General Social Survey: Summary Results, Australia methodology

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Reference period

Explanatory notes


1 This publication presents summary results on a range of social dimensions, compiled from the 2014 General Social Survey (GSS). The survey collected information about personal and household characteristics for people aged 15 years and over resident in private dwellings across Australia (excluding very remote and people living in discrete Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities), from March to June 2014.

2 The 2014 GSS collected data on a range of social dimensions from the same individual to enable analysis of the interrelationships in social circumstances and outcomes, including the exploration of multiple advantage and disadvantage experienced by that individual. The 2014 GSS is the fourth in the series, with the first GSS conducted in 2002, and again in 2006 and 2010. It is planned to repeat the survey at regular intervals (currently four-yearly). Each cycle of the GSS collects comparable information to allow for analysis of changes over time. The scope of the 2014 GSS was increased to include sample from the 15 to 17 year age group to aid better understanding of the outcomes for this population group. A cyclical component is also included to collect additional information on emerging or important topics of social concern. The cyclical component of the 2014 GSS included an expanded section on voluntary work.

Dimensions included in the 2014 GSS

3 The 2014 GSS collected information about:

  • demographic characteristics
  • housing and mobility
  • education (includes parental education)
  • employment
  • transport and mobility
  • subjective well-being and general life satisfaction measures
  • health and disability
  • difficulty accessing service providers
  • family and community involvement
  • social networks and participation
  • experiences of homelessness
  • voluntary work
  • crime and feelings of safety
  • sports attendance and participation
  • attendance at selected cultural and leisure venues
  • information technology
  • financial stress, resilience and exclusion
  • income
  • housing
  • assets and liabilities
  • discrimination
  • visa status
  • sexual orientation.

4 A full list of the data items from the 2014 GSS is available in the Data downloads section.

Scope of the survey

5 Only people who were usual residents of private dwellings in Australia were covered by the GSS. Private dwellings are houses, flats, home units and any other structures used as private places of residence at the time of the survey. People who usually reside in non-private dwellings such as hotels, motels, hostels, hospitals and short-stay caravan parks were not included in the survey. Usual residents are those who usually live in a particular dwelling and regard it as their own or main home. Visitors to private dwellings are not included in the interview for that dwelling. However, if they are a usual resident of another dwelling that is in the scope of the survey, they have a chance of being selected in the survey or, if not selected, they will be represented by similar persons who are selected in the survey.

6 The GSS was conducted in both urban and rural areas in all states and territories, except for very remote parts of Australia and discrete Indigenous communities. This exclusion is unlikely to impact on national estimates, and will only have a minor impact on any aggregate estimates that are produced for individual states and territories, except the Northern Territory where the excluded population accounts for over 20% of persons.

7 The Australian population at June 2014, after exclusion of people living in non-private dwellings, very remote areas of Australia and discrete Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities was 22,828,900, of which 18,463,700 were aged 15 years and over.

8 The following people were excluded from resident population estimates used to benchmark the survey results, and were not interviewed:

  • diplomatic personnel of overseas governments
  • members of non-Australian defence forces (and their dependants) stationed in Australia
  • persons whose usual place of residence was outside Australia
  • visitors
  • persons living in very remote areas
  • persons living in discrete Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Sample design

9 The GSS was designed to provide reliable estimates at the national level and for each State and Territory. The sample was therefore spread across the states and territories in order to produce estimates that have a relative standard error (RSE) of no greater than 10% for characteristics that are relatively common in the national population (that at least 10% of the population would possess).

10 For the 2014 cycle, in order to be consistent with the aim of exploring the relative outcomes of people more vulnerable to socio-economic disadvantage, the sampling methodology was adapted to target sample from low socio-economic areas. People in these areas had a higher probability of being selected in the sample. Households were then randomly selected from each selected area to participate in the survey.

11 The initial sample for the survey consisted of approximately 18,574 private dwellings. This number was reduced to approximately 16,145 dwellings due to the loss of households which had no residents in scope for the survey and where dwellings proved to be vacant, under construction or derelict. Of the eligible dwellings, 80.1% responded fully (or adequately) which yielded a total sample from the survey of 12,932 dwellings.

12 Some survey respondents provided most of the required information, but were unable or unwilling to provide a response to certain data items. The records for these persons were retained in the sample and the missing values were recorded as 'don't know or not stated'. No attempt was made to deduce or impute for these missing values. Details of missing values for data items are presented in paragraph 31.

Data collection

13 ABS Interviewers conducted personal interviews using a Computer Assisted Interviewing (CAI) questionnaire at selected dwellings during the period March to June 2014. CAI involves the use of a notebook computer to record, store, manipulate and transmit the data collected during interviews.

14 Much of the detail obtained from the GSS was provided by one person aged 15 years or over, randomly selected from each participating household. The random selection of this person was made once basic information had been obtained about all household members. Some financial and housing items collected in the GSS required the selected person to answer on behalf of other members of the household. In some cases, particularly where household information was not known by the selected person, a spokesperson for the household was nominated to provide household information.

Weighting, benchmarking and estimation


15 Weighting is the process of adjusting results from a sample survey to infer results for the total in-scope population whether that be persons or households. To do this, a 'weight' is allocated to each sample unit i.e. a person or a household. The weight is a value which indicates how many population units are represented by the sample unit.

16 The first step in calculating weights for each person or household is to assign an initial weight, which is equal to the inverse of the probability of being selected in the survey. For example, if the probability of a person being selected in the survey was 1 in 600, then the person would have an initial weight of 600 (that is, they represent 600 people).


17 The initial weights are then calibrated to align with independent estimates of the population of interest, referred to as 'benchmarks'. Weights calibrated against population benchmarks ensure that the survey estimates conform to the independently estimated distribution of the population rather than to the distribution within the sample itself. Calibration to population benchmarks helps to compensate for over or under-enumeration of particular categories of persons which may occur due to either the random nature of sampling or non-response.

18 The GSS was benchmarked to the in scope estimated resident population (ERP) and the estimated number of households in the population. The 2014 GSS used population and household benchmarks based on the 2011 Census.

19 Given that the GSS did some targeting towards low socio-economic areas, further analysis was undertaken to ascertain whether benchmark variables, in addition to geography, age, and sex, should be incorporated into the weighting strategy. Analysis showed that the standard weighting approach did not adequately compensate for differential undercoverage in the 2014 GSS sample for SEIFA, when compared to other ABS surveys. As this variable was considered to have possible association with social characteristics, an additional benchmark was incorporated into the weighting process.

20 The benchmarks used in the calibration of final weights for the 2014 GSS were:

  • Persons
    • state by part of state by age by sex
    • SEIFA.    
  • Households
    • state by part of state by household composition
    • SEIFA.


21 Survey estimates of counts of persons are obtained by summing the weights of persons or households with the characteristic of interest. Estimates for means, such as mean age of persons, are obtained by summing the weights of persons in each category (e.g. individual ages), multiplying by the value for each category, aggregating the results across categories, then dividing by the sum of the weights for all persons.

22 The majority of estimates shown in this publication are based on benchmarked person weights. The estimates in Table 15 however, are based on benchmarked household weights.

Seasonal effects

23 The estimates in this publication are based on information collected from March to June 2014, and due to seasonal effects they may not be fully representative of other time periods in the year. For example, the GSS asked standard ABS questions on labour force status to determine whether a person was employed. Employment is subject to seasonal variation through the year. Therefore, the GSS results for employment could have differed if the GSS had been conducted over the whole year or in a different part of the year.

