Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey methodology

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Reference period
26-29 May 2020

Explanatory notes


This publication presents results from the fifth Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey, conducted throughout Australia between 26 May and 29 May 2020.

It is the fifth survey in a new series, designed to provide a quick snapshot about how people in Australian households are faring in response to the changing social and economic environment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Results from the earlier Household Impacts of COVID-19 Surveys can be found using the links below:

The fifth survey collected data about changes to job situation, education and skills development, use of time (including the impact of changes in child care requirements), flu vaccinations, health precautions taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and the impact on activities of relaxed restrictions. This information is critical to informing the government response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia.

More Household Impacts of COVID-19 Surveys focusing on the real-time impacts of COVID-19 are in development. These will include new topics and repeat topics from previous cycles to measure changes over time. People who took part in the first Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey will be asked to respond to the upcoming surveys to continue to build on the findings.

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

For more information refer to the Measuring the impacts of COVID-19 update.

Sample/panel design and estimation

The panel for the survey originally comprised 1,180 private dwellings. The panel was sourced from a sample of approximately 3,000 households who had completed an on-line or telephone interview in late February/early March 2020. The interview collected information about basic demographic characteristics of people living in the household. Primarily, the person (aged 18 years or over) who completed those household details became the person selected for the survey. Their participation in the survey was voluntary and respondents could opt out at any point.

Of the 1,180 dwellings selected in the first survey, there were 22 dwellings identified as sample loss, leaving 1,158 dwellings. Of these, 1,059 adequately completed the first questionnaire, achieving an overall panel response rate of 91.5%. This defined the longitudinal panel for the remainder of the upcoming surveys. For this fifth survey, 999 adequately completed the survey which is an 86.3% response rate from the original 1,158 panel. As with each subsequent survey, there were a small number of households identified as full refusals or sample loss, who will not be contacted for future cycles of the survey. There are now 66 refusals in total across all of the cycles.

Although the panel selection methodology was not strictly a random sample, the coverage of selections included all Australian geographies (excluding very remote locations) to ensure national estimates could be produced.

Furthermore, this panel data was weight adjusted using the ABS Estimated Residential Population (ERP) as at the end of March 2020. Benchmarks comprised of Age, Sex, and Geographic variables. In addition, adjustments were made based on the number of persons living in household and the education level of the selected person.

Due to the changes in non-response households across the survey cycles, each survey sample is re-weighted in order to maintain consistent full population estimates across the surveys.

Data collection

Telephone interviews were conducted with one randomly selected person aged 18 years and over who was a usual resident of the selected household.

Information was collected electronically by specially trained ABS interviewers using a Computer Assisted Interview (CAI) instrument.

The topics covered in the fifth Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey include:

  • activity after relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions
  • flu vaccinations
  • health precautions taken in response to COVID-19
  • time spent on activities (including activities at the same time as caring for children)
  • job status
  • education and skills development.

For a full list of data items collected, refer to the Data Item List available for download from the Data downloads section.

Current job status

The survey collected information about the current job status of all respondents, and changes to their job situation in the two weeks prior to survey. The survey was designed to provide a snapshot of the changes being experienced by Australians due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Respondents were asked simple questions about changes to their job situation, rather than the full suite of employment-related questions included in the ABS' Labour Force Survey (see Questionnaires Used in the Labour Force Survey (cat. no. 6232.0)). The results of this survey are, therefore, not directly comparable to Australia’s official labour force measures.

For more information about measuring the labour market impacts of COVID-19 please see the educational piece Measuring the Labour Market impacts of COVID-19.

Margin of error

Margin of Error (MoE) describes the distance from the population value that the sample estimate is likely to be within, and is specified at a given level of confidence. MoEs presented in this publication are at the 95% confidence level. This means that there are 19 chances in 20 that the estimate will differ by less than the specified MoE from the population value (the figure obtained if all in-scope dwellings had been enumerated).


The Data Cubes, containing all tables for this publication in Excel spreadsheet format, are available from the Data downloads section. The spreadsheets present tables of proportions and their corresponding MoE.


The Census and Statistics Act 1905 provides the authority for the ABS to collect statistical information, and requires that statistical output shall not be published or disseminated in a manner that is likely to enable the identification of a particular person or organisation. This requirement means that the ABS must take care and make assurances that any statistical information about individual respondents cannot be derived from published data.


The ABS would like to thank all participants for their involvement in the survey. The information collected is critical to informing the government response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia.

ABS surveys draw extensively on information provided by individuals, businesses, governments and other organisations. Their continued cooperation is very much appreciated and 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.


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