1001.0 - Annual Report - ABS Annual Report, 2005-06  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 11/10/2006   
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Contents >> Section 3 - National Statistical System >> Chapter 5 - Population and social statistics

Chapter 5 - Population and social statistics


The Population Statistics program provides statistics describing the characteristics and wellbeing of Australia's population, and how people's lives are changing over time. It includes measures of the size, distribution and composition of the population and covers a broad range of social topics. There is also work focussing on different groups in the population.

Underlying the notion of population wellbeing is a range of fundamental human needs and aspirations, each of which can be linked to an area of social concern. These areas of social concern have been encapsulated in frameworks produced by the United Nations, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and others. Not surprisingly, governments have implicitly identified with this range of needs and aspirations and they have become the focus of social policy development and program and service delivery, and are reflected in many of the structures and priorities of government.

The ABS framework for social statistics, as published in Measuring Wellbeing: Frameworks for Australian Social Statistics (cat. no. 4160.0), is built around two key dimensions. The first relates to a number of key areas of social concern: health; family and community; housing; education and training; work; economic resources; crime and justice; culture-leisure; and population. The second dimension focuses on population groups which are of particular interest to the community and to governments for reasons such as their special need or disadvantage. These groups include: older people; children; youth; families with children; long-term unemployed; lone parents; people with disabilities; carers; recipients of various government benefits; low income earners; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons; and people whose language background is not English.


Statistics produced by the Population Statistics program include some regular series as well as a range of measures that are produced less frequently or on a periodic or one-off basis. The regular series include monthly labour force measures; quarterly population estimates; quarterly average weekly earnings figures; annual statistics on recorded crime, courts and prisoners; and annual causes of death statistics.

In 2005–06, survey results released from less frequent series included:

    • 2003–04 Household Income and Expenditure Survey
    • 2004–05 National Health Survey
    • 2004–05 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey
    • 2005 National Crime and Safety Survey, and
    • 2005 Survey of Education and Training.
While many of the statistics produced by the program are sourced from ABS household or business surveys, others are sourced from administrative data provided by other agencies.

There is also an ongoing focus on enhancing the usefulness of the available data and improving the measures that are produced.

Significant statistical developments during 2005–06 are outlined below.


The preparations for the 2006 Census of Population and Housing, conducted on 8 August 2006, constituted a major component of work in 2005–06. During this period, redevelopments in field operations were completed, and redevelopments in census processing and output systems were well advanced. The Data Processing Centre in Melbourne was established, and it processed data from the Dress Rehearsal, held in August 2005 to provide assurance that systems are in good order. Development of the eCensus was almost complete – the 2006 Census is the first time people will be offered the opportunity to complete their Census form over the internet. Census forms were printed, and most of the Census field staff recruited. For more information on the 2006 Census, see the box in this chapter.


After each Census of Population and Housing, a Post Enumeration Survey (PES) is conducted to produce estimates of the proportion of the population missed or counted more than once in the Census. The PES provides information for users on the quality of the Census, and is used with the data from the Census to produce estimates of the population. To improve the quality of the estimates, the 2006 PES is being extended to include remote area and discrete Indigenous communities and some categories of non private dwellings that were previously excluded. In 2006–07, information papers will be published about the PES and how the data it collects will be used in estimation.

An improved method of estimating net overseas migration has been developed and is expected to be implemented in ABS population estimates in June 2007 with the release of the December quarter 2006 issue of Australian Demographic Statistics (cat. no. 3101.0). This review has arisen in response the changing patterns of travel into and out of Australia, in particular the increased propensity for travellers to interrupt longer periods of stay or absence with short trips.

Information paper: Improved Methods for Estimating Net Overseas Migration (cat. no. 3107.0.55.003), which was released on 10 February 2006, provides more information on the proposed changes.


There has been an increased focus on issues around participation in the labour force in recent years, particularly around the potential impact of the ageing population on society and the economy. To respond to this, the ABS included additional sets of questions in the 2004–05 Multi-Purpose Household Survey, with the results released during 2005–06 in the publications Barriers and Incentives to Labour Force Participation, Australia (cat. no. 6239.0) and Retirement and Retirement Intentions, Australia (cat. no. 6238.0).