Equivalised gross household income

24 The economic wellbeing of individuals is largely determined by their command over economic resources. People's income and reserves of wealth provide access to many of the goods and services consumed in daily life. The amount of income to which they have access is an important component of these resources. And while income is usually received by individuals, it is normally shared between partners in a couple relationship and with any dependent children. To a lesser degree, there may be sharing with other members of the household. Even when there is no transfer of income between members of a household, nor provision of free or cheap accommodation, members are still likely to benefit from the economies of scale that arise from the sharing of dwellings. Therefore, the income measures shown in this publication relate to household income.

25 Gross household income can be used as an indicator of whether a person has a relatively high or low level of economic wellbeing. However, larger households normally require a greater level of income to maintain the same standard of living as smaller households, and the needs of adults are normally greater than the needs of children. Equivalised household income estimates are estimates which have been adjusted by equivalence factors which standardise the income estimates with respect to household size and composition. Therefore, estimates of equivalised gross household income are used in this publication as a more relevant indicator of relative economic wellbeing than non-equivalised household income.

26 Equivalised household income is derived by calculating an equivalence factor according to an equivalence scale, and then dividing household income by the factor. In this publication the 'modified OECD' equivalence scale is used. The equivalence factor derived using this scale is built up by allocating points to each person in a household. Taking the first adult in the household as having a weight of 1 point, each additional person who is 15 years or older is allocated 0.5 points, and each child under the age of 15 years is allocated 0.3 points. Equivalised gross household income is derived by dividing total gross household income by a factor equal to the sum of the equivalence points allocated to the household members. The equivalised gross household income of a lone person is the same as its unequivalised gross household income. The equivalised gross household income of a household comprising more than one person lies between the total value and the per capita value of its unequivalised gross household income.

Interpretation of results

27 Care has been taken to ensure that the results of this survey are as accurate as possible. All interviews were conducted by trained ABS Interviewers. Extensive reference material was developed for use in the field enumeration and intensive training was provided to interviewers in both classroom and on-the-job environments. There remain, however, other factors which may have affected the reliability of results, and for which no specific adjustments can be made. The following factors should be considered when interpreting these estimates:

  • Information recorded in this survey is essentially 'as reported' by respondents, and hence may differ from information available from other sources or collected using different methodologies. Responses may be affected by imperfect recall or individual interpretation of survey questions.
  • Some respondents may have provided responses that they felt were expected, rather than those that accurately reflected their own situation. Every effort has been made to minimise such bias through the development and use of culturally appropriate survey methodology.

28 The Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing (SMHWB) is the best ABS source of information on the prevalence of mental health conditions in Australians aged 16-85 years. The SMHWB is different from other surveys collecting mental health data because it does not rely on self-reporting. Rather, it uses diagnostic assessment criteria to assess the lifetime, and 12-month prevalence, of selected mental disorders through the measurement of symptoms and their impact on day to day activities. The survey was based on a widely used international survey instrument (World Mental Health Survey Initiative version of the World Health Organization Composite International Diagnostic Interview, version 3.0), but tailored for the Australian context.

29 Other surveys, including the GSS, rely on self-reporting of diagnosed mental health conditions. While not providing a prevalence measure, information obtained from these surveys is valuable for comparing population characteristics of people with/without a mental health condition within the particular survey in which it has been used.

30 The voluntary work estimates for 2014 presented in the survey, exclude those persons who were compelled to do voluntary work because of employment or study commitments, for example, work for the dole. For further information on voluntary work, and for comparisons over time, refer to the publication Voluntary Work, Australia (cat. no. 4441.0).

31 For a number of GSS data items, some respondents were unwilling or unable to provide the required information. No imputation was undertaken for this missing information. Where responses for a particular data item were missing for a person or household they were recorded in a 'not known or not stated' category for that data item. These 'not known or not stated' categories are not shown in the publication tables. However, the person or household has been included in the total for most data items. Below is a table showing the number and proportion of missing values for key GSS data items.

Key GSS data items with a 'not known or not stated' category
Data itenEstimated number of persons ('000)Percentage (%)
Landlord type12.8*0.1
Weekly mortgage payments980.15.3
Weekly rent payments121.80.7
Personal gross weekly income2,313.712.5
Equivalised household gross weekly income4,187.122.7
Principal source of personal income(a)287.81.6
Principal source of household income(a)356.31.9
Whether government support has been main source of income in last 2 years7.1**0.0
Time spent on government support as main source of income in last 2 years95.60.5
Type(s) of cash flow problem(s) (and Number of different types of cash flow problems in last 12 months)322.11.7
Types of dissaving actions taken in last 12 months (and Number of different types of dissaving actions taken in last 12 months)406.02.2
Value of dwelling637.23.4
Equity in dwelling1,293.97.0
Type(s) of selected assets423.92.3
Type of consumer debt406.32.2
Type(s) of personal stressors experienced in last 12 months0.0***0.0

* estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution
** estimate has a relative standard error greater than 50% and is considered too unreliable for general use
*** Nil or rounded to zero (including null cells)

  1. Also see paragraph 32

32 For persons or households reporting nil or negative total income, or where the income amount was unknown, the principal source of income has been classified as 'undefined'. The principal source of personal income was 'undefined' for an estimated 2.7 million persons (15%). An estimated 345,000 persons lived in households where the principal source of household income was 'undefined' (2%).


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

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

35 Area data (Capital city, Balance of state/territory; Remoteness areas) are classified according to the Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS).

36 Education data were classified according to the Australian Standard Classification of Education, 2001 (cat. no. 1272.0).

Comparability with 2010 GSS

37 Selected summary results from the 2006 and 2010 GSS are presented in this publication to provide comparisons over time. The statistical significance of differences in estimates between 2010 and 2014 have been investigated. For the 2014 estimates in Table 1 where the difference, when compared to the 2010 rate is statistically significant, a cell comment has been included. While the content and data collection were largely the same in both collections, the sample design and weighting procedures were not. Some differences are noted below.

38 The GSS is designed to collect information for a core set of topics in each cycle, to allow analysis of changes over time, and a cyclical component to collect additional information. Approximately 80% of the content of the 2010 GSS was repeated in the 2014 GSS. Differences in content between the surveys include the cyclical component of the GSS and some new content. A detailed voluntary work module similar to what formed part of the 2006 iteration, was included as part of the cyclical component for the 2014 GSS. This will allow more direct comparison with the 2006 volunteering data. New topics in 2014 included long term health condition, discrimination, visa status, barriers to employment, sexual orientation and parental educational attainment.

39 A full list of the data items from the 2014 GSS are contained in the Data Item List which can be found in the Data downloads section. For published results from the 2010 GSS, refer to General Social Survey: Summary Results, Australia, 2010 (cat. no. 4159.0).

40 Level of highest educational attainment was derived from information on highest year of school completed and level of highest non-school qualification. The derivation process determines which of the 'non-school' or 'school' attainments will be regarded as the highest. Usually the higher ranking attainment is self-evident, but in some cases some secondary education is regarded, for the purposes of obtaining a single measure, as higher than some certificate level attainments. The 2010 GSS treated those respondents who had completed a lower level certificate as having a higher qualification than Year 10. This was different for the 2014 GSS, where Year 10 was treated as having a higher qualification than a lower level certificate.

41 There is a conceptual difference between the 2010 and 2014 GSS in the way that those who had 'No disability or no long term health condition' are derived. In the 2010 GSS, there was no long term health conditions module, so the category 'Has no disability or no long term health conditions' was only derived using the questions in the disability module. In 2014, there was a long term health condition module as well as a disability module, so the appropriate questions across the two modules have been used to derive this category. Conceptually, this means that this particular category for Disability Status should not be compared between the 2010 and 2014 iterations.

