2007.0 - Census of Population and Housing: Consultation on Topics, 2021  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 03/04/2018   
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The ABS is consulting to seek views on the information to be collected in the next Census and this topic brief provides detail about what has been previously included on households and families.

The opportunity to participate in the consultation will be available from 3 April to 30 June 2018 via consult.abs.gov.au


Household and family topics on the Census included:

  • household and family relationships
  • marital status
  • persons temporarily absent on Census night.


Information about the people in a household and their relationships to each other provides a national picture of the composition of Australian families. This is used for planning support services and infrastructure, such as educational institutions, hospitals and social services. It is also useful for understanding the adequacy and availability of housing.

Information about household and family relationships, and marital status, help establish whether there is a family unit living in a household and the structure of that family unit (for example, a couple family with dependent children or a single parent family). We can also identify whether there are a number of unrelated individuals living in the household (a group household) or where there is more than one family living in the dwelling. This provides insight into the different service needs of extended family structures or shared houses.

Not everyone who usually lives in a household will be there on Census night. To generate accurate estimates of the usual population in an area, questions are asked about people who are temporarily away. This allows for better planning of support services for local communities.

  • What is the person's relationship to person 1/person 2?
  • What is the person's present marital status?
  • Were there any people away on the night of Tuesday, 9 August 2016 who usually live in this dwelling?


Questions about households and families provide data on:
For more information view 2901.0 - Census Dictionary

Source: 2071.0 - Census of Population and Housing: Reflecting Australia - Stories from the Census, 2016

Infographic showing the composition of Australian families in 2016. Over 80% in single parents were female
Infographic showing the composition of Australian families in 2016.

Infographic breaking down the changes in household composition between 1991 and 2016
Infographic showing the changes in household composition between 1991 and 2016.


The ABS uses the standard below to classify statistics relating to households and families.
1286.0 - Family, Household and Income Unit Variables, 2014


The ABS has undertaken initial discussions and reviewed feedback from the 2016 Census in preparation for this consultation.

Initial feedback from stakeholders has indicated that data relating to the structure and composition of the family and household are relevant and important topics to be included on the 2021 Census. We have heard that there is potential to enhance these topics to better meet national data needs.

With the introduction of the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017, the ABS will review relevant questions to ensure that same sex couples who are now legally recognised as married in Australia are able to be captured and represented on the Census.

Initial feedback indicates that there is also a growing area of interest in the representation of diverse family structures in Australia. There is, for example, a need to capture situations where a child is not staying in the household on Census night due to shared custody arrangements. Furthermore, data users have expressed an interest in improving the information captured from complex household structures such as multiple families living in a single house and blended families.

Providing data which better reflects the circumstances of these family situations helps providers plan how they can deliver relevant support services and infrastructure at a local area level.

This consultation is an opportunity for you to provide your views on what information on households and families should be collected on the 2021 Census.


The ABS collects data on households and families through a number of different collections. Listed below is a selection of ABS publications as well as other relevant sources. For the comprehensive list of ABS products, please visit the ABS website.

6224.0.55.001 - Labour Force, Australia: Labour Force Status and Other Characteristics of Families, June 2017
This publication presents information about the labour force status and other characteristics of families from June 2013–June 2017. Information is also provided on the number and age of children in the family. This publication relates to the number of families rather than the number of persons. Estimates are provided for the number of children aged 0–4 years, 5–9 years and 10–14 years in families. Children are normally outside of the scope of the labour force survey but are included in this publication because of the focus on the labour force status of families.

4442.0 - Family Characteristics and Transitions, Australia, 2012-13
This publication presents data on household and family composition including demographic information, labour force participation and family types. The Family Characteristics topic provides information about the composition of households and families, and the characteristics of people within them, to better understand how families are changing and how to provide support to them. It also provides an insight into family formation and dissolution, and how expectations regarding marriage and childbearing may be changing over time.

3310.0 - Marriages and Divorces, Australia, 2016
This annual publication provides data and information about marriages registered and divorces granted in Australia in 2016 on a state or territory of registration basis rather than a state or territory of usual residence.

The publication presents statistics on the number of marriages registered, crude marriage rates, median age at marriage, age-specific marriage rates, previous marital status, use of marriage celebrants, country of birth of those marrying, and living arrangements for couples prior to marriage.

Divorce statistics in this publication provide state, territory and national level data for the number of divorces granted, crude divorce rates, ages at marriage, separation and divorce, age-specific divorce rates, divorces involving children, duration of marriage prior to divorce, and applicants for divorce.

4159.0 - General Social Survey: Summary Results, Australia, 2014
The General Social Survey (GSS) is conducted every four years and collects a range of demographic information including country of birth and year of arrival. The GSS aims to provide an understanding of the multi-dimensional nature of relative advantage and disadvantage across the population, and to facilitate reporting on and monitoring of people's opportunities to participate fully in society. The survey was last conducted in 2014.

Themes include how Australia has progressed on aspects of social capital such as social, civic and community participation, support, feelings of safety and trust. The GSS also collects overall life satisfaction and data on people with a mental health condition, people with disability, recent and other migrants, people living in one parent families, and those with different sexual orientations.

Household, Income and Labour Dynamics (HILDA) survey
The Melbourne Institute runs the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey. This longitudinal panel survey collects valuable information about economic and personal well-being, labour market dynamics and family life. It aims to tell the stories of the same group of Australians over the course of their lives. This study collects information on many aspects of life in Australia, including household and family relationships, income and employment, domestic activity, volunteering, life satisfaction, health and education.


3236.0 - Household and Family Projections, Australia, 2011 to 2036
This release contains projections of households, families and living arrangements of persons for Australia, the states, territories, capital cities and balances of state for the period 2011-2036. The projections are not intended as predictions or forecasts, but are illustrations of growth and change in the population that would occur if the assumptions about future living arrangements of Australia's population were to prevail over the projection period.

1286.0 - Family, Household and Income Unit Variables, 2014
ABS Family, Household and Income Unit Variables are used in ABS surveys and the Census of Population and Housing. These variables are used to produce an accurate statistical picture of the structures and transitions of Australian families, and contribute to measures of economic wellbeing and housing utilisation and affordability. Standards for these variables provide definitions of concepts, methods of data collection, derivation procedures and output formats for use in all relevant ABS and external statistical collections. The variables include relationship in household and between families, family and household composition, social and registered marriage and income unit composition.

2900.0 - Census of Population and Housing: Understanding the Census and Census Data, Australia, 2016
This publication provides information to help people use and interpret 2016 Census data. The articles 'Temporarily Absent People', 'Family Composition' and 'Grandparent Families' include additional information on specific concepts relevant to the topics outlined in this brief.

What are your household and family needs? Share your views with us on the most useful information we should collect in the 2021 Census. Make your submission to our review of 2021 Census topics at the ABS Consultation Hub.

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