6102.0.55.001 - Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods, Feb 2018  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 12/02/2018   
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This document was added or updated on 26/05/2020.



The Survey of Employment and Earnings (SEE) provides estimates of (payroll) employees and cash wages and salaries for the public sector. Data contribute to the Australian National Accounts estimates of compensation of employees and labour productivity.

The survey is conducted on an annual basis. From September quarter 1983 to June quarter 2007, SEE was conducted on a quarterly basis, with the annual SEE commencing in respect of the 2007–08 reference year. Prior to the March quarter 2002, the survey collected data for both the public and private sector.


Estimates from the annual survey are published in Employment and Earnings, Public Sector, Australia (cat. no. 6248.0.55.002). Estimates from the quarterly survey were published in Wage and Salary Earners, Public Sector, Australia (cat. no. 6248.0.55.001).

The population of interest is public sector civilian employee jobs, for which wage and salary payments were made in the survey reference period, excluding employee jobs based outside of Australia. Two main series are published for the annual SEE:

  • public sector payroll employees (employee jobs) as at 30 June; and
  • cash wages and salaries for public sector employees.

Cash wages and salaries comprises regular and irregular payments for work done, including salary sacrificed amounts and paid leave, before tax and other items (e.g. employee contributions to superannuation) are deducted.

Data collected in the survey are compiled according to concepts and definitions outlined in the Employment and Employee Remuneration chapters.

Data are available for: state and territory; level of government; industry; and public institutional sector.

Data on earnings for the private sector are collected in the Quarterly Business Indicators Survey and published in Business Indicators, Australia (cat. no. 5676.0).


Public sector employing organisations operating in the Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing industry (Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC) Division A) are included in the scope of this survey. Otherwise, the standard scope exclusions for ABS labour-related business surveys (outlined in the Methods Used in ABS Business Surveys chapter) apply to this survey. Further information is available in the Explanatory Notes for Employment and Earnings, Public Sector, Australia (cat. no. 6248.0.55.002).

For the purposes of the SEE, public sector organisations include Commonwealth and state/territory government organisations, local government authorities, public corporations, universities, non-profit institutions controlled by the government, government marketing boards, legislative courts, municipal authorities, and other statutory authorities. Organisations are classified to Level of Government in the output by determining the institutional unit (i.e. Commonwealth, state or local government) deemed to exercise control. The estimates produced by SEE may differ from other available information, due to differences in coverage and/or the classification of organisations.


The SEE collects information using online electronic collection from a sample of public sector employer units.

Follow-up procedures are in place to obtain information from respondents who don’t lodge a completed form by the due date. A minimum response of 95% is generally achieved for both the survey as a whole, and for each state and/or industry.


A sample of units is selected from the ABS Business Register using the process outlined in the Methods Used in ABS Business Surveys chapter. Employing units are stratified by:

    • state or territory;
    • industry based on Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZIC) division ; and
    • employment size - the ranges used vary between states and territories, and industries.

Strata on the survey frame that are completely enumerated include those containing statistical units with benchmark employment greater than a set cut off (this cut off will vary for different states/territories and industries), and strata with a very small number of sampling units.

In addition to constraints outlined in the Methods Used in ABS Business Surveys chapter, sample selection is constrained by the need to ensure that there is minimum overlap with other labour-related business surveys.


Approximately 1,900 public sector employer units are selected in the sample to yield a live sample of approximately 1,700 employer units. The sample size decreased from the 2008–09 survey onwards, from around 2,500 to 2,000 employing units. This resulted in increased standard errors, in particular by level of government.

The sample is allocated optimally across sampled strata using a technique designed to minimise the variance of employment and cash wages and salaries at both the national and state/territory level.

The sample is updated each year to reflect changes in the ABS Business Register. Approximately one third of the sample from non-completely enumerated strata is replaced each year. Sample rotation is implemented for the majority of sampled strata comprising organisations with 50 employees or less.


Ratio estimation is used in all strata. Ratio imputation is used for non-responding units in both the completely enumerated and sampled strata.

Survey outliers are dealt with using the 'surprise outlier' technique. For further information on outliers and the surprise outlier technique, refer to the Overview of Survey Methods chapter.

A sample redesign and small domain adjustment methodology were implemented for the 2013-14 cycle. The small domain estimation methodology involves adjusting the estimation weights to ensure that benchmark totals in each State by Level of Government cell within a stratum are met.

For further information on estimation methods used in ABS Business Surveys, refer to the Methods Used in ABS Business Surveys chapter.


Estimates from the survey are subject to both sampling and non-sampling error (see the Overview of Survey Methods chapter for further information). The standard errors of survey estimates are available in Employment and Earnings, Public Sector, Australia (cat. no. 6248.0.55.002).

