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 unpaid work and care.

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


Unpaid work and care topics on the Census included:

  • unpaid care of children
  • unpaid care, help or assistance due to the disability, long term illness or old age of another person
  • unpaid work - domestic activities
  • unpaid work - voluntary work for an organisation or group.

For more information view 2901.0 - Census Dictionary


Questions on unpaid work and care are answered by people aged 15 years and over. They are separate from employment questions. The questions cover various types of unpaid work and care.

The Census information collected about people’s responsibilities at home provides insights into how individuals and families balance paid work and education with other important aspects of their lives, such as family and community commitments.

The information gathered can be used to plan local facilities and services, such as child care and support for carers.

Participation in voluntary work is a measure of how we contribute to society and provides an indication of social connection within communities.

Our understanding of how different cultures and family structures manage these responsibilities can be enriched through consideration of other data collected such as cultural diversity.

  • In the last two weeks did the person spend time looking after a child, without pay?
  • In the last two weeks did the person spend time providing unpaid care, help or assistance to family members or others because of a disability, a long term health condition or problems related to old age?
  • In the last week did the person spend time doing unpaid domestic work for their household?
  • In the last twelve months did the person spend any time doing voluntary work through an organisation or group?

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

Infographic showing the weekly hours of unpaid domestic work for employed males and females.
Infographic showing the weekly hours of unpaid domestic work for employed males and females.

Infographic showing the number of volunteers by state and territory.
Infographic showing the number of volunteers by state and territory.

Infographic showing males and females providing unpaid care to children other than their own.
Infographic showing males and females providing unpaid care to children other than their own.


There are no standards used for the collection of unpaid work and care information.

If you are interested in finding out more information about volunteering data please refer to 4159.0.55.004 - Discussion Paper: Information needs for Volunteering data, April 2017,and 4159.0.55.005 - Information Paper: Collection of Volunteering data in the ABS, March 2018.


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

Feedback from stakeholders has indicated that unpaid work and care is an important topic to be included on the 2021 Census. Discussions to date have also highlighted aspects of this topic for possible review.

Emerging themes include:
  • an interest in differentiating between formal and informal volunteering
  • asking the unpaid work and care questions of respondents under the age of 15 years
  • identifying if there is still a national data need to collect data on unpaid domestic work.

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


The ABS collects data on work and unpaid care 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.

4430.0 - Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings, 2015
This publication presents information from the 2015 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC). The survey was conducted in all states and territories and across urban, rural and remote areas of Australia (other than very remote areas).

The survey provides data on carers who provide ongoing informal assistance to older people and/or people with a disability. It includes characteristic data on carers and non-carers, with a particular focus on primary carers and the people they provide assistance to, as well as information on the effects of caring on primary carers.

4159.0 - General Social Survey: Summary Results, Australia, 2014
The GSS covers a wide range of topics, many of which are collected in other surveys. The analysis draws on data from complementary sources, and considers factors that may be driving changes in selected measures. The GSS measures resources that reflect the wellbeing of individuals and communities, with social capital being a particular focus. Social capital is conceived as a resource available to individuals and communities, and founded on networks of mutual support, reciprocity and trust. Research links strong social capital to increased individual and community wellbeing. It includes elements such as community support, social participation, civic participation, network size, trust and trustworthiness, and an ability to have a level of control of issues important to them.

5202.0 Spotlight on the national accounts: Unpaid work and the Australian economy, May 2014
The focus of this paper is the overall value and growth of unpaid work conducted by households in Australia, including comparisons to other countries. The value of unpaid work falls outside of the current conventional measures of production, as captured by the Australian System of National Accounts, but combining the value of unpaid work with traditional measure of production provides a more complete picture of the nation’s economic activities.

4153.0 - How Australians Use Their Time, 2006
How Australians Use Their Time presents selected results from the 2006 Time Use Survey. Time use surveys collect detailed information on the daily activity patterns of people in Australia. The information is used to examine how people allocate time to activities, such as paid and unpaid work. Additionally, it is used to analyse such issues as gender equality, care giving and balancing family and paid work responsibilities.

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 information about economic and personal wellbeing, labour market dynamics and family life. HILDA collects a measure of time spent in domestic activity, which can be used to track transitions in this activity over time for a range of population groups.

The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children
Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children follows the development of 10,000 children and families from all parts of Australia. It is conducted in partnership between the Department of Social Services, the Australian Institute of Family Studies and the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Part of the study collects data on time spent by parents on housework, childcare and paid work.


4159.0.55.005 - Information Paper: Collection of Volunteering data in the ABS, March 2018
This information paper provides a summary of submissions received in response to federal government and national consultations on volunteering data (conducted by the ABS in 2017), and directions being taken by the ABS in the collection of volunteering data as a result of these consultations.

4150.0 - Time Use Survey: User Guide, 2006
Describes the definitions, concepts, methodology and estimation procedures used in the Time Use Survey. It also contains questionnaires and lists of output data items.

What are your unpaid work and care data 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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