2940.0.55.002 - Information Paper: Measuring Overcount and Undercount in the 2016 Population Census, Jul 2016  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 01/07/2016  First Issue
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The scope of the PES is similar to the scope of the Census, which is every person present in Australia on Census night (with the exception of foreign diplomats and their families). Ideally the PES would sample from all people who were or should have been in the scope of the Census, but for practical reasons there are a number of areas, dwellings and people excluded or not able to be covered by the PES. Of the people present in Australia at the time of the PES, the following are not included in the PES scope:

  • foreign diplomats and their families;
  • people in non-private dwellings such as hotels, motels, hospitals and other institutions;
  • homeless people (as the sample selected in the PES is based on the selection of dwellings);
  • overseas visitors who were not in Australia on 9 August 2016 (Census night);
  • babies born after 9 August 2016; and
  • people in Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Christmas Island, Australian Antarctic Territory and Jervis Bay Territory.

The PES does not obtain information about people who died between Census and the PES, however it does obtain information about Australian residents who are overseas during the PES enumeration period and who departed after the Census, provided that they usually live with people remaining in Australia.


Remote areas and Discrete Communities were first included in the PES in 2006. Prior to this, they were excluded from the PES because of operational issues associated with enumerating them. In addition, it was considered difficult in the past to implement procedures to ensure that independence of the PES from the Census was not compromised by using the same local contacts for both Census and PES.

In 2006 and 2011, the risk to operational independence was effectively managed through interviewer training and the procedures put in place for field staff. Enumeration of Discrete Communities will occur in 2016 across August, September and October.


Non-private dwellings are establishments which provide predominantly short-term accommodation for communal or group living, and often provide common eating facilities. They include hotels, motels, hostels, hospitals, religious institutions providing accommodation, educational institutions providing accommodation, prisons, boarding houses and short-stay caravan parks. Non-private dwellings each comprise a number of dwelling units. About 2% of the Australian population live in non-private dwellings. Non-private dwellings have previously been excluded from the PES because:
  • a high number of these dwelling units are found to be vacant;
  • many of the people who are contacted in these dwelling units are not in scope of the PES, for example overseas visitors who were not in Australia on 9 August;
  • many of the people usually live in a private dwelling and could be selected at their usual residence;
  • the quality of information is often poor, especially in institutions, where information cannot be provided by individuals themselves and so is collected from administrative lists or from staff;
  • enumeration suffers from a lack of independence from the Census, because the administrative lists used by PES interviewers to collect data about institutionalised people are the same as those used by Census staff; and
  • the cost of enumerating them is relatively high compared to private dwellings, because of the additional time and effort required.

An investigation was conducted into the possible inclusion of non-private dwellings in the 2006 PES. The investigation found that non-private dwellings were likely to have high levels of sample loss and non-response, which meant their inclusion in the PES would not be cost-effective. Non-private dwellings were therefore excluded from the 2006 PES and 2011 PES.

For 2016 PES, the inclusion of non-private dwellings was revisited, specifically the subset of long-stay non-private dwellings such as educational institutions with accommodation, because interviewers have reasonable prospects of collecting good quality data directly from usual residents. However, this subset represent only about one-third of the non-private dwelling population and, coupled with the changes to Census enumeration, the decision was taken to minimise the number of non-essential changes to the PES. Non-private dwellings are therefore excluded from the 2016 PES.


The PES coverage rules are designed to give each in-scope person in the population a single chance of selection in the survey by associating each person with one and only one dwelling. The coverage rules are implemented by asking a series of questions in the PES interview. The questions cover topics such as where each person usually lives and whether they will be staying at the PES dwelling on a particular reference night.

Structuring the questionnaire so that each person has a single chance of selection in the PES ensures that data from the sample can produce estimates that are representative of the whole population.