2901.0 - Census Dictionary, 2006 (Reissue)  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 13/07/2007  Reissue
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Contents >> Short Definitions and Classifications - 2006 >> Unpaid Assistance to a Person with a Disability (UNCAREP) - Characteristics 2006

Unpaid Assistance to a Person with a Disability

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Image of Question
Quality Statement


This variable records people who in the two weeks prior to Census Night spent time providing unpaid care, help or assistance to family members or others because of a disability, a long term illness or problems related to old age. This includes people who are in receipt of a Carer Allowance or Carer Payment. It does not include work done through a voluntary organisation or group.
More Detailed Description

Image of Question

2006 Household Form - Question 49


Applicable to: Persons aged 15 years and over

1. No unpaid assistance provided
2. Provided unpaid assistance
& Not stated
@ Not applicable
Overseas visitor

More Detailed Description Quality Statement

UNCAREP (Unpaid Assistance to a Person with a Disability)

There are many aspects which can affect the quality of Census data; the following information should be considered when viewing data on Unpaid Assistance to a Person with a Disability (UNCAREP).


This question was new for 2006: the data was captured automatically from check box responses on the form so the risk of processing error is minimal. Sample checks of the data are undertaken to ensure an acceptable level of quality.

In a very small proportion of cases (testing has indicated that this is less than 1%), respondents provided an incorrect combination of responses. This occurs when a "No" response is marked together with a "Yes" response. For Unpaid Assistance to a Person with a Disability (and the other unpaid work questions) the "Yes" response is retained and the "No" response is rejected.


The non-response rate for this variable was 10.1%. Part of this non-response is attributable to the 4.2% of persons (aged 15 years and over) in dwellings which were occupied on Census Night but did not return a completed form. In these cases persons are imputed into these dwellings together with some demographic characteristics, however the values for Unpaid Assistance to a Person with a Disability (UNCAREP) remain "not stated". The remaining non-response (5.9% or 942,594 people aged 15 years and over) was attributable to people who returned a form, but who did not answer the Unpaid Care question. Some characteristics of these people include:

  • 51% were female;
  • of those in occupied private dwellings: 33% were husbands or wives in a registered marriage; 18% were living alone; and 9% were natural or adopted dependent students;
  • 46% were aged 60 or over;
  • 39% did not state their income; a further 42% reported gross incomes of less than $400 per week;
  • 49% were not in the labour force (and a further 31% did not answer the labour force questions);
  • 12.6% were full-time students, and 1.6% were part-time students.

There were four new questions regarding unpaid work or care in the 2006 Census, located sequentially near the end of the questionnaire. The unpaid work questions varied in complexity with regard to reference periods, the amount of text to be read, and the number of response categories offered, but a response to each could be recorded by simply marking the relevant box. Results show, however, that the first two unpaid work questions (including Unpaid assistance to a person with a disability) recorded higher non-response rates than the two unpaid work questions following. This finding suggests that some respondents had more difficulty with the concepts or question design for UNCAREP, or felt that this question was irrelevant to them.

Comparison with other ABS data

Census data can be used for the analysis of population characteristics at finer geographic levels and for smaller sub-groups than would be reliably available from household surveys. However, at small area data levels, outliers (unusual results) may become more apparent to users. This becomes more probable as other data items are incorporated in the analysis, and users are reminded that almost all census data is as originally reported by the respondents. For some variable combinations, the use of interview-based, correlated survey results at a broader geographic level may therefore be more appropriate for clients' needs.

The ABS considers the Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers the best detailed source of ABS data on carers for people with a disability, due to its careful and structured sequence of questions about disability and care.

A comparison of Census data against survey data demonstrates the variability that can arise from different collection vehicles. In addition to the Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC), the ABS conducts the General Social Survey (GSS) which includes a short module on unpaid assistance to someone with a disability. The 2006 Census produced lower estimates of the overall number of carers than the 2003 SDAC, while the 2006 GSS produced a higher estimate than either of these collections.

Table 1: Differences between the three collections:

scopepersons aged 15 years and overpersons of any agepersons aged 18 years and over, who were usual residents in private dwellings.
interpretation of care activitiesself-identification as a carerinterviewers asked respondents about their caring role, and could clarify any questions at the time of the survey.interviewers asked respondents about their caring role, and could clarify any questions at the time of the survey.
the question(s)census self-enumerated forms included a single, relatively complex question about 'unpaid care ... because of a disability, long-term illness or old age'.interviewers asked respondents a range of simple, related questions.GSS interviewers asked about 'unpaid care ... to someone with a disability, long-term illness or problems related to old age'.
reference periods'in the last two weeks'caring for a person with conditions or illnesses that were 'ongoing or expected to be ongoing for a period of six months or more''the last four weeks'
supporting information(on the form) three dot points giving direction for: those receiving a Carer's payment; ad hoc assistance; and for work done through a voluntary organisation or group.
(in the Census Guide) a more detailed list of caring activities that could be considered by the respondent.
care recipients were asked a long list of individual questions about the tasks they needed assistance or supervision for, whether they needed the assistance or supervision because of their disability, and who provided it.the carer question is the first in a series of questions about support for others, introduced by a preamble: 'I am now going to ask you about the help you may provide to others. Do not include any help you give through an organisation, or any paid help.'
response level90% of applicable populationweighted to eliminate any non-response effectweighted to eliminate any non-response effect

Table 2: Number of Unpaid Carers, and their percentage of the collection population, Australia, by collection source

Census (2006) (a)
SDAC (2003) (b)
GSS (2006) (c)
number of carers
% of applicable population
(a) aged 15 or over. Source 2068.0
(b) aged 15 or over. Source 4430.0 (Table 29)
(c) aged 18 or over. Source 4159.0 (Table 25)

Although at a lower level of absolute numbers, the Census data are broadly consistent with SDAC data in the pattern of caring by age, sex and labour force status.

Graph comparison of Unpaid carer counts, SDAC (a) and Census (b) by age and sex
(a) SDAC data sourced from 4430.0.55.003 (Table 1) which includes unpaid carers living only in households. It also includes unpaid carer data for those aged under 15.
(b) Census data represents unpaid carers enumerated in occupied private dwellings, and does not include data for those aged under 15.

Additional sources of information regarding unpaid assistance to a person with a disability can be found in other ABS publications and associated collections, including:
  • Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia, 2003(cat. no. 4430.0) which provides data about: people with a disability; older people (i.e. those aged 60 years and over); and people who provide assistance to older people and people with disabilities;
  • How Australians Use Their Time, Australia, 2006 (cat. no. 4153.0) which measures unpaid work in the home and the community, including care for people who are frail or who have a disability;
  • General Social Survey: Summary Results, Australia, 2006 (cat. no. 4159.0);
  • Aspects of Social Capital, Australia, 2006 (cat. no. 4911.0) page 69 'Voluntary work and caring';
  • Australian Social Trends (cat. no. 4102.0, various years) containing a variety of articles pertaining to carers for people with disabilities.

Selected ABS Theme Pages on the ABS Website (addressing 'Disability, ageing and carers'; 'Ageing'; 'Health'; and 'Family and Community Statistics') also contain links to alternative data sources that may be of relevance to users.

The ABS aims to produce high quality data from the Census. To achieve this, extensive effort is put into Census form design, collection procedures, and processing procedures. More details regarding these efforts can be found in:
All are available from the ABS Website. Note: This page was amended on August 8 2008

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