Barriers and Incentives to Labour Force Participation, Australia methodology

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Reference period
2016-17 financial year

Explanatory notes


1 This publication contains results from the Barriers and Incentives to Labour Force Participation Survey, a topic on the Multipurpose Household Survey (MPHS) conducted throughout Australia from July 2016 to June 2017. The MPHS is conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) as a supplement to the monthly Labour Force Survey (LFS), and is designed to collect statistics for a number of small, self-contained topics. The topics collected in 2016–17 were:

2 For all topics, information on labour force characteristics, education, income and other demographics are available.

3 The publication Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0) contains information about survey design, sample design, scope, coverage and population benchmarks relevant to the monthly LFS, which also apply to the MPHS. It also contains definitions of demographic and labour force characteristics, and information about the modes of data collection, which are relevant to both the monthly LFS and the MPHS.

Concepts sources and methods

4 The conceptual framework used in Australia's LFS aligns closely with the standards and guidelines set out in Resolutions of the International Conference of Labour Statisticians. Descriptions of the underlying concepts and structure of Australia's labour force statistics, and the sources and methods used in compiling these estimates, are presented in Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 6102.0.55.001).

Collection methodology

5 ABS interviewers conducted personal interviews by either telephone or in person at selected households during the 2016–17 financial year. Each month a sample of households were selected for the MPHS from the responding households in the LFS. In these households, after the LFS had been fully completed for each person, a usual resident aged 15 years and over was selected at random and asked the additional MPHS questions in a personal interview. Information was collected using Computer Assisted Interviewing (CAI), whereby responses are recorded directly onto an electronic questionnaire in a notebook computer.


6 The scope of the LFS is restricted to persons aged 15 years and over and excludes the following:

  • members of the permanent defence forces;
  • certain diplomatic personnel of overseas governments, customarily excluded from census and estimated population counts;
  • overseas residents in Australia; and
  • members of non-Australian defence forces (and their dependants).

7 In addition the 2016–17 MPHS excluded the following:

  • households in Indigenous communities; and
  • persons living in non-private households such as hotels, university residences, students at boarding schools, patients in hospitals, inmates of prisons and residents of other institutions (e.g. retirement homes, homes for persons with disabilities).

8 For the Barriers and Incentives to Labour Force Participation topic, the scope was further restricted to persons aged 18 years and over.


9 In the LFS, coverage rules are applied which aim to ensure that each person is associated with only one household and hence has only one chance of selection in the survey. See the Explanatory Notes of Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0) for more details.

Sample size

10 The initial sample for the MPHS 2016–17 consisted of approximately 26,000 private households. Of the 15,400 private households that remained in the survey after sample loss (e.g. households with LFS non-response, no residents in scope for the LFS, vacant or derelict dwellings and dwellings under construction), approximately 72% fully responded to the MPHS. The number of completed interviews obtained from these private households (after taking into account scope, coverage and sub-sampling exclusions) was 6,200 for the Barriers and Incentives to Labour Force Participation survey.

Weighting, benchmarking and estimation

11 Weighting is the process of adjusting results from a sample survey to infer results for the total in scope population. To do this, a 'weight' is allocated to each sample unit, which, for the MPHS, can either be a person or a household. The weight is a value which indicates how many population units are represented by the sample unit. The first step in calculating weights for each unit is to assign an initial weight, which is the inverse of the probability of being selected in the survey. The initial weights are then calibrated to align with independent estimates of the population of interest, referred to as 'benchmarks'. Weights are calibrated against population benchmarks to ensure that the survey estimates conform to the independently estimated distribution of the population rather than the distribution within the sample itself.

12 The survey was benchmarked to the Estimated Resident Population (ERP) in each state and territory at December 2016. Previously, March was used as the reference month for benchmarking. This is the first year that the reference month has been changed to December. This aligns MPHS with the weighting methodology generally adopted by other social surveys, whereby the middle month of the enumeration period is selected as the benchmark reference month. This will have a minor affect on the comparison of level estimates as there has only been 21 months of population growth accounted for between the 2014-15 publication (based on March 2015 benchmarks) and the 2016-17 publication (based on December 2016 benchmarks). There will be no effect on the analysis proportions.

Reliability of the estimates

13 Estimates in this publication are subject to sampling and non-sampling errors:

  • Sampling errors are the difference between the published estimate and the value that would have been produced if all households had been included in the survey (for more information see the Technical Note); and
  • Non-sampling errors are inaccuracies that occur because of, for example, imperfections in reporting by respondents and interviewers and errors made in coding and processing data. These inaccuracies may occur in any enumeration, whether it be a full count or a sample. Every effort is made to minimise non-sampling error by careful design of questionnaires, intensive training and supervision of interviewers, and effective processing procedures.

Classifications used

14 Country of birth data are classified according to the Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC), 2011 (cat. no. 1269.0).

15 Occupation data are classified according to the ANZSCO – Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations, 2013, Version 1.2 (cat. no. 1220.0).

16 Industry data are classified according to the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC), 2006 (Revision 2.0) (cat. no. 1292.0).

17 Education data are classified according to the Australian Standard Classification of Education (ASCED), 2001) (Cat. no. 1272.0)

Notes on estimates

18 To minimise the risk of identifying individuals in aggregate statistics, a technique is used to randomly adjust cell values. This technique is called perturbation. Perturbation involves small random adjustment of the statistics and is considered the most satisfactory technique for avoiding the release of information that could identify individual survey respondents while maximising the range of information that can be released. These adjustments have a negligible impact on the underlying pattern of the statistics. After perturbation, a given published cell will be consistent across all tables. However, adding up cell values to derive a total will not necessarily give the same result as published totals.

Comparability with monthly LFS statistics

19 Due to differences in the scope and sample size of the MPHS and that of LFS, the estimation procedure may lead to some variations between labour force estimates from this survey and those from LFS.

Previous surveys

20 The Barriers to Labour Force Participation survey was last conducted in the 2014–15 financial year. Results of this survey were published in:

Changes in this issue

21 For the 2012–13 survey, questions were included on Previous full-time job details and Main source of current personal income. These were excluded from the 2014–14 survey.

22 For the 2014-15 survey, enhancements were made to the Previous job payment arrangements question, adding the response category of 'Unpaid trainee/work placement'. Enhancements were also made to survey questions on why not looking for work or more hours, trouble finding work or more hours and wanting more hours. The response categories of 'No need/satisfied with current arrangements/retired (for now)' and 'Visa requirements' were added to these questions.

23 For the 2016–17 survey, enhancements were made to Previous job module, a new question asking "Did you have employees in the business" was added.

24 For a more detailed list of available data items and their categories – Barriers & Incentives to Labour Force Participation and Retirement & Retirement Intentions 2016–17 Data Items List, is available in an Excel spreadsheet, on the ABS Website under the Data downloads section.

Next survey

25 The ABS plans to conduct this survey again during the 2018–19 financial year.


26 ABS publications draw extensively on information provided freely by individuals, businesses, governments and other organisations. Their continued cooperation is very much appreciated: without it, the wide range of statistics published by the ABS would not be available. Information received by the ABS is treated in strict confidence as required by the Census and Statistics Act, 1905.

    Related publications

    27 ABS publications which may also be of interest include:

    Technical note - data quality

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    Appendix - populations

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    Quality declaration - summary

    Institutional environment






    Data access


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