Place of work (POWP)
This variable records the geographic area in which a person worked in the week before Census Night. The address of the person’s workplace is coded to a Destination zone (DZN). Destination zones are co-designed with state and territory transport authorities for the analysis of Place of work (POWP) data, commuting patterns and the development of transport policy.
Employed persons aged 15 years and over who listed their employment status as ‘Employed’
Place of work data is available for the following geographies:
- Greater capital city statistical area
- Statistical area 4
- Statistical area 3
- Statistical area 2
- Local government areas
- Destination zones
A list of categories is available from the Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) although the following supplementary codes are always included:
- Not applicable
- Overseas visitor
Number of categories: Available on request
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
For the main job held last week, what was the employer’s business name?
For the main job held last week, what was the person’s workplace address?
How this variable is created
This variable is determined from written responses to the Business name and Workplace address questions on the Census form.
Most responses for POWP are coded automatically. The remaining responses go through a bulk coding process where groupings of the same business or property are assigned a POWP code. The responses that cannot be coded using either method are coded manually using a workplace index.
Responses are coded to units of geography known as DZN. DZNs are aggregates of whole Mesh blocks (though data is not coded to the Mesh block level), and aggregate to Statistical area level 2. Due to the hierarchical nature of the ASGS, place of work data is also available in the following geographies:
- Statistical area level 3
- Statistical area level 4
- State/Territory and Greater capital city statistical area levels
Although DZNs do not fit neatly into Local Government Area (LGA) boundaries, a DZN to LGA correspondence is available to allow data to also be released at the LGA level. See the Data downloads section of this page to download the correspondence.
History and changes
A question on place of work was first asked in 1971 with similar questions having been asked in every Census since then. The POWP variable was used for the first time in the 2006 Census and replaced the Journey to work variable which was used prior to that.
Data is available for DZN in TableBuilder Pro. Prior to 2011, DZN data was only available via customised request. DZN boundaries were updated for 2016 and the new Imputation flag for place of work (IFPOWP) variable was introduced.
For 2021 a new instruction has been added to the online form to help people who are in COVID-19 affected areas answer the place of work question. Additional instructions were also added to the Census website – see Data use considerations for more details.
Data use considerations
Using the Imputation flag for Place of work (IFPOWP), the non-response rate for Place of work (POWP) was 11.1% in 2021. This is an increase from 10.0% in 2016. For more information on imputation, see Census Methodology.
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 working from their homes. This may impact their responses for their place of work. Guidance on how to correctly respond was provided at the time on the Census website, as follows:
- For people who usually work from home, and did not have any other workplace, write the home address
- For people who are working from home temporarily due to COVID-19, write the workplace address they would normally be at.
Be aware that people may have put their home address as the workplace address despite instructions to put regular work address if they were working from home during COVID-19 lockdown.
Comparability of Destination zones over time
DZN are not comparable across censuses due to changes to both the boundary and code structure.
POWP is a hierarchical classification, ranging from the broadest geographic level (Australia), to the finest level (DZN). The categories in this variable have changed to reflect the updated ASGS used for the 2021 Census. Data is also available for Local Government Areas to assist with time series comparison.
Journey to work information
Data for POWP, Place of usual residence (PURP) and Method of travel to work (MTWP) can be cross-classified to:
- examine movements of people to and from work
- analyse transport patterns
- assist in the planning for transport systems
- develop and release residential and commercial land.
Journey to work data is used by:
- transport authorities
- associated bodies
- other interested people.
It is important to note that the different variables for cross-classification represent different timeframes and can produce outliers in the data due to a variety of reasons. Variables are listed below:
- POWP refers to a person’s workplace address last week
- PURP refers to where a person usually lives (which may or may not be where they were counted on Census Night)
- MTWP refers to how the person travelled to work on the day of the Census
Examples of how cross-classification can affect the data
|Example 1||Example 2|
A person spent the previous night in Brisbane with a friend and walked to work in Brisbane City. She then caught a train to her parent's place on the Gold Coast (which she also regarded as her usual place of residence) that evening where she was enumerated
A person mainly worked in Alice Springs in the week prior to the Census. However, the person moved to Sydney in the intervening week and took a ferry to their new place of employment
Area of enumeration
Place of usual residence
Place of work
Method of transport to work
Related variables and glossary terms
- Imputation flag for place of work (IFPOWP)
- Labour force status (LFSP)
- Place of usual residence (PURP)
- Industry of employment (INDP)
- Method of travel to work (MTWP)
- Destination zone