BACKGROUND TO THE SURVEY
In 2010, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) conducted the General Social Survey (GSS), a multi-dimensional social survey that ranges across many aspects of life. The GSS is designed to enable analysis of the interrelationships in social circumstances and outcomes, including the exploration of multiple advantage and disadvantage. The survey provides information on people's health, family relationships, social and community involvement, education, employment, income and financial stress, assets and liabilities, housing and mobility, crime and safety, transport, attendance at culture and leisure venues, and sports attendance and participation. Key findings from the 2010 GSS are presented in General Social Survey: Summary Results, Australia (cat. no. 4159.0) which was released in September 2011 and is available on the ABS web site <www.abs.gov.au>.
The GSS collected information from August to November 2010 from 15,028 private dwellings throughout non-remote areas of Australia. The sample was designed to provide national and state level estimates, recognising state/territory responsibilities in many areas of social concern. Information was obtained from one person aged 18 years or over in the selected household.
The 2010 GSS is the third in the series, with the first GSS conducted in 2002, and again in 2006. It is planned to repeat the survey at regular intervals (currently four-yearly). Each cycle of the GSS collects comparable information for the core dimensions to allow for analysis of changes over time. A cyclical component is also included to collect additional information on emerging or important topics of social concern. The cyclical component of the 2010 GSS included topics relating to social inclusion, such as experience of homelessness and financial resilience and exclusion.
The ABS was responsible for the development and conduct of the survey. As for all ABS surveys, extensive testing was carried out to ensure that the survey would collect objective and high quality data.
Standard ABS interviewing techniques were used and the questionnaire was designed to be administered by experienced ABS interviewers, who had received specific training on this survey. The questionnaire was further supported by detailed interviewer instructions, covering general procedural issues as well as specific instructions relating to individual questions. As for all ABS surveys, standard ABS procedures (including office coding) and systems ensure the collection of objective and high quality data. The questionnaire is not fully indicative of the range of information available from the survey, as additional items were created in processing the data, and ABS classifications were applied to raw data inputs. Furthermore, some questions were asked solely for the purpose of enabling or clarifying other questions, and are not available in survey results.
The 2010 GSS was conducted under the authority of the Census and Statistics Act 1905. The ABS sought the willing cooperation of households in the survey. The confidentiality of all information provided by respondents is guaranteed. Under its legislation the ABS cannot release identifiable information about households or individuals. All aspects of the GSS implementation were designed to conform to Information Privacy Principles set out in the Privacy Act 1988, and the Privacy Commissioner was informed of the details of the proposed survey.
The success of the 2010 GSS was dependent on the high level of cooperation received from the community. Their continued cooperation is very much appreciated; without it, the range of social and other statistics published by the ABS would not be possible.