The economic wellbeing of individuals is largely determined by their command over economic resources. People's income and reserves of wealth provide access to many of the goods and services consumed in daily life. Measures of household wealth (net worth) and its distribution, that are both comprehensive and integrated with those of income and expenditure, were published this year for the first time in Household Wealth and Wealth Distribution, Australia, 2003–04 (cat. no. 6554.0). This publication provides indicators of the components and distribution of household net worth, or wealth.


Two new releases provided information about the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

The publication Labour Force Characteristics of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, Experimental Estimates from the Labour Force Survey, 2002 to 2004 (cat. no. 6287.0) presented information about the labour force characteristics of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, by sex, age, state or territory, and remoteness. The statistics in this publication were compiled from the monthly Labour Force Survey, conducted throughout Australia. Monthly data have been pooled to produce annual estimates.

The publication National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey, 2004–05 (cat. no. 4715.0) presented results from the largest health survey of Indigenous Australians conducted by the ABS. The sample size was 10,439 persons (or about one in 45 of the total Indigenous population), considerably larger than the supplementary Indigenous samples in the 1995 and 2001 National Health Surveys. This survey, which was conducted in remote and non-remote areas throughout Australia, collected a range of information from Indigenous Australians about health related issues, including health status, risk factors and actions, and socioeconomic circumstances.


The Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO), the new standard classification of occupations, will be implemented in the 2006 Census, and plans have been developed for its implementation in the Monthly Population Survey and other relevant ABS collections. ANZSCO is the product of a development program undertaken jointly by a project team from the ABS, Statistics NZ and the Australian Government Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, for use in the collection, publication and analysis of occupation statistics. The use of ANZSCO will result in improved comparability of occupation statistics produced by the two countries. ANZSCO will replace the existing Australian Standard Classification of Occupations (ASCO) Second Edition and the New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (NZSCO) 1999.

More information is available in Information paper: ANZSCO – Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations 2005 (cat. no. 1221.0), released in September 2005.


Social capital is a broad term, defined as 'networks, together with shared norms, values and understandings which facilitate cooperation within or among groups'. It relates to the resources available within communities in networks of mutual support, reciprocity, trust and obligation. It can be accumulated when people interact with each other in families, workplaces, neighbourhoods, and local or other associations, whether face-to-face or by other means of communication, including the telephone, text messaging or the range of forms of interaction made possible by the Internet.

In 2005–06, the ABS drew together data on aspects of social capital available from various ABS sources. The outcomes of this work are contained in the publication Aspects of Social Capital, Australia, 2006 (cat. no. 4911.0), to be released in July 2006. In addition, a new set of question modules on social capital, designed to provide a more comprehensive set of data, has been developed for inclusion in the 2006 General Social Survey along with a repeat of the voluntary work survey.


The Census Data Enhancement (CDE) project aims to enhance the value of data from the 2006 Census of Population and Housing and subsequent censuses by creating a Statistical Longitudinal Census Dataset (SLCD) for a five per cent sample of the Australian population. This project has proceeded in line with the Statement of Intention published on the ABS web site in August 2005, which followed initial consultation on a proposal in 2004–05 and the preparation of a Privacy Impact Statement. This work will bring together data through statistical techniques rather than matching based on name and address. Names and addresses will not be kept.

Work has focused on assessing matching methodologies, developing options for selection of the sample, and developing protocols, infrastructure and processes for ensuring confidentiality of the dataset. In June 2006, the ABS released Information Paper – Census Data Enhancement Project: An Update (cat. no. 2062.0), outlining the current plans for CDE. This paper included a description of some of the potential statistical studies that could be undertaken using the SLCD.

Image: ABS census collector commencing distribution of the 13.9 million census forms
ABS census collector commencing distribution of the 13.9 million census forms.


