Distance to work (ranges) (DTWP)

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


This variable presents the distance in kilometres between a person's Place of usual residence (PURP) and Place of work (POWP). The calculation of this variable uses existing Census data. This provides a way to increase the value of Census data without asking additional questions on the Census form.


Persons aged 15 years and over who stated their labour force status as ‘employed’


Distance to work (ranges) categories

Question(s) from the Census form

Where does the person usually live?

For the main job held last week, what was the person’s workplace address?

How this variable is created

This variable is created using a combination of existing statistical and geospatial data to make new calculations. It is calculated using the shortest path of a road network, from the respondent’s place of usual residence mesh block (PURP), to that of their workplace (POWP), using geospatial software. It is assumed in the calculation of this data that a person has followed the shortest path with no stops when commuting to work.

Where the shortest path is not possible, a straight-line distance between a person’s Usual residence and Place of work mesh blocks is calculated. A straight-line distance is likely to underrepresent the true distance of a commuting route, so a correction factor is incorporated by multiplying the straight-line distance by 1.3. This value was selected based on ABS analysis on the difference between road network and straight-line distance, and the value also aligned closely with similar studies. The source of road network data was Navteq November 2021 (produced by HERE Technology) to ensure a representative network with updates as close to Census Night as possible.

History and changes

This variable was first introduced in 2016.

No changes have been made in 2021.

Data use considerations

Mesh blocks are the smallest geographical area defined by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and form the building blocks for the larger regions within the Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS).

The distance to work data should be considered an estimate as it is a measurement between the centre point (or centroid) of the mesh block of PURP and mesh block of POWP. The location of the centroid in the mesh block was weighted based on the location of residential and commercial addresses respectively.

For some people, a small distance is calculated where the centre points for mesh block of PURP and mesh block of POWP are weighted to different locations. This is the case for people who lived and worked in the same mesh block and their Method of travel to work (MTWP) was not recorded as:

  • Worked from home
  • Did not go to work
  • Mode not stated

Conversely, some people who lived and worked in different mesh blocks have a distance to work of 0 kilometres due to the way in which the centroids have been snapped to a road. 

This variable does not have a non-response rate as it is created by using responses from more than one question on the Census form.


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. Not only may this impact their responses for their place of work, but also, their travel to work. Guidance on how to correctly respond was provided at the time on the Census website, as follows:

Answering questions about your workplace and job role

If you are currently working from home due to COVID restrictions, but usually attend a workplace, please write the employer's usual workplace address.

Answering questions about whether you had a job

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 lockdown or requirement to self-isolate, please select 'Yes, but absent on holidays, on paid leave, on strike or temporarily stood down'.

Answering questions about your workplace and job role

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 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

  • Place of usual residence (PURP)
  • Place of work (POWP)
  • Imputed distance to work (IFDTWP)
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