2007.0.55.001 - Census of Population and Housing: Topic Directions, 2021  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 14/11/2018   
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Further information from the public consultation phase can be found here: Population, Sex and gender

TopicsProposed actions

NameRetain existing topic without change.
Sex and/or gender identityRetain existing topic, with change to be tested. Further testing and discussion will be undertaken to explore when male or female are too limiting in response to questions on sex or gender.
Date of birth or ageRetain existing topic without change.
Number of children ever bornRetain existing topic, with minor change to be tested, including review and testing of gendered language.

Key questions on population have been asked in the Census since 1911. They provide information for the ABS to estimate the size, age and sex profile of the population across Australia as required under the Census and Statistics Act 1905. This information remains relevant for decisions made by governments, businesses and local community groups.

Alongside this information, the ABS requests names to help people answer the right question for each person in the household, and to help us process the form correctly. The collection of names and addresses in the Census is a critical part of ensuring the quality and value of the Census. Name will continue to be collected in the 2021 Census.

The ABS protects personal privacy by removing names and addresses from other personal and household information after data collection and processing.


The consultation process revealed strong interest from a range of sources regarding the collection of information on sex and gender identity through the Census. Submissions noted that the current practice of offering only male and female response options does not allow some people to provide accurate responses.

The complexities of collecting information on sex and gender identity were acknowledged; submissions identified the range of variations possible in sex characteristics and the diversity in gender identity. Sex has been considered a critical topic for measuring and projecting the population, so proposed changes in collection will be assessed for potential impacts on data quality.

While submissions noted a need for data to better understand the characteristics of transgender individuals and people with intersex variations, there were concerns that collecting this data is complex, with the potential for questions to produce data that misrepresent the population. Care is needed in the design of potential questions.

Current ABS standards for information on sex and gender recommend collection of ‘male’, ‘female’ and ‘other’ categories. It was noted by stakeholders that this classification of sex assumes intersex people are not male or female, which is not the case. The diversity of gender identity is not easy to define, but is also not well represented by the current standard. Stakeholders have encouraged the ABS to be clear about what could be collected and what the data would and would not represent.

The ABS will continue to consult with stakeholders, advocacy groups and data users to determine a way forward. Testing will include exploring options for collecting data on sex, gender identity and a combination of both concepts.

Next steps will include focus groups, interviews and field testing to explore options and understand the statistical impact of any change.


In the background information to the consultation, the ABS noted that this topic is likely to be moved back to collection on a ten yearly cycle, commencing in 2021 to align with international reporting. This topic will be considered for removal in the 2026 Census.

Suggestions were also received for collection of the number of children ever born for males, both to estimate the number of fathers in Australia and also to acknowledge that individuals who do not identify their gender as female may have given birth. While this data need was not considered as high priority, new instruction language will be tested to recognise that non-female identifying people may have given birth.

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