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Business Conditions and Sentiments methodology

Reference period
April 2021
Released
30/04/2021

This publication provides insights into the conditions and sentiments of Australian businesses. Data has been collected since March 2020. 

This release forms part of a suite of additional products that the ABS is producing to measure the impacts of COVID-19 on the Australian economy and society.

For more information refer to https://www.abs.gov.au/covid-19.

How the data is collected

The collection was conducted through a telephone based business survey between 14 April and 21 April 2021.

Scope and coverage

The COVID-19 Business Indicators Survey includes information on the following industries classified according to the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC): 

  • Mining (Division B)
  • Manufacturing (Division C)
  • Electricity, Gas, Water and Waste Services (Division D) 
  • Construction (Division E) 
  • Wholesale Trade (Division F) 
  • Retail Trade (Division G) 
  • Accommodation and Food Services (Division H) 
  • Transport, Postal and Warehousing (Division I) 
  • Information Media and Telecommunications (Division J) 
  • Finance and Insurance (Division K, excluding ANZSIC class 6330, Superannuation Funds)
  • Rental, Hiring and Real Estate Services (Division L) 
  • Professional, Scientific and Technical Services (Division M) 
  • Administrative and Support Services (Division N) 
  • Education and Training (Division P)
  • Health Care and Social Assistance (Division Q)
  • Arts and Recreation Services (Division R) 
  • Other Services (Division S)

The scope excludes public sector business units (i.e. all departments, authorities and other organisations owned and controlled by Commonwealth, State and Local Government).

The survey includes Employing and Non-Employing Units on the ABS Business Register. However, micro non-employing businesses are excluded. These are very small units on the ABS Business Register, by standard measures of size.

Statistical unit

The statistical unit used to represent businesses, and for which statistics are reported, is the Australian Business Number (ABN) unit, in most cases. The ABN unit is the business unit which has registered for an ABN, and thus appears on the ATO administered Australian Business Register. This unit is suitable for ABS statistical needs when the business is simple in structure.

For more significant and diverse businesses where the ABN unit is not suitable for ABS statistical needs, the statistical unit used is the Type of Activity Unit (TAU). A TAU is comprised of one or more business entities, sub-entities or branches of a business entity within an Enterprise Group that can report production and employment data for similar economic activities. When a minimum set of data items is available, a TAU is created which covers all the operations within an industry subdivision (and the TAU is classified to the relevant subdivision of the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC)). Where a business cannot supply adequate data for each industry, a TAU is formed which contains activity in more than one industry subdivision and the TAU is classified to the predominant ANZSIC subdivision. Further details about the ABS economic statistical units used in this survey, and in other ABS economic surveys (both sample surveys and censuses), can be found in Chapter 2 of the Standard Economic Sector Classifications of Australia (SESCA) 2008.

Survey methodology

The survey is based on a random sample of approximately 2,000 units stratified by industry and employment size. The final response rate was 64%. 

The survey sample is re-weighted to adjust for non-response and provide full population estimates.

Classification by industry

The Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC) has been developed for use in both countries for the production and analysis of industry statistics. For more information, users are referred to Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC), 2006.

Reliability of the estimates

When interpreting these results, please note that there may be systematic bias in these estimates that statistical procedures would not correct. In particular, estimates may be subject to non-response bias.

Questionnaire

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1(a) Is this business currently trading?
 ☐ Yes [Go to Question 2]
 ☐ No [Go to Question Q1b]
  
 (b) Can you please give me more information about what has happened with the trading of this business?
  
2Does this business employ any staff?
 [NOTE: This includes all employees on the books and not currently working]
 ☐ Yes
 ☐ No
  
3(a) Over the past month, has revenue increased, decreased or stayed the same?
 [NOTE: Revenue refers to income generated from the sale of goods or services]
 ☐ Increased
 ☐ Decreased
 ☐ Stayed the same
 ☐ Don't know
  
 (b) And over the next month, do you expect revenue will increase, decrease or stay the same? 
 [NOTE: Revenue refers to income generated from the sale of goods or services]
 ☐ Increase
 ☐ Decrease
 ☐ Stay the same
 ☐ Don't know
  
 (c) Over the past month, have operating expenses increased, decreased or stayed the same?
 [NOTE: Operating expenses refers to expenses incurred in undertaking normal business operating activities. Examples include payroll, rent, inventory cost, marketing and insurance]
 ☐ Increased
 ☐ Decreased
 ☐ Stayed the same
 ☐ Don't know
  
 (d) And over the next month, do you expect operating expenses will increase, decrease or stay the same?
 [NOTE: Operating expenses refers to expenses incurred in undertaking normal business operating activities. Examples include payroll, rent, inventory cost, marketing and insurance]
 ☐ Increase
 ☐ Decrease
 ☐ Stay the same
 ☐ Don't know
  
 (e) Over the past month, have the number of employees increased, decreased or stayed the same? 
 ☐ Increased
 ☐ Decreased
 ☐ Stayed the same
 ☐ Don't know
  
 (f) And over the next month, do you expect the number of employees will increase, decrease or stay the same?
 ☐ Increase
 ☐ Decrease
 ☐ Stay the same
 ☐ Don't know
  
