Barriers and Incentives to Labour Force Participation, Australia methodology

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Reference period
2018-19 financial year

Explanatory notes


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 2018 to June 2019. 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 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

    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

    ABS interviewers conducted personal interviews by either telephone or in person at selected households during the 2018–19 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.

    Scope and coverage

    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
    • members of non-Australian defence forces (and their dependants)
    • overseas residents in Australia

    The following exclusions also apply:

    • people living in remote parts of Australia (including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities)
    • people 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 people with disabilities)

    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

    The initial sample for the MPHS 2018–19 consisted of approximately 26,000 private dwellings. Of the 20,000 private dwellings that remained in the survey after sample loss (e.g. no residents in scope for the LFS, vacant or derelict dwellings and dwellings under construction) approximately 72% were fully responding to the MPHS. The number of completed interviews obtained from these private dwellings (after taking into account the scope exclusion) was 13,300.

    Weighting, benchmarking and estimation

    Survey 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.

    When calibrating the weights, the survey sample is grouped into categories based on the following characteristics:

    • State or territory
    • Capital city or rest of state
    • Sex
    • Age
    • Employed full-time, part-time, unemployed or not in the labour force.

    The survey benchmarks were based on a 12 month average of the population estimates for the financial year July 2018 to June 2019, as reported in the December 2019 issue of Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0). This approach is used to remove the seasonality from the employed, unemployed and not in the labour force benchmarks and to improve coherence between the two publications.

    Reliability of estimates

    Estimates 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 on Data Quality.
    • 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

    Comparability with monthly LFS estimates

    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

    The Barriers to Labour Force Participation survey was last conducted in the 2016–17 financial year. Results of this survey were published in:

    History of changes


    • Estimates were benchmarked to a 12 month average of population estimates from the Labour Force Survey (as at December 2019). Estimates from previous surveys were also re-benchmarked using 12 month averages from the same LFS population series (as at December 2019) to improve coherence and consistency in the timeseries.


    • Enhancements were made to the Previous job module, a new question asking "Did you have employees in the business" was added.


      • Questions on Previous full-time job details and Main source of current personal income were excluded from 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.


      • Part-time workers in scope for the survey were increased to include all part-time workers who usually worked less than 35 hours. In prior surveys, part-time workers is scope for the survey were restricted to only those who usually worked 15 hours or less.


          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

            ABS publications which may also be of interest include:

            Technical note - data quality

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