42 The Appendix presents comparisons between a number of key GSS data items and similar data items from other ABS sources. Where possible, results from other surveys have been adjusted to the scope and coverage of the GSS (or vice versa). A list of data comparisons can be found in the spreadsheet 'Data Comparability between GSS and Other ABS Sources' in the Data downloads section.

Products and services

43 Below is information describing the range of data to be made available from the 2014 GSS, both in published form and on request. Products available on the ABS web site are indicated accordingly.

General Social Survey: Summary results, Australia, 2014 datacubes

44 The tables released in this product are in spreadsheet format and are available in the Data downloads section of this publication. Estimates, proportions and the related Relative Standard Errors (RSEs) are presented for each table.

General Social Survey: User guide 2014

45 The GSS User Guide will be released in conjunction with the Confidentialised Unit Record File (CURF). It will provide detailed information about the survey content, methodology and data interpretation. It is expected that the User Guide will be available free-of-charge on the ABS web site in September 2015 (cat. no. 4159.0.55.002).


46 It is expected that a Table Builder and an expanded confidentialised unit record file (CURF) will be produced from the GSS, subject to the approval of the Australian Statistician. The expanded CURF will be available via Remote Access Data Laboratory (RADL) and ABS Data Laboratory (ABSDL), and the Table Builder will be accessible via the ABS website, using a secure log-on portal.

47 Special tabulations of GSS data are available on request. Subject to confidentiality and sampling variability constraints, tabulations can be produced from the survey incorporating data items, populations and geographic areas selected to meet individual requirements. These can be provided in printed or electronic form. All enquiries should be made to the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070.


48 ABS publications draw extensively on information provided freely by individuals, businesses, government 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.

Appendix - data comparability with other ABS sources

Show all

1. The GSS collects data across a range of topics, many of which have been included in other ABS surveys. Where possible modules from existing surveys have been used in the GSS collections. This practice ensures that statistics derived from the GSS are comparable with statistics from other ABS surveys. However, the breadth of topics included in the GSS does mean that, to keep the reporting load on survey respondents relatively low, it is not always possible to adopt the full question modules that are used in other surveys. In these situations, the GSS uses standard ABS 'short' question modules that are used in other surveys. The short question modules have been designed to maximise comparability with the full question modules and their use also ensures comparability with other surveys where the short modules have been used. However, in some cases there is no generally used short question module, and topics in GSS have used a shortened version that will have resulted in differences in the definition or scope of data items when compared with statistics derived from the full module. Users should refer to the Glossary of this publication for the definitions of GSS items and to the Questionnaire for the survey questions.

2. There are other reasons why results from the GSS may differ from other ABS surveys collecting information on the same topic, even where the questions used are the same. The GSS is a sample survey and its results are subject to sampling error. GSS results may therefore differ from other sample surveys, which are also subject to sampling error. Users should take account of the relative standard errors (RSEs) on GSS estimates and those of other survey estimates where comparisons are made.

3. Differences in GSS estimates, when compared with the estimates of other surveys, may also result from:

  • differences in scope and/or coverage
  • different reference periods reflecting seasonal variations
  • non-seasonal events that may have impacted on one period but not another
  • underlying trends in the phenomena being measured.

4. The 2014 GSS also used a different sampling methodology to that used in most other ABS sample surveys in order to obtain better estimates of people experiencing multiple social disadvantage (see Explanatory Notes for more information). The change in sampling methodology resulted in the selection of more geographic areas expected to have higher concentrations of people experiencing disadvantage than would have been the case with simple population proportional representation in the sample. The weights used to generate population level estimates from the survey will generally have compensated for this change in methodology and largely be reflected in slightly higher RSEs for some estimates at the national level.

5. Differences in statistics from different surveys can occur as a result of using different collection methodologies. This is often evident in comparisons of similar data items reported from different ABS collections where, after taking account of definition and scope differences and sampling error, residual differences remain. These differences often have to do with: the mode of the collection, such as whether data are collected by an interviewer or self enumerated by the respondent; whether the answers to questions are provided by the person to whom the information relates or are from a proxy respondent answering on behalf of someone else; and the level of experience of interviewers undertaking the data collection. Differences may also result from the context in which questions are asked i.e. where in the flow of the interview a particular questions was asked and the nature of questions that were asked beforehand. Due to the nature of such differences between statistical collections, the impacts on data are difficult to quantify. As a result, every effort is made to minimise such differences.

6. The table 'Data Comparability between GSS and other ABS Sources' (located in an Excel spreadsheet on the Downloads page of this publication) presents comparisons between a number of key GSS data items and similar data items from other ABS sources. For most items the GSS data are broadly consistent with other ABS sources, however there are some particular differences that are noted below.

National Health Survey 2011-12

7. The primary sources of information on the health of Australians are the ABS National Health Survey (NHS) and ABS National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing (SMHWB). Information from the 2014 GSS for people living with long-term health conditions, including mental health conditions, is intended to complement these sources. Users requiring estimates of the prevalence of long-term health conditions should source data from the NHS and SMHWB (for mental health conditions), while the GSS provides information on various social aspects and circumstances of people with long-term health conditions. Results from the self assessed health status question are similar in both GSS and NHS. While both the Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC) and GSS collect information about disability, the SDAC 2012 used 149 questions to gather the information used to identify types of disability and the underlying conditions causing disability, compared with the standard short module containing 12 questions used in the GSS. The standard short disability module is designed to obtain data on the broad characteristics of the disability population in the particular survey in which the module is included, while SDAC produces detailed disability data and national prevalence estimates. The scope of the SDAC is also different from GSS as it collects information from people living in special dwellings in addition to those in private dwellings. These differences are likely to account for most of the differences in estimates from these sources.

Labour Force Survey

8. The primary source of labour force statistics produced by the ABS is the Labour Force Survey (LFS) (Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0)). GSS includes persons aged 15 years or over, living in private dwellings across Australia but excluding persons living in very remote areas and in discrete Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The LFS includes persons living in both private dwellings and non-private dwellings (institutions, hotels, etc.) in all areas of Australia. The data shown in the comparison table on the Downloads page have been adjusted to align the age groups (18 years and over), time period and scope of the two surveys. The results of the surveys were very similar.

Survey of Income and Housing, 2011-12 and Housing Expenditure Survey, 2009-10

9. The primary sources of income, housing and expenditure statistics produced by the ABS are the Survey of Income and Housing (SIH), and the Household Expenditure Survey (HES). The SIH is a household survey which collects information on sources of income, amounts received, value of household assets and liabilities, housing characteristics, as well as a range of household and personal characteristics of persons aged 15 years and over resident in private dwellings throughout Australia. The HES is conducted with a subsample of SIH households and collects information on expenditure and experiences of financial stress in addition to the SIH content. The results between the two surveys and the GSS were very similar.

Crime victimisation, 2008/09

10. The GSS estimates for people who reported feeling safe or very safe at home alone after dark are higher than those recorded in the 2008-09 ABS Crime Victimisation Survey (CVS). The difference is related to the screener questions in the CVS that first asks people if they are ever alone. In the CVS, 19% of people say they have never been home alone after dark in the past 12 months. The CVS does not ask these people about how safe they feel in such circumstances. It is highly unlikely that such large numbers of people are never alone at home, and in the GSS the much higher response to feeling safe is likely to be people who in the CVS respond to never being alone - it is likely that when they are alone it does not make them feel unsafe and they respond accordingly when not screened out of the module. The GSS only recorded people as 'never being at home alone after dark' where the respondent gave this as an unprompted response to how safe they felt in such circumstances (1.6% after dark). For more information on the CVS, see Crime Victimisation, Australia, 2008-2009 (cat. no. 4530.0). Another factor that may have contributed to differences between the estimates is the time between the 2008/09 CVS and the 2014 GSS.