4To what extent are the following COVID safe controls adversely impacting this business? For each option select 'not at all', 'to a small extent', 'to a great extent', 'not applicable' or 'don't know'.
 [NOTE: Adverse impacts refers to COVID safe controls that have been costly and/or imposed limitations on business activity]
 ☐ Physical distancing of customers or clients and/or venue capacity limits
 ☐ Physical distancing of employees
 ☐ Additional cleaning and disinfecting requirements
 ☐ Providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to staff  [Note: PPE includes masks, gloves, eye protection, perspex screens]
 ☐ Other
  
5NOTE: Question 5 is answered by employing businesses only (i.e. those that selected 'yes' to Question 2)
 (a) Prior to COVID-19, did this business have any staff teleworking?
 [NOTE: Telework is an arrangement between an employer and employee to work in a location other than the office, using information and communications technology to stay connected to other employees and work systems. Excludes staff solely checking and responding to emails only]
 ☐ Yes [Go to Q5c]
 ☐ No [Go to Q5b]
 ☐ Don’t know [Go to Q5b]
  
 (b) Did the business introduce teleworking arrangements in response to COVID-19?
 ☐ Yes [Go to Q5d]
 ☐ No [Go to Q5d]
 ☐ Don’t know [Go to Q5d]
  
 (c) Thinking about the business' current teleworking arrangements, has the business made either of the following changes when compared to pre COVID-19 teleworking arrangements? Has the business… (tick all that apply)
 ☐ Increased the proportion of staff teleworking (i.e. more staff teleworking) [Go to Q5d]
 ☐ Increased the frequency of staff teleworking (e.g. increased the number of days or hours staff are teleworking) [Go to Q5d]
  
 (d) On an average day what percentage of this business' workforce are currently teleworking? A best guesstimate is okay for this question.
 ☐ None [Go to Q5g]
 ☐ Less than 25 per cent [Go to Q5e]
 ☐ 25 to less than 50 per cent [Go to Q5e]
 ☐ 50 to less than 75 per cent [Go to Q5e]
 ☐ 75 to 100 per cent [Go to Q5e]
 ☐ Don't know
  
 (e) Long term do you expect this to increase, decrease or stay the same? Do you expect it to...
 ☐ Increase
 ☐ Decrease, but still have some staff teleworking
 ☐ Decrease, and have no staff teleworking
 ☐ Stay the same
 ☐ Don't know
  
 (f) Has the business experienced any of the following benefits in relation to teleworking? (tick all that apply)
 ☐ Increased productivity
 ☐ Reduced overheads
 ☐ Broader recruitment pool
 ☐ Improved staff retention
 ☐ Improved overall staff wellbeing
 [NOTE: Staff wellbeing refers to overall health and happiness of staff in response to working conditions]
 ☐ Other benefits
  
 (g) Has the business experienced any of the following barriers in relation to teleworking? (tick all that apply)
 ☐ Nature of the work not being suitable for teleworking
 ☐ Business does not have appropriate technology
 ☐ Staff do not have access to and/or are unable to use technology
 ☐ Security concerns
 ☐ Reduced productivity
 ☐ Concerns around managing teleworking staff
 ☐ Negative impact on working culture
 ☐ Reduction in overall staff wellbeing
 [NOTE: Staff wellbeing refers to overall health and happiness of staff in response to working conditions]
 ☐ Other barriers
  
6(a) Is the business currently experiencing any supply chain disruptions? A supply chain is a logistics network between a business and its suppliers to produce and distribute a product to the customer. Supply chain disruption is an interruption to that network.
 ☐ Yes [Go to Q6b]
 ☐ No [End of survey]
 ☐ Don’t know [End of survey]
  
 (b) You indicated the business is currently experiencing supply chain disruptions. To what extent are the supply chain disruptions affecting this business?
 ☐ Not at all
 ☐ A small extent (e.g. some delays but little impact on revenue)
 ☐ A great extent (e.g. major delays / cannot obtain certain items and significant impact on revenue)
 ☐ Don't know
  
 (c)(i) Has the business made any of the following modifications in response to supply chain disruptions? (tick all that apply)
 ☐ Changed suppliers [Go to Q6(c)(ii)]
 ☐ Increased number of suppliers
 ☐ Changed modes of freight
 ☐ Changed ordering processes (e.g. ordering earlier or ordering more)
 ☐ Changed operational processes (e.g. changed methods of producing goods or services)
 ☐ Changed the types and range of products and services offered by the business
 ☐ Changed the way products or services are provided to customers (e.g. adjusted customer allocations, adjusted order processing timeframe, shifted more operations online)
 ☐ Increased price of goods or services
 ☐ Has the business made any other modifications in response to supply chain disruptions?
  
 (c)(ii) You indicated the business changed suppliers in response to supply chain disruptions. Can you tell me what type of change? (tick all that apply)
 ☐ Changed from overseas to domestic supplier
 ☐ Changed from domestic to overseas supplier
 ☐ Changed to an alternative overseas supplier
 ☐ Changed to an alternative domestic supplier