The Census of Population and Housing is the largest statistical collection undertaken by the ABS, and one of the most important. Its objective is to accurately measure the number and key characteristics of people in Australia on Census Night, and the dwellings in which they live. This provides a reliable basis for the estimation of the population of each of the states, territories and local government areas, primarily for electoral purposes and the distribution of government funds. The Census also provides the characteristics of the Australian population and its housing within small geographic areas and for small population groups. This information supports the planning, administration, policy development and evaluation activities of governments and other users. It also provides a snapshot of Australia and how it has changed over the last five years.

The 2006 Census will include three new topics:
  • Need for assistance questions will cover the areas of self care, movement and communication. Reason for need for assistance or supervision will also be asked.
  • Unpaid work questions will include unpaid domestic work, unpaid care due to a disability, long term illness or old age, unpaid child care and voluntary work.
  • The dwelling Internet connection question will be used to measure how widespread household access to the Internet, both broadband and dial-up, has become in Australia.
In 2006, Australians are again being asked if they would like to have their information retained by the National Archives of Australia and kept confidential for 99 years, as part of the Census Time Capsule. Name-identified Census information will only be retained for those who consent. The information will be able to be released in 2105 for research purposes, with the people who may be interested in accessing this kind of information at that time including genealogists, historians, academics, social analysts, journalists, and family members in the twenty-second century.

Most activity in 2005–06 focused on preparations for the distribution and collection of Census forms, including:
  • printing and distribution (to collection staff) of 13.9 million Census household and personal forms, 12.6 million Census Guides and 40,000 Census maps
  • recruitment of 102 Divisional Managers, 3,365 Area Supervisors and 26,163 Collectors
  • development and testing of an eCensus facility, especially the security of the facility, for those who choose to submit their Census form by the internet
  • establishment of a Census Field Communication system that will handle up to 800,000 calls from the public and send out 1.6 million SMS messages to collectors' mobile phones. The SMS messages will be used to let collectors know that an eCensus form has been received for a particular household or here some other field follow up activity is required (eg householder needs an extra form).
  • development of a public communications campaign and associated advertising to explain the benefits of the Census and encourage participation
  • engagement with a range of Indigenous Australian, ethnic and other community groups to garner support for the 2006 Census.
During 2005–06, there was also considerable work on the systems for processing and releasing Census data. Systems for processing 2006 Census data were tested using data from the August 2005 Census Dress Rehearsal, and the Data Processing Centre in Melbourne was established. The 2006 Census output strategy was finalised, following release of Census of Population and Housing: Proposed Products and Services 2006 (ABS cat no 2011.0) and a round of consultation meetings with users of census data. With the development of technology, in particular the Internet, and the growing sophistication of the user community, the ABS intends to recast its range of products and services for the 2006 Census. A range of new Internet based products will be developed, which will make it easier for users of varying levels of sophistication to get the data they need.

In addition, during 2005–06, a team was established to begin preparations for the 2011 Census. This team will look at the challenges and opportunities for the 2011 Census, given the ongoing changes in Australian society, the Australian labour force and technology.


The Population Statistics program has continued to work closely with its clients to ensure the ongoing relevance of its products and services, to ensure their emerging needs are well understood, and to ensure ABS decisions are clearly explained. Ways to strengthen engagement with key stakeholders have been explored and are being implemented across the program. Strategies include:
    • identifying and taking up opportunities for new partnerships and collaborations
    • using ABS outposted officers in building closer relationships and developing statistical capacity, and
    • initiating regular senior level bilateral discussions on the policy and other drivers requiring a statistical response.

An example of this engagement was the external workshop for senior experts to discuss population wellbeing data gaps, which was held on 8 June 2006. The workshop was jointly organised and convened by the Treasury, the Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and the ABS. The aims were to:
    • identify those information gaps and data shortcomings considered to be of highest priority
    • consider mechanisms for satisfying the gaps, and
    • suggest strategies and ongoing processes to drive forward an effective body of statistical information on population well-being over the next five to ten years.
An action plan resulting from the discussions at the workshop is currently being developed.


