Administrative data

Enhancing the 2021 Census using administrative data

We are using administrative data to enhance how we run the Census and the quality of the information we collect.

This article outlines how we planned to use administrative data.  Since the Census was run, we have released a second article that explains what we did and shows how administrative data improved the quality of the 2021 Census.


What is administrative data?

Administrative data is information that government departments, businesses and other organisations collect. They collect information for a range of reasons such as:

  • registrations
  • sales
  • record keeping.

Some examples of administrative data:

  • personal income tax information from the Australian Taxation Office
  • information about the number of people who use Medicare from the Department of Health.

We only collect and use administrative data for statistics and research. We don't share or release this information in a way that could identify anyone.

How we use administrative data for the 2021 Census

For the 2021 Census, we will use administrative data to:

  • Help communities during the Census 
    Administrative data can help us find the areas where people might need extra support to complete the Census. This means we can plan how to help people in those areas. For example, we can employ field staff who speak the common languages of a particular area and who have similar cultural backgrounds.
  • Help improve the Census count 
    Administrative data can help us to estimate the number of houses that are unoccupied on Census night. Then we can make changes if we need to, to make sure the Census count is accurate.
  • Help us prepare for any unexpected events 
    We need to be prepared in case things out of our control affect the Census count. The COVID-19 pandemic and recent extreme bushfire season have reminded us how quickly major events can change things. Finding other ways to get data, like administrative data, helps us to be prepared in case we need to fill in any gaps if information has been difficult to collect.

As well as these three new uses, we will continue to use administrative data to:

  •  update our register of addresses
  • give us counts of people in hard to reach places like prisons and the Australian Antarctic base. 

Benefits of using administrative data

We use administrative data to improve the statistics we provide to the Australian community. It also helps to make our surveys more effective and easier to complete.

For example, we now use administrative data to:

We don't use administrative data for compliance

We don't collect, use or share administrative data to make people comply or to charge or fine people. For example, we don't use administrative data to follow up a person who hasn’t filled in their Census form.

Like other data we collect, administrative data is collected under Census and statistics laws (the Census and Statistics Act 1905). This means we only use it for statistical reasons. Your data is secure and confidential.

Keeping data safe

We take data security very seriously. Protecting your privacy is our highest priority. We keep all personal information private and secure. We set high standards and have a strong reputation for maintaining the confidentiality of data.

We have thorough privacy policies and all data projects comply with the law, including the Census and Statistics Act 1905 and the Privacy Act 1988.

Privacy Impact Assessment

In early 2020, Information Integrity Solutions did an independent privacy impact assessment on how we are using administrative data for the 2021 Census. You can find their report and our response to their recommendations on the ABS Privacy Impact Assessments page.

Research and supporting information

In October 2020, we published the article: Assessing administrative data quality to enhance the 2021 Census.

For administrative data to be useful in the 2021 Census, we need to know how accurately it represents Australia’s population. This article compares population counts from administrative data with our official population counts at the time of the 2016 Census.

In June 2019, the ABS published the article: Can administrative data help to improve the Census count?

This article shows results from early research on how administrative data can help improve the Census count. This research has helped us decide how we will use administrative data for the 2021 Census. The article shows how administrative data can help improve: 

  • the way we include counts for people we think were missed in the Census
  • our decision on whether a house was empty on Census night, so we don't include counts where we shouldn’t.

We will continue to release research as it's available.

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