The Bootstrap replication method is used to calculate estimates of variance for this survey. The Bootstrap is a variance estimation method which relies on the use of replicate samples, essentially sampling from within the main sample. Each of these replicate samples is then used to calculate a replicate estimate and the variation in these replicate estimates is used to calculate the variance of a particular estimate.


The ABS produces earning statistics from a number of different sources, including both household and employer surveys. The four main employer based surveys that provide earnings statistics are the SEE, the Survey of Average Weekly Earnings (AWE), Survey of Employee Earnings and Hours (EEH), and the Wage Price Index (WPI). The main household based surveys providing earnings statistics are the Characteristics of Employment Survey (COE) and the Survey of Income and Housing (SIH).

The main purposes of the employer surveys are as follows: the AWE survey collects payroll information from employers who provide details of their employees' total gross earnings and their total number of employees; the EEH survey provides statistics on the composition and distribution of employee earnings, hours paid for and methods used to set employees' pay in Australia; the SEE is designed to measure the number of wage and salary earners and their gross earnings for the public sector; and the WPI measures the change over time in the price of wages and salaries. In contrast, COE compiles data from a household based survey, where respondents are either the employed person or another adult member of their household who responds on their behalf. Where earnings are not known exactly, an estimate is reported. The SIH provides detailed estimates of household income and wealth collected from individual households. In the SIH, the largest component of household income is employee income.

Caution should be exercised when comparing estimates of earnings in the SEE release with estimates of earnings included in other ABS earnings publications. There are important differences in the scope, coverage and methodology of these surveys, which can result in different estimates of earnings from each survey.

For further information on a number of earnings series available from ABS sources, and the differences between source surveys, please refer to the feature article 'Understanding Earnings in Australia Using ABS Statistics' published in Australian Labour Market Statistics, July 2014 (cat. no. 6105.0).


In order to provide a high degree of consistency and comparability over time, changes to survey methods, survey concepts, data item definitions, frequency of collection and methods of time series analysis are made as infrequently as possible. However, there have been some significant changes to the SEE: for example, there are significant series breaks for public sector data over time due to the privatisation of a number of public sector enterprises. Other significant changes have included:


  • Stand-alone survey not conducted for this period. Estimates produced from the MLC. For further information on MLC, refer to the Survey of Major Labour Costs chapter.

  • Sample redesign and small domain estimation methodology implemented.

  • Stand-alone survey not conducted for this period. Estimates produced from the Major Labour Costs Survey (MLC). For further information on MLC, refer to Survey of Major Labour Costs chapter.

  • Sample redesign undertaken for 2008–09 survey, based only on the 2006 edition of ANZSIC.
  • Sample size decreased from about 2,500 units (2007–08) to about 2,000 (2008–09), resulting in increases of standard errors.

  • Quarterly SEE ceased after June quarter 2007.
  • Annual SEE commenced for 2007–08. Estimates published in 6248.0.55.002, replacing 6248.0.55.001.
  • Survey undertaken on an ANZSIC 2006 industry basis, as well as the 1993 edition.
  • Employee remuneration data based on new conceptual framework for measures of employee remuneration (see Information Paper: Changes to ABS Measures of Employee Remuneration, 2006 (cat.no. 6313.0)).
  • Salary sacrificed earnings collected.
  • Severance, termination and redundancy payments still collected, but not included in the annual cash earnings series.
  • Telstra privatised, and no longer included in estimates.

  • Estimates published in 6248.0.55.001, replacing 6248.0.

  • Collection of private sector data discontinued from March quarter 2002.
  • Monthly employment and the full-time/part-time split of employment in the middle month of the quarter discontinued.

  • Publication resumed with March quarter, data published back to June quarter 1995.
  • Extensive revisions made to previously published data, due to past deficiencies in the coverage of small businesses on the ABS Business Register.
  • New business provisions adjustment introduced and back cast to beginning of the series.
  • Survey redesigned on ANZSIC 1993 basis, previously published Australian Standard Industrial Classification (ASIC) estimates recompiled on equivalent ANZSIC 1993 basis back to September quarter 1983.
  • Public sector sample size reduced, except for some industries, with small populations in Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory becoming fully enumerated.

  • Male and female employment last collected separately in May 1996.

  • Publication suspended after March quarter, but collection continued.

  • Trend estimates introduced.

  • First data collected electronically.

  • Seasonally adjusted estimates introduced.

  • Size of private sector sample reduced.
  • Sampling introduced for public sector.

  • Quarterly survey commenced; based on the existing ABS Business Register, replacing civilian employees series based on payroll tax, which was discontinued in April 1980.
  • Public sector completely enumerated.

  • Survey commenced.