Crime victimisation, 2013-14

11. The GSS records higher rates of being victimised by physical or threatened violence in the past 12 months (8.1%) than does the CVS (4.7%). The rates of such victimisation in the GSS are likely to include indistinguishable sexual violence. Sexual violence is significantly under-reported when explicitly collected in the CVS telephone survey, and has been excluded from the CVS component of the comparison table.

Sport participation, 2013-14

12. In comparison to the 2013-14 Sports Participation Survey, the GSS recorded higher levels of sport participation (70.9% compared to 64.2%). Part of the explanation for this difference is likely to be that GSS asked respondents to include participation in sports whether as a participant or in some other role such as a coach, referee or official, while the related Sports Participation Survey question did not specifically mention differing types of participation. Around 4% of people participated as a coach, referee or official, suggesting that this does not completely explain the difference between the two data sources. The two surveys also had different collection methods (face-to-face for the GSS and telephone for the Sports Participation Survey), timing differences (the Sports Participation Survey was collected across 12 months from July 2013) and were asked in different contexts. It has not been possible to determine the extent to which these differences in methodologies may have contributed to the different results.

Spectator attendance, 2009-10

13. Similarly, the GSS reported an attendance rate eight percentage points higher for people who reported having attended a sporting event in the last 12 months compared with those in the Spectator Attendance survey. Part of the reason for this difference is likely to be that the question in the Sports Participation survey asks respondents to 'exclude school and junior competitions' while the GSS does not. Apart from the differences in the two question sets, the two surveys had different collection methods (face-to-face for the GSS and telephone for Spectator Attendance), timing differences (Spectator Attendance was collected across 12 months from July 2009) and the questions were asked in different contexts. It has not been possible to determine the extent to which these differences in methodologies may have contributed to the different results.

Survey of Education and Work, 2014

14. The Survey of Education and Work (SEW) provides annual information on a range of key indicators of educational participation and attainment of persons aged 15–74 years, along with data on people's transition between education and work. The results between the GSS and the SEW were very similar.

Programme for the international assessment of adult competencies, 2011-12

15. The Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) survey also measures respondent's parent's level of qualification. Comparisons between the 2014 GSS and 2011-12 PIAAC varied, in particular for the 'Year 12' category. Part of the explanation for this difference is likely to be that in the GSS, respondents were asked about the highest year of school that their male/female parent/guardian completed, and their level of highest non-school qualification, in two separate questions. In the PIAAC however, these questions were combined and asked as one single question. This means that, in the GSS, if a respondent's parent had completed Year 12, and had also done a Bachelor Degree, then the respondent's parent would be counted twice as they had the opportunity to answer both questions separately. In PIAAC, the question was: 'What is the highest level of education that the parent has completed', and in this case, it would be the Bachelor Degree.

16. The PIAAC does not distinguish between school level and non-school level qualifications, whereas the GSS does. For this reason, the figures for the Year 12 category are much lower in the PIAAC than they are in the GSS. Another difference related to standards between the two surveys is that the GSS treats those people who completed Year 10 as having a higher level of qualification than those who had completed a lower level certificate. In the PIAAC however, those who had completed a lower level certificate were considered as having a higher qualification than those who had completed Year 10. Other differences between the two surveys could be attributed to the in-scope age group in the sample: GSS covers persons aged 15 years and over, whereas the PIAAC covers persons aged 15 to 74 years.

Technical note - data quality

Reliability of the estimates

1 The estimates in this publication are based on information obtained from a sample survey. Any data collection may encounter factors, known as non-sampling error, which can impact on the reliability of the resulting statistics. In addition, the reliability of estimates based on sample surveys are also subject to sampling variability. That is, the estimates may differ from those that would have been produced had all persons in the population been included in the survey.

Non-sampling error

2 Non-sampling error may occur in any collection, whether it is based on a sample or a full count such as a census. Sources of non-sampling error include non-response, errors in reporting by respondents or recording of answers by interviewers and errors in coding and processing data. Every effort is made to reduce non-sampling error by careful design and testing of questionnaires, training and supervision of interviewers, and extensive editing and quality control procedures at all stages of data processing.

Sampling error

3 One measure of the likely difference is given by the standard error (SE), which indicates the extent to which an estimate might have varied by chance because only a sample of persons was included. There are about two chances in three (67%) that a sample estimate will differ by less than one SE from the number that would have been obtained if all persons had been surveyed, and about 19 chances in 20 (95%) that the difference will be less than two SEs.

4 Another measure of the likely difference is the relative standard error (RSE), which is obtained by expressing the SE as a percentage of the estimate.

\(\large{R S E \%=\left(\frac{S E}{\text {estimate}}\right) \times 100}\)

5 RSEs for count estimates have been calculated using the Jackknife method of variance estimation. This involves the calculation of 60 'replicate' estimates based on 60 different sub samples of the obtained sample. The variability of estimates obtained from these sub samples is used to estimate the sample variability surrounding the count estimate.

6 The Excel spreadsheets in the Data downloads section contain all the tables produced for this release and the calculated RSEs for each of the estimates.

7 Only estimates (numbers or percentages) with RSEs less than 25% are considered sufficiently reliable for most analytical purposes. However, estimates with larger RSEs have been included. Estimates with an RSE in the range 25% to 50% should be used with caution while estimates with RSEs greater than 50% are considered too unreliable for general use. All cells in the Excel spreadsheets with RSEs greater than 25% contain a comment indicating the size of the RSE. These cells can be identified by a red indicator in the corner of the cell. The comment appears when the mouse pointer hovers over the cell.

Calculation of standard error

8 Standard errors can be calculated using the estimates (counts or percentages) and the corresponding RSEs. See What is a Standard Error and Relative Standard Error, Reliability of estimates for Labour Force data for more details.

Proportions and percentages

9 Proportions and percentages formed from the ratio of two estimates are also subject to sampling errors. The size of the error depends on the accuracy of both the numerator and the denominator. A formula to approximate the RSE of a proportion is given below. This formula is only valid when x is a subset of y:

\(R S E\left(\frac{x}{y}\right) \approx \sqrt{[R S E(x)]^{2}-[R S E(y)]^{2}}\)


10 The difference between two survey estimates (counts or percentages) can also be calculated from published estimates. Such an estimate is also subject to sampling error. The sampling error of the difference between two estimates depends on their SEs and the relationship (correlation) between them. An approximate SE of the difference between two estimates (x-y) may be calculated by the following formula:

\(S E(x-y) \approx \sqrt{[S E(x)]^{2}+[S E(y)]^{2}}\)

11 While this formula will only be exact for differences between separate and uncorrelated characteristics or sub populations, it provides a good approximation for the differences likely to be of interest in this publication.

Significance testing

12 A statistical significance test for a comparison between estimates can be performed to determine whether it is likely that there is a difference between the corresponding population characteristics. The standard error of the difference between two corresponding estimates (x and y) can be calculated using the formula shown above in the Differences section. This standard error is then used to calculate the following test statistic:

\(\large{\frac{|x-y|}{S E(x-y)}}\)

13 If the value of this test statistic is greater than 1.96 then there is evidence, with a 95% level of confidence, of a statistically significant difference in the two populations with respect to that characteristic. Otherwise, it cannot be stated with confidence that there is a real difference between the populations with respect to that characteristic.


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Ability to raise $2,000 within a week for something important

A person's perception of whether they or other members of the household could obtain $2,000 for something important within a week.

