2008.0 - Census of Population and Housing: Nature and Content, Australia, 2016  
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TOPICS TO BE INCLUDED IN THE 2016 CENSUS

The consultation and review process for the 2016 Census began with the publication in November 2012 of Census of Population and Housing: Consultation on Content and Procedures, 2016 (cat. no. 2007.0) which invited submissions on Census content from organisations and individuals. Information on the types of submissions received has been published in Census of Population and Housing: Submissions Report, 2016 (cat. no. 2007.0.55.001).

Users of the Census expressed a strong desire to see continuity in the topics maintained, so that social changes can be measured over time. At the same time, the consultation process offered the opportunity to consider new inclusions to meet emerging information needs.

While it is expected that the 2016 Census will be predominantly digital, there will still be a dependence for many on paper forms. As such, the inclusion of additional topics would have an impact on paper form production costs, and increase respondent burden.

After extensive public consultation and a rigorous review of topics, which showed strong support for existing topics, it was decided that the 2016 Census would repeat the topics included in the 2006 and 2011 Censuses.

While the topics are unchanged from 2011, there have been some minor changes to the questions and supporting text used to collect information on the topics. The changes have been implemented to make the form easier to complete and to optimise the quality of the data produced. The changes have been designed based on an evaluation of the results of the 2011 Census, the public consultation process and the 2016 Census testing program.

The criteria for inclusion of topics in the Census are discussed below, followed by the list of topics. Information on each topic can be found in the sections entitled Personal topics and Household and dwelling topics.

The 2016 Census comes at a time when the ABS is transforming its program of population and social statistics. This will see the introduction of a multipurpose social survey with a large rolling sample and the exploration of partnerships to find statistical solutions through enhancing ABS datasets with other datasets. The emerging data needs identified through the 2016 Census topic consultation may be able to be met in the future through one of these approaches

TOPICS INCLUDED TO MEET LEGISLATIVE REQUIREMENTS

The primary purpose of the Census is to provide a reliable basis for the estimation of the population of each of the states, territories and local government areas for electoral purposes and the distribution of government funds.

The Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 requires the ABS to supply the Electoral Commissioner with the population statistics that are needed for the regular review of the number of seats each state is entitled to have in the House of Representatives. To meet this regulation the Statistician is required to provide population data for each of the states and territories.

The Federal Financial Relations Act 2009 requires the Statistician to determine the population of each state and territory each year. This data is used with factors calculated by the Commonwealth Grants Commission to determine the distribution of goods and services tax (GST) revenue to states and territories. The Local Government (Financial Assistance) Act 1995 also requires the Statistician to provide estimates of the population of each state and territory which the State and Northern Territory Grants Commissions use with Census-based population estimates and other data at the level of individual local government areas to determine the distribution of grants to local councils.

The population estimates are based on the five-yearly Census and are calculated by adjusting the Census count for underenumeration, excluding visitors from overseas and adding in Australian residents who are overseas at the time of the Census. The population estimates are updated quarterly for state and territory series, and annually for other series, using a combination of other data sources and demographic techniques which have at their base Census data on the following topics:

      • Sex
      • Age
      • Registered marital status
      • Indigenous status
      • Usual residence at Census time
      • Internal migration.

OTHER TOPICS

As the Census covers all households, it gathers information about the characteristics of the population and its housing within small geographic areas and for small population groups to support the planning, administration, policy development and evaluation activities of governments and other users.

For example, in its role in determining the distribution of GST revenue, the Commonwealth Grants Commission does not just use population estimates based on Census data, as described above, but also uses data from a wide range of other Census topics to assess state relativities of 'needs'. In this respect, the Commission is just one of numerous clients, from both the public and private sectors, who make use of a range of Census data to assist in making decisions affecting the allocation of substantial resources.

The Census in Australia is completed by the householder with little assistance. This limits the nature of the topics which can be covered and the questions which can be asked. Topics which require complex questions or question sequencing may result in unreliable responses and thus are not suitable for inclusion in a Census. As with questions which are complex, the sheer length of a form can impose a burden on the public, and impact on people's willingness to complete it and the reliability of responses. This limits the total number of topics that can be included in the Census.

Given these considerations, the following criteria are used to judge the suitability of topics to be included in a Census. These are:
      • The topic is of current national importance.
      • There is a current need for data on the topic for small population groups and/or at the small area level.
      • There are no other suitable alternative data sources available for the topic.
      • The topic is suitable for inclusion in the Census.
      • There is likely to be a continuing need for data on the topic in the following Census.

