurring across industries. The ABS intends to update, and potentially enhance in the future using information from the Time Use Survey.

In 2011-12 digital activities contributed 5.4% ($75.6 billion) to the total Australian economy. This grew to 5.7% ($93.5 billion) in 2016-17. Digital activity is becoming increasingly important, with a contribution to the Australian economy larger than industries such as retail, education and training and agriculture (see Figure 1 below). Traditional drivers of economic growth such as finance, construction and mining continue to make a larger contribution to economic activity.

Figure 1: Average Industry Share In Aggregate Value Added (%), Digital Activities 2011-12 to 2016-17, Current Price

Figure 1: Average Industry Share In Aggregate Value Added (%), Digital Activities 2011-12 to 2016-17, Current Price
(1) Measuring Digital Activities in the Australian Economy released on 27 February 2019.

BOX 3: Annual jobs in Australia2

Jobs in Australia provides a detailed economic summary of jobs for each State and Territory and over 2,200 regional areas across Australia, including information on employment income, age, gender and detailed industry information. An updated instalment of Jobs in Australia will be released in 2020.

The research revealed that people under the age of 30 were more likely to be multiple job holders, with one in every four holding multiple jobs in 2016-17. Around 26 per cent of multiple job holders worked all of their jobs in the same industry. For multiple job holders working across industries, the most common combinations of industries where people worked were:

  • Health Health care & social assistance and Administrative & support services
  • Health care & social assistance and Education & training
  • Retail trade and Accommodation & food services

Image: Detailed economic summary of jobs for each State and Territory and over 2,200 regional areas across Australia.

(2) The ABS released Jobs in Australia, 2011-12 to 2016-17, on 1 August 2019.

2.1.2 Demographic measurement

Under the Census and Statistics Act 1905, the ABS is required to produce ‘statistics of the number of people of each state as on the last day of March, June, September and December in each year’. Estimated Resident Population (ERP) is the only measurement that is legislatively required, aside from the five yearly Census of Population and Housing. Maintaining the quality of ERP is therefore a priority, particularly given the contribution it makes to ensuring Australia has fair electoral boundaries and its central role in determining the distribution of GST revenue between the states and territories.

Other key elements of the demographic program include:

  • National indicators for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people including population estimates and projections, and information on fertility, mortality and life expectancy; and
  • Statistics on births and deaths, including the compilation and coding of detailed information about causes of death.

Consistent with international best practice, after each Census, the ABS conducts a large Post Enumeration Survey, now to be known as the Post Census Review (PCR). This provides a mechanism to quality assure the Census outcomes and to re-benchmark ERP every five years. Planning and field testing for the 2021 PCR commences in 2019-20.

The ABS is working closely with The Treasury in helping to establish the Centre for Population announced in the 2019-20 Budget. The ABS is contributing data and expertise. The Centre is part of the Government’s broader population package and will provide a central, consistent and expert perspective on population in Australia.

2.1.3 Census

Preparation for the 2021 Census has reached the mid-point of the Census cycle with two years to go until Census night in August 2021. A number of important milestones are being reached as activities build towards mobilisation and operational readiness during 2019-20.

The three strategic objectives of the 2021 Census are:

  • Smooth Running;
  • Strong Support; and
  • High Quality Data.

Underpinning these high level objectives is the goal to increase the participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Census, in order to improve the quality of statistics for this population. This work directly supports the measurement of the Closing the Gap Refresh and making data available for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities. The ABS Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Round Table will guide this work.

Other key goals include providing appropriately calibrated support for vulnerable and disadvantaged people and communities to participate (for example through pop-up support centres) and enhancing customer experience (for example through improved call centre arrangements).

To provide a basis for assessing progress and assuring various elements for the 2021 Census, two major tests are planned over the next 12 months:

  • A test of key design decisions and assumptions with an emphasis on understanding impacts to data quality of some potential questions; and
  • An end-to-end full operational readiness exercise in August 2020.

Procurement of digital information technology, e-forms and workforce recruitment has been secured. Other significant procurements to be finalised over the next 12 months include paper form printing, logistics and payroll.

An independent Privacy Impact Assessment for the whole Census, to be conducted by Galexia, has commenced and is planned to be completed by August 2020.

The Government will make its decision on the 2021 Census topics ahead of the release of an exposure draft regulation and explanatory material that will set out the proposed topics for the 2021 Census. The regulation is expected to be tabled in both Houses of Parliament in the first half of 2020.

2.1.4 Measuring society's living conditions

The ABS social statistics program over the next two years is significant. The following surveys will be in the field collecting information from individuals and households in 2019-20:

  • The General Social Survey;
  • The next iteration of the Survey of Income and Housing;
  • The Longitudinal Study of Australia’s Children; and
  • The Family and Community Experiences Survey.

In 2019-20, the outcomes and findings of large surveys conducted in previous years will be published, including:
  • The 2017-18 National Health Survey;
  • The 2017-18 Survey of Income and Housing;
  • The 2018-19 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey; and
  • The 2018 Survey of Disability Ageing and Carers.

Preparation for the first Time Use Survey since 2006 will occur in 2019-20, with the collection of information to commence in July 2020. This survey will enable, for the first time, e-diary recording to provide information on how people spend their time (see Box 4).

Design work and field preparation will also commence in 2019-20 for an ambitious Intergenerational Health and Mental Health Study to be conducted in 2021. This study was announced by the Minister for Health, the Hon. Greg Hunt MP on 14 August 2019. It is being developed in collaboration with the Commonwealth Department of Health (see Box 5).

BOX 4: The Time Use Survey

A Time Use Survey was announced by the Government in the Women’s Economic Security Package. The survey will provide insights into:
  • The distribution of paid and unpaid work between men and women;
  • The effectiveness of various policy measures to support flexible work arrangements and workforce participation;
  • Barriers (such as caring roles) and incentives to labour force participation;
  • The value of unpaid work to the Australian economy;
  • The balance between work and other roles within families and how this has changed since 2006;
  • The health and wellbeing of Australians (time spent sleeping, active vs sedentary leisure);
  • Volunteering and community participation; and
  • The impact of technology on how Australians work and spend their time.

The Social Statistics work program also includes significant work in compiling, analysing and presenting administrative data in the fields of education, crime and justice, migration and social wellbeing.

BOX 5: The Intergenerational Health and Mental Health Survey

The Intergenerational Health and Mental Health Study will be the most comprehensive health study in the nation’s history. It will provide detailed insights into:
  • The impact of mental and behavioural and other chronic health conditions on Australians;
  • The use of health services and barriers to accessing them;
  • Factors underlying increases in chronic conditions and obesity;
  • Dietary and physical activity habits;
  • Undiagnosed health conditions and nutrition deficiencies;
  • Biomedical factors that contribute to poor health outcomes; and
  • Lived experiences of suicide and related services.

Specific Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander samples will be surveyed for all components except mental health.