Acceptance of other cultures

Designed to gauge community acceptance of diverse cultures. The question asks the respondent the extent to which they agree or disagree with the statement that 'It is a good thing for a society to be made up of people from different cultures.'

Access to motor vehicle(s) to drive

Access that a person has to any motor vehicle to drive. Such motor vehicles include vehicle(s) which they wholly or jointly own, vehicle(s) belonging to another member of the household, and company or government vehicle(s) which they have access to for personal use.


The age of a person on their last birthday.

Cash flow problem

Includes experiencing one or more of the following due to a shortage of money:

  • could not pay electricity, gas or telephone bills on time
  • could not pay mortgage or rent payments on time
  • could not pay for car registration or insurance on time
  • could not make minimum payment on credit card
  • pawned or sold something because you needed cash
  • went without meals
  • were unable to heat or cool your home
  • sought financial assistance from friends or family
  • sought assistance from welfare or community organisations.


A person of any age who is a natural, adopted, step, or foster son or daughter of a couple or lone parent, usually resident in the same household, and who does not have a child or partner of his/her own usually resident in the household.

Children living outside the household

Includes children aged 0-24 years.

Civic and political groups

In this topic the question refers to whether the respondent has been actively involved in a civic or political group in the last 12 months, or taken part in an activity they organised.

Examples of civic or political groups include:

  • trade union, professional / technical association
  • political party
  • civic group or organisation
  • environmental or animal welfare group
  • human and civil rights group
  • body corporate or tenants' association
  • consumer organisation
  • other civic or political organization.

Civic participation

Involvement in activities reflecting interest and engagement with governance and democracy.

Community support

Involvement in activities that are directed at providing assistance to other individuals, groups and the wider community.

Community support groups

In this topic the question refers to whether the respondent has been actively involved in a community support group in the last 12 months or taken part in an activity they organised.

Examples of community support groups include:

  • service clubs
  • welfare organisations
  • education and training
  • parenting / children / youth
  • health promotion and support
  • emergency services
  • international aid and development
  • other community support groups.

Consumer debt

Debt or liabilities usually associated with the purchase of consumables, such as clothing, electrical goods or cars, incurred by way of credit or store card and which are not completely paid off, car or personal loans, interest free purchases and hire purchase agreements.

Investment loans, lines of credit, overdue bills for telephone/electricity etc., outstanding fines or Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS)/Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) debts are excluded.

Contact with family or friends living outside the household

Refers to face to face contact, or other types of contact such as telephone, mail and email, which a person has had with family or friends who do not live with them.


Two people in a registered or de facto marriage, who usually live in the same household

Cultural venues or events

Refers to venues or events which people attend for leisure purposes. Types of venues or events included are:

  • a public library
  • a museum or art gallery
  • a botanic garden, zoo or aquarium
  • a movie theatre
  • a concert, theatre or other performing arts event.

Dependent child/ren/dependants

All persons aged under 15 years; and people aged 15-24 years who are full-time students, have a parent in the household and do not have a partner or child of their own in the household.


A disability exists if a limitation, restriction, impairment, disease or disorder, had lasted, or was likely to last for at least six months, and which restricted everyday activities.

It is classified by whether or not a person has a specific limitation or restriction. Specific limitation or restriction is further classified by whether the limitation or restriction is a limitation in core activities or a schooling/employment restriction only.

There are four levels of core activity limitation (profound, severe, moderate and mild) which are based on whether a person needs help, has difficulty, or uses aids or equipment with any of the core activities (self care, mobility or communication). A person's overall level of core activity limitation is determined by their highest level of limitation in these activities.

The four levels are:

  • profound - always needs help/supervision with core activities
  • severe - does not always need help with core activities
  • moderate - has difficulty with core activities
  • mild - uses aids to assist with core activities.

Persons are classified as having only a schooling/employment restriction if they have no core activity limitation and are aged 15 to 20 years and have difficulties with education, or are aged 15 to 64 years and have difficulties with employment.


Discrimination may happen when people are treated unfairly because they are seen as being different from others. People who had experienced discrimination were asked whether they thought it was because of any of the following:

  • their skin colour
  • their nationality, race or ethnic group
  • the language they speak
  • the way they dress or their appearance
  • their gender
  • their age
  • a disability or health issue
  • their marital status
  • their family status
  • their sexual orientation
  • their occupation
  • their religious beliefs
  • their political position.

Dissaving action

Any action where spending is greater than income, thereby reducing already accumulated savings or leading to borrowing to finance the expenditure. Examples of dissaving actions include:

  • reducing home loan repayments
  • drawing on savings or term deposits
  • increasing balance owed on credit cards by $1000 or more
  • entering into a loan agreement with family or friends
  • selling shares or other assets
  • taking out a personal loan.

Employment restriction

An employment restriction is determined for persons with one or more disabilities if, because of their disability, they have any difficulties with employment such as:

  • type of job they can do
  • number of hours they can work
  • finding suitable work
  • needing time off work
  • permanently unable to work.

This information was collected for persons aged 15 to 64 years with one or more disabilities.

Equity in dwelling

Calculated as the value of the dwelling less the amount owing on mortgages or secured loans against the dwelling.

Equivalised gross household income

Gross household income adjusted using an equivalence scale. For a lone person household it is equal to gross household income. For a household comprising more than one person, it is an indicator of the gross household income that would need to be received by a lone person household to enjoy the same level of economic well-being as the household in question.

Equivalised gross household income quintiles

These are groupings of 20% of the total population when ranked in ascending order according to equivalised gross household income. The population used for this purpose includes all people living in private dwellings, including children and other persons under the age of 18 years.


Two or more persons, one of whom is at least 15 years of age, who are related by blood, marriage (registered or de facto), adoption, step or fostering, and who are usually resident in the same household. The basis of a family is formed by identifying the presence of a couple relationship, lone parent-child relationship or other blood relationship. Some households will, therefore, contain more than one family.

Feelings of safety

How safe a person feels in various circumstances (i.e. when home alone after dark or when walking alone through their local area after dark) was reported on a five point scale, from very safe to very unsafe. If the respondent indicated that they were never home alone or never walked alone after dark this response was recorded.

Field of study

Describes the field of study for a respondent's current qualification or the highest completed non-school qualification.

Financial exclusion

The extent to which a person is excluded from mainstream banking and financial services, for example being denied an application for a credit card.

Financial resilience

This includes actions taken to improve a person's ability to control their current financial situation or manage in a situation involving a major loss of income. Actions covered included: paying off more than the minimum required on loans or credit cards; following a budget; obtaining financial advice or making additional contributions to superannuation.

Financial stress

Three measures aimed at identifying households that may have been constrained in their activities because of shortage of money. The measures are the ability to raise 'emergency money', whether had cash flow problems and whether had taken dissaving actions. One person in the household was asked to provide these assessments of the household's financial situation.

Government support

Cash support from the government in the form of pensions, benefits or allowances.

Gross household income

All current receipts that are usually or regularly received by the household or by individual members of the household, and which are available for, or intended to support, current consumption. This includes receipts from wages and salaries (including salary sacrificed income), profit or loss from own unincorporated business (including partnerships), net investment income (e.g. interest, rent, dividends), government pensions and allowances, and private transfers (e.g. superannuation, workers' compensation, income from annuities, child support and financial support from family members not living in the same household). Gross household income is the sum of the income from all these sources before income tax, the Medicare levy and the Medicare levy surcharge are deducted.

Healthcare delays

Ever delayed seeking medical attention or buying prescribed medicines for own health because of cost.

Highest year of school completed

The highest level of primary or secondary education which a person has completed, irrespective of the type of institution or location where that education was undertaken.


