Occupation (OCCP)

Latest release
Census of Population and Housing: Census dictionary
Reference period


This variable describes the primary job or occupation held by employed people in the week prior to Census Night.

Occupation data in 2021 is available up to the 6-digit level. This allows for a more detailed look at occupation.

The variable Occupation experimental update version 1 (OCCEV1P) is also available, this is coded using the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations, 2021 Australian Update.


Employed persons aged 15 years and over


Occupation is coded using the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO), 2013, Version 1.3. The categories are listed in groups below. The full list is available from the Data downloads on this page. 

1 Managers

2 Professionals

3 Technicians and Trades Workers

4 Community And Personal Service Workers

5 Clerical And Administrative Workers

6 Sales Workers

7 Machinery Operators and Drivers

8 Labourers

Supplementary Codes

Number of categories: 

  • One digit level: 8   
  • Two digit level: 51
  • Three digit level: 134
  • Four digit level: 478
  • Six digit: 1,357

Not applicable (@@@@@@) category comprises:

  • Unemployed persons, looking for either full-time or part-time work
  • Persons not in the labour force
  • Persons with Labour force status (LFSP), not stated
  • Persons aged under 15 years

See Understanding supplementary codes for more information.

Question(s) from the Census form

In the main job held last week, what was the person’s occupation?

Targeted supplementary questions for occupation

What are the main tasks that the person usually performs in that occupation?

For the main job held last week, what was the employer’s business name?

What best describes the industry or business of the employer at the location where the person works?

What are the main goods produced or main services provided by the employer’s business?

How this variable is created

This variable is mainly coded based on the write-in responses to questions asking for the person’s occupation title and main tasks performed. Other occupation questions may also be used to assist with quality coding.

Occupation is coded using the ANZSCO, 2013, Version 1.3. Since the 2016 Census, the ANZSCO has been updated from Version 1.2 to Version 1.3.

Not all responses easily fit into an occupation as listed in the classification, so are coded to a higher level which covers any possible options, for that response. These are more general ‘not further defined (nfd)’ codes and end in one or more zeroes.

Occupation coding is reliant on a variety of processes. All text response fields that contribute to occupation coding are first auto-repaired before being sent through an auto-coding process. The remaining responses that did not successfully achieve a code are examined by ABS clerical staff and independently assessed for an ANZSCO code.

Where insufficient information is provided in a response for assigning an ANZSCO code an 'Inadequately described' code is allocated during processing.

History and changes

Questions relating to Occupation were first asked in the 1911 Census. Prior to the 1986 Census, a single question was asked about title of occupation. In 1986 a second question on main tasks or duties that a person usually performed in their job was included to improve the quality of coding. The questions have remained the same for subsequent censuses with some revision of the examples and instructions only.

From 2016, targeted supplementary questions (TSQs) were asked in the online form to clarify common not further defined responses.

In 2016 the ANZSCO, 2013 version 1.2 was used. For 2021, Occupation is coded to the updated version to Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations, 2013, Version 1.3  

In 2021, several minor wording and response order changes were made to the targeted supplementary questions (TSQs). Additionally, from 2021 Occupation is now output down to the 6-digit level to allow for more detailed occupation data to be accessible. Previously the 6-digit level data was only accessible via data requests.

Data use considerations

Collecting both occupation title and task information ensures more accurate coding of occupations. This data is essential for:

  • labour market analysis
  • policy formation

Changes in the occupational composition of the labour force are important for planning at the industry and geographic area levels.

The data is used in analyses of education and training needs, and as indicators for industry assistance programs.

Small area data on occupation are important in regional planning; in examining the occupational mobility of ethnic and other minority groups; and in measuring socioeconomic status variability between regions.

The introduction of targeted supplementary questions in the online Census has reduced 'not further defined' categories across some Occupations and classified responses into more detailed Occupation categories. 

Unlike most Census variables, the non-response rate for Occupation (OCCP) is not affected by persons who did not return a Census form because this variable is only applicable to persons with a labour force status of 'employed'. Persons who do not respond or have a labour force status of 'not stated' are not applicable to Occupation.

The non-response rate for Occupation (OCCP) was 0.8% in 2021. This is an increase from 0.7% in 2016.


A number of regions across the country were in various stages of lockdown on Census day, and the week preceding it, resulting in a greater number of people being temporarily stood down on Census day. Guidance on how to correctly respond was provided at the time on the Census website, as follows: 

'If you were employed in the 4 weeks prior to the current lockdown period, but haven't been able to work in the last week due to COVID-19 restrictions or requirement to self-isolate, please answer all questions reflecting your usual occupation. This includes your role (such as occupation and tasks performed) and information about your employer (such as industry and number of employees).'

Related variables and glossary terms

Data downloads

Data files
Back to top of the page