Changes to ABS statistical work program

Media Release

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) is making changes to its statistical work program to ensure it continues to appropriately measure the Australian economy and society.

The Australian Statistician, Dr David Gruen, said: “The ABS has been at the forefront of measuring the impact of COVID-19 on our economy and society.

“When we began publishing new COVID-19 statistics in March 2020, we indicated our intention to periodically review the new outputs to ensure they continued to meet people’s needs, and to refine our approach as necessary. 

“After the most recent review, we will make further changes to our statistical work program from 1 July 2021.”

New products

The ABS is developing a suite of monthly indicators tracking household spending, business turnover and employee earnings.  The release of these indicators is due to begin later this year.

“These new monthly indicators will complement our existing statistics and make greater use of non-survey administrative and transactions data," Dr Gruen said. "We will be publishing more information on this soon.”

Products coming to an end

The ABS introduced a range of COVID-19 related products from mid-March 2020 as the pandemic escalated, some of which will be stopped from 1 July 2021.

“In several instances, we introduced preliminary data to deliver more timely insights, such as retail trade, merchandise trade, mortality statistics and overseas travel,” Dr Gruen said. “We also started new, smaller surveys: Household Impacts of COVID-19, and Business Conditions and Sentiments (initially called Business Impacts of COVID-19).”

Given the rest of our statistical program and with new products in development, the ABS is not in a position to continue all these products after June 2021. Further information on individual products is in the table below. 

Delays to the statistical work program

COVID-19 continues to pose challenges for the ABS forward work program.  Changes to the work program were announced in April 2020 and today’s announcement includes further changes.

Under normal circumstances, the ABS conducts the Household Expenditure Survey (HES) every six years, with the next survey due to begin data collection in June 2021.

However, the restrictions imposed to suppress COVID-19 have led to significant changes to household expenditure – for example, expenditure on a range of services including travel services. This means current patterns of household expenditure are unlikely to be sustained over the next few years.

Rather than start collecting data for this survey in June, the ABS is delaying the HES by two years. As well as enabling measurement of more normalised patterns of expenditure, doing this will allow the ABS to investigate other sources of data to supplement the HES and look at ways to make the survey less burdensome for households.

Other changes include the Survey of Income and Housing, reverting from its temporary quarterly cycle to its standard biennial one.

Table of changes
COVID-19 new and/or more timely statisticsFrom 1st July 2021Last release will be published on
Weekly Payroll Jobs and WagesWill continue 
Quarterly tourism labour statisticsWill continue 
Household Impacts of COVID-19 SurveyWill continue 
Business Conditions and SentimentsWill cease24 June 2021

Preliminary release of Retail Trade

Will cease. The ABS is considering bringing forward the Retail Trade release21 July 2021
Preliminary release of Merchandise TradeWill cease22 July 2021
Provisional release of monthly Mortality StatisticsPublication analysis will cease. Release of monthly provisional mortality data will continue31 March 2021
Provisional Overseas Travel StatisticsWill cease. Some additional information will be added to the monthly Overseas Arrivals and Departures release14 July 2021
Provisional Regional Internal Migration EstimatesWill cease3 August 2021
Labour Price IndexWill cease19 May 2021
Quarterly Survey of Income and HousingWill revert to its normal biennial cycle re-commencing on 1 July 2021Quarterly releases from the 2020-21 survey will be released throughout 2021
New monthly indicators Anticipated date of first release
Business turnover from ATO Business Activity Statements October 2021
Household spending from bank and other transaction data April 2022
Employee earnings using ATO Single Touch Payroll data Late 2022


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