Refers to whether a person has ever previously been without a 'permanent place to live' for reasons other than one (or more) of the following only: saving money; work related reasons; building or renovating their home; travelling/on holiday; house-sitting or having just moved back to a town or city. People who had ever previously been without a permanent place to live for other reasons (e.g. family/relationship breakdowns, financial problems, tight rental/property markets etc.) were counted in the survey as having had an experience of homelessness.

As the GSS only enumerates usual residents of private dwellings, it will not include: people currently living in shelters; people sleeping rough; people 'couch surfing' (staying temporarily with other households); nor people staying in boarding houses. It may include some people staying in Transitional Housing Management (THM) properties, if the adult staying there at the time of the survey considered that it was their usual residence at that time (THMs have been included in researcher estimates of the homeless). The GSS does not attempt to measure the prevalence of homelessness in Australia. Instead the survey sought information about a person's previous experience of being without a permanent place to live. That is, whether a person has ever experienced being without a permanent place to live at some point in their lives.


One or more persons usually resident in the same private dwelling.

Household tenure type

The nature of a household's legal right to occupy the dwelling in which they usually reside. In this publication, households are grouped into one of four broad tenure categories:

  • owner without a mortgage - the dwelling is owned by a resident of the household and there are no outstanding mortgages or loans secured against the dwelling
  • owner with a mortgage - a household where an outstanding mortgage or loan amount secured against the dwelling, for the purposes of housing, is greater than zero
  • renter - a household who pays rent to reside in the dwelling. In this publication, renters are further classified into one of three broad types according to whom rent is paid:
    • state or territory housing authority
    • private landlord - a real estate agent, parent or other relative not in the same household, or another person not in the same household
    • other renter - the owner/manager of a caravan park, Defence Housing Authority employer, an employer (including a government authority), a housing cooperative, community or church group, or any other landlord not included elsewhere
  • other tenure - includes households which are participants of a life tenure scheme, participants in a rent/buy (or shared equity) scheme, living rent-free or are in a tenure arrangement not included elsewhere (e.g. house-sitting, payment in kind for a specific service).

Informal social activities

Refers to recreational activities undertaken with others which have not been organised by an organisation or group with a formal structure. The most common examples are where family and/or friends come together to enjoy themselves.

Jobless households

A jobless household is one in which no usual resident of the household aged 15 years or over is currently employed.

Labour force status

Refers to the situation of respondents in relation to the labour force at the time of the survey. Categories are:

  • employed - had a job or business, or undertook work without pay in a family business in the week prior to the survey, including being absent from a job or business they had
  • full-time - persons who usually work 35 hours or more per week
  • part-time - persons who usually work at least one hour, but less than 35 hours, per week
  • unemployed - not employed and actively looked for work in the four weeks prior to the survey and available to start work in the week prior to the survey
  • not in the labour force
  • retired from work - persons over the age of 44 years who were no longer working and did not intend to work in the future
  • other - other persons who were not employed, unemployed or retired. Includes persons who intend to look for full-time work, intend to look for part time work, or have never worked for two weeks or more and never intend to work. Such persons may be voluntarily inactive such as carers, students or be permanently unable to work.

Level of study

Refers to the highest level of current study or level attained by a person.

Long-term health condition

A long-term health condition is a current disease or disorder that has lasted, or is likely to last, for six months or more. The exception to this is a periodic or episodic condition (e.g. asthma, epilepsy or schizophrenia, where people suffer attacks or relapses at irregular intervals) where the attack or relapse has occurred in the last 12 months. If the condition has not occurred within the last 12 months because it has been controlled by medication, it should still be recorded. Respondents might still be experiencing limitations or restrictions due to these conditions (or due to the medication itself), even though they have not had an attack or a relapse for quite a while. Conditions or restrictions which are expected but not yet apparent, should not be included (e.g. in young children where they are still too young to show). NOTE: This data item was self-reported by the respondent.

Marital status

The marital status of couples within households. This item includes Married in a registered marriage, Married in a de facto marriage and Not married.


The sum of values divided by the number of values.


The middle value of a set of values when the values are sorted in order.

Mental health condition

This data item refers to clinically recognised emotional and behavioural disorders, and perceived mental health problems such as feeling depressed, feeling anxious, stress and sadness. NOTE: This data item was self-reported by the respondent.

Mental health conditions such as depression, feeling depressed, behavioural and emotional disorders, and feeling anxious were included.

Mode of delivery of study

Refers to how study was delivered, such as on-the-job, classroom based or accessed online.


A mortgage is a loan which is secured against a dwelling.

Multiple response

A multiple response category allows respondents to choose more than one answer to a question.

Multiple victimisation

Refers to an individual being the victim of more than one personal or household offence including assault, threatened assault, personal robbery and property damage.

Network size

The number and variety of attachments individuals or groups may have.

Non-dependent child/ren

All persons aged 15 years or over (except those aged 15-24 years who are full-time students) who have a parent in the household and do not have a partner or child of their own in the household.

Non-school qualification

Non-school qualifications are awarded for educational attainments other than those of pre-primary, primary or secondary education. They include qualifications at the Postgraduate Degree level, Master Degree level, Graduate Diploma and Graduate Certificate level, Bachelor Degree level, Advanced Diploma and Diploma level, and Certificates I, II, III and IV levels. Non-school qualifications may be attained concurrently with school qualifications.

Organisation or group

An organisation or group is any body with a formal structure. It may be as large as a national charity or as small as a local book club. Purely ad hoc, informal and temporary gatherings of people do not constitute an organization.

Organised sport or physical recreational activities

Those sport and physical recreational activities which were organised by a club, association or other organisation. The organisation did not need to be a sporting body; for example, it may have been a work social club, church group or gymnasium.

Other forms of contact

Non face-to-face contact by voice calls (mobile, fixed telephone, internet), text messaging, calls made using a video link (e.g. Skype), web based chat including phone applications, post, email and other forms of contact.

Other migrant

Those born overseas who had arrived before 2004, New Zealand citizens who were born overseas and arrived in 2004 or later, or citizens of another country who were born overseas and arrived in 2004 or later and are planning to stay less than 12 months.

Other relatives living outside the household

Relatives such as elderly parents, children aged 25 years or over, or grandchildren who live outside the household. Excludes own or partner's children aged 0-24 years.

Other renters

Includes people who pay rent to an owner or manager of a caravan park, Defence Housing Authority employer, government employer, other employer landlord, housing cooperative, community or church group and other.

Overall life satisfaction

Overall life satisfaction is a summary measure of subjective wellbeing against a scale ranging from 0 to 10, where 0 means "not at all satisfied" and 10 means "completely satisfied". It measures a person's perceived level of life satisfaction in general and doesn't take into account specific illnesses or problems the person may have.

Participants in sport and physical recreational activities

Participants comprise those people who physically undertook a sport or physical recreational activity in the last 12 months, as well as people involved in 'non-playing roles', such as coaches, officials, umpires and administrators.

Participation rate

For any group, the number of persons who participated in the activity or event at least once in the specified reference period (usually the last 12 months), expressed as a percentage of the population of that group.

Permanent place to live

For the purposes of the GSS, a permanent place to live was left up to the respondent's interpretation. However, if the respondent sought clarification it was defined as a usual address which consists of a self contained residence i.e. the respondent had their own kitchen, bathroom and entrance, and some sort of security of tenure.

Permanent visa

The permission or authority granted by Australia for foreign nationals to live in Australia permanently.

