Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey methodology

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Reference period
October 2020

Explanatory notes


This publication presents results from the Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey. This is the third monthly survey, conducted throughout Australia between 16 October and 26 October 2020.

This series is designed to provide insight into how the social and economic situation is changing for Australian households, with focus placed on how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted on lifestyle and wellbeing. It follows on from the previous series of eight fortnightly surveys between 1 April to 10 July 2020 which captured the experiences of Australian households during the first four months of the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia.

The results for all past publications can be accessed by selecting ‘View all releases’ in the header of this publication. Some topics have been repeated in both the fortnightly and monthly surveys. Where relevant, comparisons are made based on the weighted representative data for both surveys.

This publication forms part of a suite of additional products that the ABS produced 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

A sample of over 4,900 private dwellings was selected to obtain responses from 1,561 fully responding dwellings for the first cycle in August. This defined the longitudinal panel for the remainder of the subsequent surveys. The person (aged 18 years or over) who completed household details became the person selected for the panel. Their participation in the survey is voluntary and respondents can opt out at any point. In October, 1,394 people responded to the survey which is a response rate of 91.1% from the original 1,561 panel.

The panel selection methodology was a random sample. The coverage of selections included all Australian geographies (excluding very remote locations) to ensure national estimates could be produced.

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

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

Data collection

Information was gathered via online forms or telephone interviews. Interviews were conducted with any responsible person aged 18 years and over who was a usual resident of the selected household.

The topics in the October 2020 survey include:

  • domestic and international travel intentions
  • experience with COVID-19 symptoms and health precautions
  • individual and household stressors
  • household financial arrangements and payment relief
  • early access to superannuation
  • participation in selected activities
  • job status.

Household living arrangements

Household living arrangements are used to describe the living arrangements of each person within the household. The categories are not comparable to those found in classifications related to Family or Household composition.

For the purpose of this survey, people who live in the household full-time or part-time, whether they are related or not, are included. Dependants who are 18 years or older are regarded as adults, and visitors to the household are excluded.

Each category refers to private dwellings containing:

  • Lone person - A person 18 years or older who lives in the household on their own.
  • Family with children - A household with one or more children (under the age of 18 years) usually resident in the same household. The family may include any number of other related or unrelated individuals usually resident in the household.
  • Family without children - A family based on two persons who are spouses or partners, who are usually resident in the same household and have no children under 18 years usually resident in the same household. The family may include any number of other related or unrelated individuals usually resident in the household.

There were households consisting of two or more unrelated people where all persons are aged 18 years or over, however the numbers were too small to publish.

Country of birth and Year of arrival

The survey collected information from respondents about their Country of birth and Year of arrival.

  • Country of birth identifies the country in which a person was born. It can be used to indicate whether or not a person is an immigrant and the country group to which they belong. It may be used with a range of other variables to measure the cultural and ethnic composition of the Australian population.
  • Year of Arrival in Australia collects the year in which a person, born in another country, first arrived in Australia with the intention of living here for one year or more. Data related to Year of Arrival in Australia can be used in conjunction with variables such as Country of Birth to analyse settlement patterns for various migrant groups.

For the purpose of this survey, Country of birth and Year of arrival information have been used in conjunction to create the following categories:

  • Born in Australia
  • Born overseas (arrived last ten years)
  • Born overseas (arrived more than ten years ago)

For more information see the Country of Birth Standard, 2016 (cat. no. 1200.0.55.004) and the Year of Arrival Standard, 2014, Version 1.5 (cat. no. 1200.0.55.007).


Due to the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Government announced on 22 March 2020 that affected individuals would be able to apply for early release of their superannuation.

The temporary early release of superannuation (from mid-April) allows eligible individuals financially affected by COVID-19 to access up to $10,000 in superannuation in 2019-20 and a further $10,000 in 2020-21.

Citizens or permanent residents of Australia or New Zealand are eligible to apply if they meet at least one of the following conditions:

  • they are unemployed
  • they are eligible to receive a job seeker payment, youth allowance for jobseekers, parenting payment (which includes the single and partnered payments), special benefit or farm household allowance
  • on or after 1 January 2020: they were made redundant; or working hours were reduced by 20 per cent or more; or for sole traders - their business was suspended or there was a reduction in turnover of 20 per cent or more.

Eligible temporary visa holders were also able to apply for a single release of $10,000 before 1 July 2020. Temporary residents are not eligible to apply for early release of their superannuation in 2020–21.

More information can be found at the Australian Treasury COVID-19 Economic Response - Early access to superannuation and Australian Taxation Office COVID-19 early release of super pages.

Tenure type

The survey collected information from respondents about tenure type of the household.

Tenure type is defined as the nature of a household's legal right to occupy the dwelling in which the household members reside. Households are classified to one of the following categories:

  • Owner without a mortgage – includes households who own the property in which they usually reside and have no outstanding mortgages or loans secured against the dwelling.
  • Owner with a mortgage - includes households who own the property in which they usually reside and have any outstanding mortgages or loans secured against the dwelling.
  • Renter – includes households who pay rent to reside in the dwelling, even if this rent is subsidised or partly refunded.

For more information see the Survey of Income and Housing, User Guide, 6553.0.

Household and personal stressors

The survey collected information from respondents about whether they or other persons in their household had experienced personal, housing or financial stressors due to the impact of COVID-19. Stressors are events or conditions that occur in a person's life that may adversely impact on the individual's or their family's health or wellbeing

Respondents were asked simple questions about their experiences, rather than calculations of economic stress based on financial and housing costs data captured in the ABS Survey of Income and Housing (see Survey of Income and Housing, User Guide, 6553.0).

Current job status

The survey collected information about the current job status of all respondents, and changes to their job situation since the last 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 the Labour Force Survey questionnaire, available from the Collection method chapter in the Labour force, Australia methodology publication). 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 with the Data downloads. The spreadsheets present tables of proportions and their corresponding MoE. Totals may vary in some tables as some respondents did not provide an answer to all of the questions.


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.


The ABS Privacy Policy outlines how the ABS will handle any personal information that you provide to the ABS.

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