2975.0.55.005 - Census Working Paper 96/4 - Fact Sheet 05 - Population Counts, 1996  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 01/06/1997   
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The Australian Census of Population and Housing counts people where they are on census night. As this may not be their usual residence, respondents are asked to provide the address of their place of usual residence as well.

Census Counts are not to be confused with the estimated resident population (ERP) figures which are the official estimate of the Australian population. The ERP is based on census counts by place of usual residence (UR).

There are several different population totals related to Census counts:

Census counts by place of enumeration.
The data contained on the Social and Housing Characteristics publications, the Community Profile database and in most standard output products are on a place of enumeration basis.

Census counts by place of usual residence
Data based on place of usual residence are available as a consultancy service only, with the exception of a few Standard National Matrixes.

Estimated resident population
These estimates are produced quarterly by the Demography Section and are published in Australian Demographic Statistics (3101.0).

The working population
Data on the Working Population is contained in the Working Population Community Profile Series, and are also available as a consultancy service.

The population counts also affect families and households. Each of these is explained in more detail below.


The Australian Census counts every person who spent census night in Australia including:

  • People on board vessels in or between Australian ports, or on long-distance trains, buses or aircraft.
  • Visitors to Australia.
  • Australian residents in Antarctica.

The census excludes:
  • People leaving an Australian port for an overseas destination before midnight on census night.
  • Australian residents out of the country on census night.
  • Overseas diplomatic personnel and their families and dwellings.

Census counts can be provided on two bases, place of enumeration and place of usual residence.

1(a) Census Counts by Place of Enumeration

Counts based on place of enumeration comprise all people in Australia on Census night, at the location they spent that night. This may not be where they usually live.

These counts are also known as de facto population counts. They can be provided for Collection Districts (CDs), any aggregations of CDs, and postcodes.

Census counts by place of enumeration include information on overseas visitors only for Age, Sex and Marital Status. A special "overseas visitor" category has been created for the remaining variables.

1(b) Census Counts by Place of Usual Residence

Not all people are at home on census night; they may be in a motel or at a friend's place, for example. Question 7 on the census form asks for the address of each person's place of usual residence. This allows these people to be 'returned' to the SLA where they usually reside, providing a census count based on place of usual residence.

This is also referred to as the de jure population count. Place of usual residence counts can be provided for SLAs, any aggregations of SLAs, and postcodes.

Usual residence counts can only be provided for people, not families (see section on families and households below) or dwellings. These counts exclude visitors from overseas.

For coding purposes, each respondent must have an SLA of usual residence. If the question on usual residence is not answered, the SLA of usual residence is imputed, usually to the State and SLA of enumeration, except for respondents who are enumerated in a hotel or some types of non-private dwelling, where an SLA elsewhere may be imputed.


The ABS also produces the official Estimated Resident Population (ERP) figures. The estimated resident population of an area is the estimate of the number of persons who usually reside in that area.

The ERP figures for 30 June 1996 were derived from the census Usual Resident counts (ie. excludes overseas visitors) by:
  • adding estimates of Australians overseas on Census night;
  • making an adjustment for the estimated underenumeration in the Census; and
  • making adjustments for births, deaths and migration between 30 June and 6 August 1996.
Estimates by age and sex are published annually at national, State and SLA level. Estimates by birthplace and marital status are also published annually at a national level, and estimates at the national and State levels, by sex, are published quarterly.


The Census can provide counts of people who work in destination zones within Journey to Work (JTW) study areas, or aggregations of these areas. These counts are known as the working population and contain employed people who are enumerated in a Journey to Work study area; and who report a workplace address for the main job held last week which is within the same study area as the one in which they are enumerated.

These counts exclude:
  • people enumerated outside the Journey to Work study area but who work within the area;
  • people who are unemployed or not in the labour force in the week prior to census night; and
  • people who are in a destination zone to attend school, to shop or to visit, etc.

It is not possible to distinguish between workers working standard hours, and shift workers: the data collected relate to all workers.

Tabulations of working populations present a profile of employed people in an area in the working week prior to census night.


Family and household data from the census are largely on a place of enumeration basis, but usual residents temporarily absent are also taken into account. Thus, the resulting figures are not based on place of usual residence or place of enumeration, but instead nearly place of enumeration.

Family and household classifications are based on the following:
  • All visitors to the household are excluded.
  • Relationships of usual household members who are temporarily absent (from question 43) are used in determining the family structure.

The characteristics of these 'temporary absentees' are not contained with the family record.

Note that families and households are not coded for unoccupied dwellings whose occupants are absent, for example, on holidays. The dwelling would be classified as unoccupied and the holidaying family would be not be coded as a family at the holiday home because they would all be visitors there.