Personal stressors

Any of the following events or circumstances which the person considers have been a problem for themselves or someone close to them in the last 12 months:

  • serious illness
  • serious accident
  • mental illness
  • serious disability
  • death of family member or close friend
  • divorce or separation
  • not able to get a job
  • involuntary loss of job
  • alcohol or drug related problems
  • gambling problem
  • abuse or violent crime
  • witness to violence
  • trouble with the police
  • discrimination because of ethnic or cultural background
  • discrimination for any other reason
  • bullying and/or harassment
  • removal of children
  • other.

Prevalence measure

A measure of how common an occurrence or condition is.

Principal source of household income

The source of income from which the most positive income for the household is received. If total income is nil or negative the principal source is undefined. The household's principal source of income comes from:

  • employee income - cash income received as an employee, i.e. person who works for a public or private employer and receives remuneration in wages or salary, or is paid a retainer fee by his/her employer and works on a commission basis, or works for an employer for tips, piece rates or payment in kind; or, is a person who operates his or her own incorporated enterprise with or without hiring employees
  • unincorporated business income - the profit or loss from own unincorporated enterprise in the previous financial year. Profit or loss consists of the value of the gross output of the enterprise after the deduction of operating expenses (including depreciation). Losses occur when operating expenses are greater than gross receipts and are treated as negative income
  • government cash pensions and allowances - regular payments from government to persons under social security and related government programs. Included are pensions and allowances received by aged, disabled, unemployed and sick persons, families and children, veterans or their survivors, and study allowances for students
  • other sources of household income - income received from sources such as superannuation and annuity funds, property, interest or dividends, child support, and workers' compensation.

Private dwellings

Houses, flats, home units, garages, tents and other structures used as private places of residence at the time of the survey.

Proficiency in spoken English

A self assessment by persons who speak a language other than English at home, of whether they speak English very well, well, not well or not at all.

Recent migrant

Those who were born overseas and arrived in Australia in 2004 or later and have stayed or are planning to stay more than 12 months. These may be Australian citizens or citizens of another country, excluding New Zealand citizens.

Remoteness areas

Broad geographical regions that share common characteristics of remoteness based on the Remoteness Structure of the ABS's Australian Statistical Geographical Standard. In this publication, the categories Major Cities of Australia, and Inner Regional Australia from the Remoteness Structure are presented along with a residual category labelled 'Other areas'. As the GSS did not cover very remote areas of Australia, 'Other Areas', encompasses Outer Regional Australia and Remote Australia.


A payment made periodically by a tenant to an owner or landlord in return for lodgement.

Schooling restriction

A schooling restriction is determined for persons aged 15 to 20 years who have one or more disabilities and, because of their disability, they have any difficulties with education such as:

  • not attending school / further study due to condition
  • need time off school / study
  • attend special classes / school
  • other related difficulties.

Selected assets

Any of the following type of assets:

  • over $1,000 in cash or deposited in financial institutions
  • own incorporated business
  • shares, stocks and bonds
  • investment property (i.e. land and buildings other than the dwelling in which the household resides).

Selected person

In the GSS only one adult (aged 15 years or over) in each dwelling was selected for the survey. This person was randomly chosen after all usual residents of the household were listed.

Self assessed health status

The selected person's general assessment of their own health, against a five point scale from excellent through to poor.

Sense of efficacy

The belief that an individual, group, or community has it in their capacity to produce desired outcomes by their own actions. It also relates to self reliance, initiative, and the degree of influence believed to be held, as well as the ability to draw upon additional resources as required.

Service providers

  • banks or other financial institutions
  • Centrelink
  • disability services
  • dentists
  • doctors
  • employment services
  • Family Assistance Office
  • hospitals
  • legal services
  • Medicare
  • mental health services
  • telecommunication services
  • Motor Vehicle Registry
  • utilities providers
  • housing services.

Sexual orientation

Refers to whether a person identifies as being heterosexual, gay or lesbian, or other. Other includes people identifying as bisexual and sexual orientations other than heterosexual, gay, lesbian or bisexual.

Small favours

Assistance which a person may seek from other people in their day to day lives. Examples of small favours include looking after pets or watering the garden, collecting mail or checking the house, minding a child for a brief period, helping with moving or lifting objects, and borrowing equipment.

Social attachment

'Social attachment' refers to the nature and strength of relationships that people have with each other. It includes the more intimate relationships with family and friends as well as people's associations with individuals and organisations in the wider community.

Social capital

The ABS has adopted the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development definition of social capital: "networks, together with shared norms, values and understandings which facilitate cooperation within or among groups".

Social disorder

Social disorder includes antisocial behaviour and refers to issues which may or may not be criminal offences such as public drunkenness, noisy neighbours, and offensive language or behaviour. It is an important topic because if people feel unsafe in their neighbourhood, this then impacts on their daily lives and they are less likely to take part in community activities, or venture out of their house.

Social groups

In this topic the question refers to whether the respondent has been actively involved in a social group in the last 12 months or taken part in an activity they organised.

Examples of social groups include:

  • sport or physical recreation group
  • arts or heritage group
  • religious or spiritual group or organisation
  • craft or hobby group
  • ethnic / multicultural club
  • social clubs providing restaurants or bars
  • other social groups.

Social inclusion

A state of social inclusion exists where people are able to participate fully in the social and economic life of their community, and have a good network of relationships with family, friends and the wider community.

Social participation

Involvement in activities that are valued in their own right, and reflect personal interests or a desire for individual enjoyment and gratification.

Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA)

SEIFA is a product developed especially for those interested in the assessment of the welfare of Australian communities. The ABS has developed four indexes to allow ranking of regions/areas, providing a method of determining the level of social and economic wellbeing in each region.

Each of the indexes summarise different aspects of the socio-economic status of the people living in those areas. The index refers to the attributes of the area in which a person lives, not to the socio-economic situation of a particular individual. The index used in this publication was compiled following the 2011 Census. For further information about the SEIFAs, see Information Paper: Census of Population and Housing - Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas, Australia (cat. no. 2039.0).

The four indexes are:

  • Index of relative socio-economic advantage and disadvantage: includes attributes such as households with low incomes and people with a tertiary education.
  • Index of relative socio-economic disadvantage: includes attributes such as low income, low educational attainment, high unemployment and dwellings without motor vehicles.
  • Index of economic resources: includes attributes such as income, housing expenditure and assets of households.
  • Index of education and occupation: includes attributes relating to the educational and occupational characteristics of communities, like the proportion of people with a higher qualification or those employed in a skilled occupation.

Statistical significance

Differences between population estimates are said to be statistically significant when it can be stated with 95% confidence that there is a real difference between the populations (see Technical Note for more information)

Support for children living outside the household

Support for child(ren) provided by a person (or where specified by a person and their partner) who does not live with them. Support may be provided to the other parent/carer for the child(ren), or to the child themselves. Types of support may be financial, such as child support payments, paying for educational costs, or providing pocket money or an allowance, or non-financial, such as driving them places, letting them borrow the car, or providing food or clothing.

Support for other relatives living outside the household

Types of support provided to relatives, such as elderly parents, children aged 25 years or over, or grandchildren who live outside the household such as these:

  • give money to pay rent and/or other housing costs
  • provide or pay for food
  • provide or pay for clothing
  • let them borrow the car
  • drive them places
  • pay for educational costs or textbooks
  • provide spending money
  • give money to pay bills or meet debt
  • buy or give them money to buy big cost items such as a car, computer, sound system etc.

Support in a time of crisis

Refers to whether there is someone outside the person's household who could be asked for support in a time of crisis. Support could be in the form of emotional, physical or financial help. Potential sources of support could be family members, friends, neighbours, work colleagues and various community, government and professional organisations.

Temporary resident

A person who was born overseas, who arrived in Australia in 2004 or later, was not an Australian citizen on arrival, was not born in New Zealand, does not hold New Zealand citizenship, and has a temporary visa.

