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There is a wealth of information in the statistics released by the ABS, and the ABS seeks to ensure that users can benefit from this information as fully as possible. The ABS releases data through standard products (from publications to Confidentialised Unit Record Files), as described in the previous chapter, and also produces customised data tables on a consultancy basis. However, these outputs do not meet all user needs, or use the full potential of the data. Thus, the ABS looks to add value to its statistics and extend the range of statistical outputs produced in a number of ways. These include:
The ABS produces a number of analytical reports that inform governments and the community of social and economic conditions and progress in Australia. The reports draw together data and analysis from within the ABS and from a range of other sources. They include analysis of current circumstances, changes to circumstances over time, ways that different groups of people have been affected, and the various factors that may have accounted for observed tends. As well, the analyses explore the interrelationships between economic, social and environmental aspects of life.
The following flagship publications were released during 2006–07.
Measures of Australia’s Progress (cat. no. 1370.0)
Measures of Australia’s Progress (MAP) is a publication drawing together ABS and other data to paint a picture of national progress over the last decade. It is designed to provide the statistical evidence to allow users - those who formulate and evaluate policy, researchers and the community - to determine if life in Australia is getting better.
MAP presents a suite of indicators covering many of the areas of life most important to Australia and Australians. Indicators and commentary are presented in the following areas:
health / education and training / work / national income / economic hardship / national wealth / housing / productivity / the natural landscape / the air and atmosphere / oceans and estuaries / family, community and social cohesion / crime / democracy, governance and citizenship
In addition to these headline areas, there is commentary on the supplementary areas of:
culture and leisure / inflation / communication / competitiveness and openness / transport
The headline indicators in MAP are updated annually. Measures of Australia’s Progress: Summary Indicators (cat. no. 1383.0.55.001) was released in April 2007.
Australian Economic Indicators (AEI) is a monthly publication which draws together ABS and other data to provide a compendium of key national, state and international economic time series. It also contains feature articles. This monthly flagship publication was first released in 1991 and has remained popular with users.
During 2006–07, the AEI webpage was enhanced, with the addition of explanatory notes, abbreviations, long time-series datacubes, access to historical AEI feature articles, and the publication of the Australian Economic Indicators Glossary, 2006 (cat. no. 1350.0.55.001). In the future, AEI tables will be updated on the internet as new data becomes available, rather than once a month. Future developments will focus on data visualisation and the ability to look at broad level data.
Australian Social Trends (AST) is an annual publication containing articles on contemporary social issues and a range of social indicators that present an overview of some key social trends in the various areas of social concern (such as health, work, family and community). AST brings together information across a range of areas to address complex social issues. Articles released in the 2006 issue included the following:
OTHER ARTICLES RELEASED IN REGULAR PUBLICATIONS
There were a number of articles released as part of regular publications, generally highlighting changes that may have an impact on the series. In April 2006, an article ‘Australian Exporters, 2005’, in International Trade in Goods and Services, Australia (cat. no. 5368.0) addressed the compilation of counts of the number of exporters.
Other publications with articles were:
The ABS Census Data Enhancement 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 5 per cent sample of the Australian population. The SLCD is an investment in the future and the potential benefits are substantial. The SLCD will provide information on patterns in individual experiences over time and therefore provide insight into the effectiveness of policy or the need for new policy interventions.
The project has proceeded in line with the statement of intention published on the ABS website in August 2005. Work in 2006–07 continued to focus on assessing matching methodologies and developing options for selection of the SLCD sample. The linking of datasets for various quality studies has commenced.
OTHER ANALYTICAL WORK IN 2006-07
The ABS regularly reviews the methodology used to produce statistics, to enhance the usefulness of data to encourage and inform decision making amongst governments and the community. Analytical work undertaken by the ABS provides opportunities to incorporate improvements and new approaches, where appropriate. In 2006–07, the ABS undertook a range of analytical work:
Measuring option values and the economic benefits of completing secondary education (cat. no 1352.0.55.082)
This research paper applied the ABS human capital measurement framework to examine the significance of base level education in the production of human capital over life cycles of young men and young women. The distinctive feature of this study is that it derives the option values generated by completing secondary education, in terms of the opportunities to obtain more advanced human capital skills through undertaking tertiary study.
Deriving measures of engagement in secondary education (cat. no. 1351.0.55.016)
This research examined the limitations of the apparent retention rate indicator and proposed a method for deriving more accurate measures of grade progression or retention in secondary schools, to ensure continued relevance for policy analysis.
The ABS reported, with respect to 2005–06, on trial collaborations in the analysis of business survey microdata, involving the Productivity Commission, the Department of Industry Tourism and Research, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics, and the Bureau of Transport and Regional Economics.
During 2006–07, each of those analytical collaborations reached its final phase. Therefore, it has been possible to assess the outcomes and effectiveness of the alternative, trial arrangements. That knowledge has informed ABS plans for future collaborations that rely on the analysis of business microdata.
Future directions have also been influenced by Brian Pink, the incoming Australian Statistician, who has expressed his interest in building on both the ABS and Statistics New Zealand experience in analytical collaborations. As Statistician in New Zealand, he had ample evidence of the power and potential of seconding officers from other government agencies, international statistical agencies and academic institutions, to support him in performing his statistical functions.
Such secondments allow multiple benefits, including enhanced analytical outputs and a bilateral exchange of knowledge between officers seconded from research and policy institutions and officers of the statistical agency.
In addition, such arrangements are consistent with the strict secrecy provisions of the Census and Statistics Act 1905. This underpins ongoing provider confidence in the protection of information provided to the ABS. This confidence is critical to the high level of cooperation which the ABS receives and the resultant high quality of the data available for decision making and analysis.
The ABS has commenced investigation of means to extend secondment arrangements to officers from academic institutions and to ensuring that the analytical effort can draw, not only on ABS survey data, but also on the increasingly rich administrative data holdings of the ABS.
In early 2007, negotiations commenced with one agency on future secondment arrangements, building on the experience developed in analysing the 2003 Innovation Survey, for application with respect to the 2005 survey.