Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey methodology

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Reference period
September 2020

Explanatory notes


This publication presents results from the Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey. This is the second monthly survey, conducted throughout Australia between 11 September and 21 September 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 September, 1,445 people responded to the survey which is a response rate of 92.6% 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 September survey include:

  • changes in the frequency of activities
  • health precautions taken due to COVID-19
  • sources of health information and advice on COVID-19
  • household finances and actions taken to relieve financial stress
  • expected changes in spending patterns
  • receipt and use of stimulus payments
  • school and child care arrangements
  • job status (including sick leave availability and search for employment).

For a full list of data items collected, refer to the Data Item List available with the Data downloads.

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.

Stimulus payments

The Commonwealth Government is providing eligible individuals with stimulus payments during this COVID-19 pandemic. The survey only asked about payments to individuals, not business owners, and money they are currently receiving, not what they may have received in the past or are still expecting to receive. This included the $550 Coronavirus Supplement and the $1,500 JobKeeper Payment.

Coronavirus Supplement: A supplement of $550 per fortnight paid to income support recipients. This has been payable from 27 April to recipients of:

  • JobSeeker Payment (formerly known as Newstart Allowance)
  • Youth Allowance
  • Sickness Allowance
  • ABSTUDY (Living Allowance)
  • Austudy
  • Parenting Payment
  • Partner Allowance
  • Widow Allowance
  • Farm Household Allowance
  • Special Benefit.

More information can be found at the Department of Social Services Coronavirus (COVID-19) information and support page.

JobKeeper Payment: Affected employers and sole traders are able to claim $1,500 per fortnight per eligible employee from 30 March 2020.

Eligible employees are those who are currently employed by an eligible employer, including those who were stood down or re-hired, and:

  • were a permanent or part-time employee at 1 March, OR
  • were a long-term casual employee (at least 12 months) and not a permanent employee of another business at 1 March. 

Sole traders are able to claim the JobKeeper Payment providing they satisfy certain eligibility requirements.

The survey only asked about the $1,500 JobKeeper Payment received by eligible individuals aged 18 years and over.

More information can be found at the Australian Taxation Office JobKeeper Payment page.

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 Questionnaires Used in the Labour Force Survey). 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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