A new partnership has been developed with the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs under which a National Migrant Statistics Unit has been established by the ABS to improve the information base relating to migrant settlement in Australia. The unit will take a leadership role by identifying major data needs and priorities, in coordinating the development of new sources of information on migrants, and in increasing the usefulness and accessibility of existing datasets.


The Population Statistics program has continued to support the work of other agencies in developing statistical products and capability. For example, it has provided advice and expertise through membership of steering and working groups associated with the Council Of Australian Governments' Review of Government Services Provision and Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage reports, and for key government funded surveys for which other agencies are responsible. These include the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics (HILDA) Survey, the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC), and the proposed Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children (LSIC). It has increased engagement with LSAC by providing survey development and data collection services, under a partnership with the Australian Institute of Family Studies and the Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.


The Population Statistics program periodically undertakes a major review of its household survey program to ensure emerging issues are being adequately addressed and ongoing measures remain relevant. The 2006 review has commenced and will report later in the year. This review is being supplemented by reviews that have been progressing within specific areas of statistics, with a particular focus on health and crime victimisation.


Census of Population and HousingThe Census program conducts a five-yearly census of population and housing. Its aim is to accurately and efficiently measure the number and key characteristics of people in Australia on census night so as to provide a reliable basis for the estimation of the population of each state and territory and to provide timely, high quality and relevant five-yearly benchmark data within areas of social concern (for example, housing, education, labour force) for small geographic areas and for small population groups.

DemographyThe Demography program produces estimates of the size, structure and geographic distribution of the population; projections of the population into the future; and estimates of components of population change (births, deaths and migration). Also produced are estimates and projections of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population, and of families and households.

Labour Statistics The Labour Statistics program provides information about the structure and performance of the labour market. The program produces interrelated statistics on labour supply (such as labour force participation, unemployment, employment conditions and broader measures of labour underutilisation); labour demand (such as employment, job vacancies and labour costs); and industrial relations.

Health The Health program provides information about the health of Australia's population, and about health related services. This includes statistics relating to health status, mortality, disability and factors that affect health outcomes. Statistics are also provided on the health of population groups such as children and youth, and older people.

Education and Training The Education and Training Statistics program provides measures of the Statistics levels and effects of education and training activity, and covers a range of topics relevant to education and training including school education, non-school activity, and pathways linking education and work.

Crime and Justice StatisticsThe Crime and Justice Statistics program provides measures of the levels and effects of criminal activity, as well as people's perceptions of their safety and includes national statistics on recorded crime, courts and corrections. The program works to improve the quality of these collections in cooperation with statistical practitioners in the jurisdictions.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander StatisticsThe Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statistics program provides information about Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The main sources of these statistics are the five-yearly national Census of Population and Housing, surveys on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians conducted every three years (alternating between health and general social topics), and administrative data such as hospital, school and community services records.

Living Conditions StatisticsThe Living Conditions Statistics program provides information about the material living conditions of the population within a framework of areas of social concern and population groups at risk of disadvantage. Household income, wealth, expenditure, consumption, housing, superannuation and other aspects of material living conditions are central to monitoring material wellbeing. Related areas of measurement and analysis include economic hardship and financial stress which help to provide a wider picture of the material circumstances and living conditions of Australians.

Family and Community Statistics The Family and Community Statistics program provides information about family and community wellbeing including time use, child care, volunteering and social capital. A further dimension is the provision of statistics for various population sub-groups including women and men, couple and one parent families, and carers.

Culture and Recreation StatisticsThe Culture and Recreation Statistics program provides information about culture, sport and leisure, and migrants.

Rural and Regional StatisticsThe Rural and Regional Statistics program advances the availability of regional data. Activities undertaken under the program include improving access to, and dissemination of ABS data and data from other sources, and developing new indicators where feasible.

Ageing Statistics The Ageing Statistics program coordinates statistical activities in the field of ageing. Its activities include understanding current and emerging policy issues and debates, and determining what statistics might be appropriate to inform decision making.

Children and Youth Statistics The Children and Youth Statistics program provides statistical leadership and coordination across the field of children and youth statistics with the aim of guiding and influencing statistical activity, both ABS and non-ABS, in this field.

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