Transitional housing management

For people in crisis, this can be the most secure type of accommodation that is available. Rent is normally 25 percent of income and includes a lease. Transitional Housing Management is the dominant model of government funded housing for homeless people in Victoria.

Transport difficulties

The person's assessment of how difficult it is for them to travel to places they may need to go to in normal circumstances. Four options were provided:

  • can easily get to the places needed
  • sometimes have difficulty getting to the places needed
  • often have difficulty getting to the places needed
  • can't get to the places needed.

If they indicated that they never go out or are housebound this response was recorded. Difficulties which may have been taken into account are traffic problems, parking and distances, as well as those difficulties not directly related to transport such as poor health or lack of finances.


To ascertain peoples feelings of trust in others, and in some major institutions, they were asked how strongly they agreed or disagreed with the following statements, giving a rating on a 5-point scale:

  • that most people can be trusted?
  • that the healthcare system can be trusted?
  • that police can be trusted?
  • that the justice system can be trusted?

The response categories in the five point scale were: 'strongly agree', 'somewhat agree', 'neither agree nor disagree', 'somewhat disagree' and 'strongly disagree'.

The phrase 'most people' is based on the respondent's interpretation - there is no specific definition. The idea is whether people can go about their affairs confidently, expecting that others will generally deal fairly with them and act in the ways normally expected in our society.

Unemployment rate

The unemployment rate for any group is the number of unemployed persons in that group expressed as a percentage of the labour force (i.e. employed persons plus unemployed persons) in the same group.

Unpaid assistance to persons living outside the household

Provided any of the following types of help to persons living outside the household:

  • domestic work, home maintenance or gardening
  • providing transport or running errands
  • any unpaid child care
  • any teaching, coaching or practical advice
  • providing any emotional support
  • any other help.

Victim of actual or attempted break-in

A person who had experienced a break-in or attempted break-in at any place they had lived in the last 12 months. Break-ins to homes, garages or sheds are included. However, break-ins to cars or gardens are excluded.

Victim of physical or threatened violence

A person who in the last 12 months had physical force or violence used against them or threatened in person to be used against them. It includes violence or threats made by persons known to the respondent.

Voluntary work

The provision of unpaid help willingly undertaken in the form of time, service or skills, to an organisation or group, excluding work done overseas. The following forms of unpaid work are not strictly voluntary and have been excluded:

  • taking part in Community Work under Mutual Obligation
  • work experience or an unpaid work trial
  • a community service order
  • a student placement
  • emergency work during an industrial dispute.

Working conditions allowing for family/community responsibilities

Refers to whether a person has access to working conditions allowing for family or community responsibilities such as carer's leave, flexible working hours or working from home arrangements.

Quality declaration

Institutional environment

For information on the institutional environment of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), including the legislative obligations of the ABS, financing and governance arrangements, and mechanisms for scrutiny of ABS operations, please see ABS Institutional Environment.


The 2014 General Social Survey (GSS) provides information on a range of demographic, social and economic indicators, including: personal and household characteristics; geography; language; cultural activities; social networks and support; health and disability; discrimination; education; employment; financial stress and resilience; income; transport; volunteer work; personal safety; sports participation; internet use; crime and housing; and sexual orientation. Information from the GSS contributes to existing data on the Australian population and the formulation of government policies and legislation.

The GSS provides information to analyse differences in outcomes and well-being indicators for different populations who may be more vulnerable to disadvantage, such as people with a mental health condition, people with a disability, recent migrants, sole parent families and lone person households.

In the 2014 GSS, the survey scope was increased to include sample from the 15 to 17 year age group to aid better understanding of the outcomes for this population group.

The GSS is conducted every four years, with the first survey conducted in 2002.


Data from the survey are released approximately twelve months after they have been collected.


Estimates from the GSS are subject to sampling and non-sampling errors. Information on sampling and non-sampling errors is provided in the Technical Note.

The GSS was designed to produce reliable estimates at the national level and for each state and territory. However, in the 2014 GSS, people from the lowest socio-economic areas had a higher probability of being selected in the sample in order to provide quality estimates representing people in disadvantaged areas. An additional socio-economic area benchmark was therefore incorporated into the weighting process.

Only estimates (numbers and proportions) with RSEs less than 25% are considered sufficiently reliable for most purposes. Estimates with RSEs between 25% and 50% have been included and are annotated to indicate they are subject to high sample variability and should be used with caution. In addition, estimates with RSEs greater than 50% have also been included and annotated to indicate they are considered too unreliable for general use.


Each cycle of the GSS collects comparable information to allow for analysis of changes over time.

However, comparisons of the 2014 GSS data, with data from previous GSS iterations, should only be made using proportions (%), not estimates ('000). The Estimated Resident Population estimates have been revised for the last 20 years. However, the previous GSS iterations have not been revised. Consequentially, estimates of particular populations in the 2014 GSS may be lower than those published in previous iterations.

After each Census, population estimates are normally revised back five years to the previous Census year. As announced in the June 2012 issue of Australian Demographic Statistics (cat. no. 3101.0), intercensal error between the 2006 and 2011 Censuses was larger than normal due to improved methodologies used in the 2011 Census Post Enumeration Survey. The intercensal error analysis indicated that previous population estimates for the base Census years were over-counted. An indicative estimate of the size of the over-count is that there should have been 240,000 fewer people at June 2006, 130,000 fewer in 2001 and 70,000 fewer in 1996. As a result, Estimated Resident Population estimates have been revised for the last 20 years rather than the usual five.

The ABS seeks to maximise consistency and comparability over time by minimising changes to the survey. Sound survey practice, however, requires ongoing development and maintenance to maintain the integrity of the data and the efficiency of the collection.

The 2014 GSS includes additional information on discrimination, sexual orientation, long term health conditions and education qualification of parents. More detailed information on volunteering was also included to allow comparison with the 2006 GSS volunteering data.

The GSS provides baseline information to compare with other surveys that collect data on topics in greater depth, and provides data which aligns with the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS) to provide comparison between the populations.


Detailed information on the terminology, classifications and other technical aspects associated with the GSS can be found in the Explanatory Notes, Technical Notes and Glossary included with this release.


Tabulated data and associated RSEs are available in Excel spreadsheets which can be accessed from the Data downloads section.

It is expected that a TableBuilder and an expanded confidentialised unit record file (CURF) will be produced from the GSS, subject to the approval of the Australian Statistician. The expanded CURF will be available via Remote Access Data Laboratory (RADL) and ABS Data Laboratory (ABSDL), and the TableBuilder will be accessible via the ABS website, using a secure log-on portal. For further details, refer to the Microdata Entry Page on the ABS website. It is expected that the TableBuilder and expanded CURF will be available in September 2015.

Data are also available on request. Note that detailed data can be subject to high relative standard errors which in some cases may result in data being confidentialised. A data item list is available from the Data downloads section.

For further information about these or related statistics, contact the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070, or email The ABS Privacy Policy outlines how the ABS will handle any personal information that you provide to us.


Show all

ABSAustralian Bureau of Statistics
ACTAustralian Capital Territory
ASGSAustralian Statistical Geography Standard
CAIcomputer assisted interviewing
CURFconfidentialised unit record file
ERPestimated resident population
GSSGeneral Social Survey
nfdnot further defined
NSWNew South Wales
NTNorthern Territory
OECDOrganisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
RADLRemote Access Data Laboratory
RSErelative standard error
SASouth Australia
SEstandard error
SEIFASocio-Economic Indexes for Areas
THMTransitional Housing Management
WAWestern Australia
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