2011.0.55.001 - Information Paper: Census of Population and Housing - Products and Services, 2016  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 03/03/2017   
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The 2016 Census introduced significant changes to the way the Census was conducted. Further information about how the 2016 Census was conducted can be found in Census of Population and Housing: Nature and Content, Australia, 2016 (cat. no. 2008.0).

Data integration will continue to be a central element of the 2016 Census and is an increasingly important element of the broader ABS work program. This ability will be improved by the decision to retain names and addresses collected in the 2016 Census. For the 2016 Census, the ABS will destroy names and addresses when there is no longer any community benefit to their retention or four years after collection (i.e. August 2020), whichever is earliest.

Public consultation confirmed the value of continuing the topics from the 2011 Census, so the topics collected in the 2016 Census will remain the same as those collected in 2011 with only minor changes to the questions. The development of the online questionnaire has also provided opportunity to gain more accurate data from respondents while decreasing the burden placed on those filling out the form.

Minor question changes in 2016

While the topics are unchanged from 2011, some minor changes have been made to the questions that collect information on the topics. These changes have been implemented to make the form easier to complete and to optimise the quality of the data produced. Some of the more notable changes are discussed below, however, full details about question changes can be found in Census of Population and Housing: Nature and Content, Australia, 2016 (cat. no. 2008.0).


The default question in the 2016 Census will ask people whether they are male or female, however, special procedures have been introduced for both the paper and online forms to enable people to report as neither male nor female. Information on these procedures will be available in the online Census form, on the ABS website, and from the Census Inquiry Service.


The 'No religion' response category has been moved up to be the first response category in the question. The topic review process showed that the previous question format held a perceived bias that suggested a potential underestimation of the number of people who stated they had no religion. The new question format makes the question more consistent with other questions and the order of their response categories, as well as making it consistent with the approach taken by a number of other countries.

Dwelling internet connection

The dwelling internet question formerly asked about whether the dwelling was connected to the internet and by what type of connection. In 2016, the question has been changed to a simple yes/no question asking 'Does anyone in this household access the internet from this dwelling', with consequent changes to the output categories.

Country of birth of parents

These questions have been amended to allow respondents to provide details of the country of birth of their mother and father (where it is not Australia). The question previously had a generic 'overseas' category, however consultation with key users of the data during the 2016 Census topic review showed opportunity for a greater understanding of the heritage and ancestries of Australia's population through changes to the questions.


The layout of the ancestry question has changed for the 2016 Census. There are now two distinct areas in which people can write in an ancestry that is not one of the pick box ancestries. This change is to clarify responses and improve autocoding rates. In previous Censuses, when writing more than one ancestry in a single area, people tended to add marks such as backslashes or hyphens between them, which made the entries fail autocoding and left the intended answer unclear.

Targeted supplementary questions

Targeted supplementary questions, asking more specialised questions based on previous responses, are included on the online form to obtain better quality fine-level data for occupation and industry.


Classification Changes

There have been a number of changes to classifications used in the 2016 Census, including a new version of the Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) and minor changes to other classifications. The full details of all 2016 Census classifications can be found in the Census Dictionary, 2016 (cat. no. 2901.0), which will be released in August 2016.

Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS)

The 2016 Census will use the 2016 version of the Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS), which was introduced for the 2011 Census. For the 2011 Census, data was also available for Statistical Local Areas (SLAs), the basic unit from the geographic classification used in 2006, to enable time series comparison. However, this was a transitional arrangement and will not apply in 2016.

The 2016 ASGS has been updated to include the Territory of Norfolk Island within the 'Other Territories' category.

Further information about the ASGS and Census data can be found in the 'Census Geography' chapter. For further detailed information about the ASGS, see Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS): Volume 1 - Main Structure and Greater Capital City Statistical Areas, July 2016 (cat. no. 1270.0.55.001).

The following classifications used in the 2016 Census have all had minor changes due to scheduled reviews. Please see the Census Dictionary, 2016 (cat. no. 2901.0) for more information on how these changes will affect specific data items in the 2016 Census.

Other classifications

Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO), 2013, Version 1.2 (cat. no. 1220.0)

Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC), 2006 (Revision 2.0) (cat. no. 1292.0)

Australian Standard Classification of Cultural and Ethnic Groups (ASCCEG), 2016 (cat. no. 1249.0)

Australian Standard Classification of Languages (ASCL), 2016 (cat. no. 1267.0)

Australian Standard Classification of Religious Groups (ASCRG), 2016 (cat. no. 1266.0)

Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC), 2016 (cat. no. 1269.0)

Minor classification changes

Following a review of labour standards, for 2016, the variable Employment Type (EMPT) has been replaced by a more comprehensive variable, Status in Employment (SIEMP). SIEMP can provide the same data as EMPT.

New 2016 Census output data items

Two new items have been created for 2016:
  • Engagement in Employment, Education and Training (EETP), which classifies a person's participation in work and/or study. Categories include Fully Engaged, Partially Engaged, At Least Partially Engaged or Not Engaged in Employment, Education and Training. This is a widely used indicator, usually used in respect of particular age groups of policy interest, such as teenagers aged 15-19 years. This data item will be available for all persons aged 15 and above.
  • Housing Suitability (HOSD), which is a measure of housing utilisation based on a comparison of the number of bedrooms in a dwelling with a series of household demographics such as number of usual residents, their relationships to each other, age and sex. The criteria are based on the Canadian National Occupancy standard.

In addition, standard updates have been made to other data items, such as revisions to income ranges for income data items.

For the full details of all changes that have been made to variables since the 2011 Census, refer to the Census Dictionary, 2016 (cat. no. 2901.0).