4160.0.55.001 - Frameworks for Australian Social Statistics, Jun 2015  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/06/2015  First Issue
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Governments, communities, organisations and researchers are interested in the wellbeing outcomes of different groups of people. Some of these groups may face greater challenges in accessing the same opportunities as others in the community. These challenges might be related to a range of environmental, socio-economic, personal or physical factors, or a combination of factors.

Information on particular groups of people with similar characteristics helps in better understanding their challenges and how to improve access to opportunities for those who are most vulnerable. Some groups of particular interest are:

  • people living in regional and remote areas
  • people with mental health disorders
  • people who are caring for others
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
  • people experiencing socio-economic disadvantage
  • migrants
  • women
  • young people
  • older people
  • people in single parent families (parents and children)
  • people who are unemployed
  • people who have been victims of crime
  • homeless people.

For further discussion on these challenges see Our changing world.


For statistical purposes, people can be classified into population groups based on their characteristics such as their age, sex, country of birth, where they live, or their employment status. For example, information on where people live can identify people who live in remote areas. When this information is used in a data collection which also collects information on employment status, the labour force experience of those people, e.g. people living in remote areas can be analysed. Additional information such as ‘period of residence’ can also be added to allow more detailed analysis on employment status based on how long people have lived in that remote area, for example.

It's important to consider quality dimensions for analysis purposes. For example, ensuring you define the subpopulation in such a way that it aligns with your analytical purposes. This may require consideration of several aspects covering age, sex, geography, etc. and all these aspects need to be available in your data source. Defining your subpopulation group so there is sufficient people to ensure quality analysis is another important consideration.

By using standard classifications to identify particular population groups, information can brought together from different data sources, or from the same data source over time. This allows the wellbeing outcomes of these groups to be analysed in more depth.


A classification groups data into meaningful categories. A well constructed classification has categories that are mutually exclusive and exhaustive. Each category of a classification also has a description and a unique code to enable users to identify the category. Classifications promote data comparability across data sources. They are used in:
  • data collection
  • data processing
  • data presentation
  • data analysis
  • auto coding of data
  • data coding indexes.

The ABS uses and maintains many classifications.


The notion of vulnerability is a broad one, encompassing a variety of meanings. The word describes those who are physically or psychologically disadvantaged. In its broadest sense, the notion of vulnerability hence refers to the situation of individuals, households or communities who are exposed to potential adversity from one or more risks. It also refers to the general lack of resilience of these people or groups to the damage resulting from an adverse shock. (Measuring Vulnerability and resilience in OECD Countries, 2011).

By analysing information about vulnerable population groups, the underlying causes of the vulnerability can be addressed, such as:
  • disadvantage
  • social exclusion
  • barriers to participation
  • poor governance
  • discrimination
  • inequality
  • inadequate access to resources and livelihoods.

Why some vulnerable people are more resilient to change or have better outcomes than others can also be examined.


Sen, A. 2005, Human Rights and Capabilities, Journal of Human Development, Vol. 6 No. 2 - The concept of opportunities in this context is based on the idea of 'capability' and (i) whether a person is actually able to do things [they] would value doing, and (ii) whether [they] possess the means or instruments or permissions to pursue what [they] would like to do ([their] actual ability to to do that pursuing may depend on many contingent circumstances).

Measuring Vulnerability and resilience in OECD Countries, 2011 - The paper uses an “assets based” framework, focusing on the resources that individuals and households can draw upon to reduce vulnerability and strengthen their resilience to a range of different risks.

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