THE TOPIC IS OF CURRENT NATIONAL IMPORTANCE

Topics which are selected for inclusion in a Census must relate to an issue that is of current national importance. There must be a demonstrated need for the Census data for policy development, planning and program monitoring, or for the provision of data on this topic as an electoral or legislative requirement.

THERE IS A CURRENT NEED FOR DATA ON THE TOPIC FOR SMALL POPULATION GROUPS AND/OR AT THE SMALL AREA LEVEL

As the Census covers all households, it can produce information at the small geographic area level or about small population groups, and enables cross-classification with other characteristics collected in the Census. Information not required at this level may be more efficiently obtained from sample surveys.

THERE ARE NO OTHER SUITABLE ALTERNATIVE DATA SOURCES AVAILABLE

In determining topics to be included in a Census, consideration is also given to whether data are available from other sources. For example, similar or surrogate data may be collected by another organisation, there may have been surveys already conducted by the ABS, or the data may be available from administrative records.

The ABS produces an extensive range of information from economic censuses and surveys, administrative sources, and a comprehensive program of household surveys. While ABS household surveys are not able to collect the detailed information that can be obtained from the Census for small groups or small areas, there are other advantages associated with interviewers collecting the data rather than the self-enumeration method used in the Census.

THE TOPIC IS SUITABLE FOR INCLUSION IN THE CENSUS

In the Census information is collected by 'self-enumeration', with each household required to fill in a Census form. Self-enumeration, and the need to ensure that the large Census operation is conducted as efficiently and effectively as possible, impose certain constraints on the type of topics included. Questions asked on the Census form need to be readily understood by all householders. The Census form may be completed by one household member on behalf of others.

Topics that require detailed explanation to ensure accurate answers are unlikely to be answered correctly. Research has shown that people often do not read the explanations that accompany questions. Questions that are controversial or could cause adverse reactions may also not be answered correctly. Such questions could also adversely affect the quality of other responses. Information about these topics may require interviewer-based collection methods.

THERE IS LIKELY TO BE A CONTINUING NEED FOR DATA ON THE TOPIC IN THE FOLLOWING CENSUS

The need for time-series data has traditionally been an implicit component of the selection criteria. There should be an appropriate balance between the two needs of relevance and time-series. If both are considered to be fulfilled (i.e. the topic is currently relevant and likely to remain relevant for future censuses) then there will be a good case for retaining or including the topic. However, if one of these is not assessed as being fulfilled (i.e. while there is comparable time series data from previous censuses the topic is no longer relevant in modern society, or while the topic is very relevant at the time of one Census it is unlikely to remain relevant in the future) the topic is unlikely to be recommended.

TOPICS FOR THE 2016 CENSUS

As outlined in the Introduction, the 2016 Census will include the same topics as in the 2011 Census. Minor changes to questions have been made as appropriate to ensure continuing relevance, such as updating income ranges and revising some response categories, or to improve data quality.

Information on each of the topics below is included under the Personal Topics or Household and Dwelling Topics sections of this publication.

The 2016 Census will include a question asking whether people agree to have their information retained by the National Archives of Australia as part of the Census Time Capsule. This question is not related to a Census topic as such and was made possible by an amendment to the Census and Statistics Act 1905. Information on this initiative is included in the Census Time Capsule section at the end of this publication.

TOPICS RELATING TO PERSONS

Name
Sex
Age
Residential status in non-private dwelling
Registered marital status
Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin
Usual residence at Census time
Internal migration
Australian citizenship
Country of birth
Year of arrival in Australia
Country of birth of parents
Main language other than English spoken at home
Proficiency in spoken English
Ancestry
Religious affiliation
Need for assistance
Attendance at an educational institution
Highest year of schooling completed
Non-school qualifications
Number of children ever born
Income (individual)
Labour force status
Status in employment (now incorporates Employment type)
Occupation
Public or Private employer indicator
Workplace address (and Journey to work)
Industry of employment
Hours worked
Method of travel to work
Unpaid work
    TOPICS RELATING TO HOUSEHOLDS AND DWELLINGS

    Address on Census Night
    Family relationship (and Social marital status)
    Income (family and household income)
    Number of motor vehicles garaged
    Number of bedrooms
    Tenure type
    Landlord type (formerly named Rent/landlord type)
    Housing costs (formerly named Mortgage repayments)
    Dwelling internet connection
    Dwelling structure
    Location of private dwelling
    Type of non-private dwelling