An update on the annual re-weighting of the Australian CPI and living cost indexes

Annual update on re-weighting of the Australian Consumer Price Index (CPI) and Selected Living Cost Indexes (SLCIs)

Release date and time

Main features

Preface

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has maintained a program of periodic reviews of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and Selected Living Cost Indexes (SLCIs) every six years, to ensure that they continue to meet community needs. The ABS conducted the most recent of these reviews in December quarter 2017 (ABS, 2017b).

In 2016, as part of the program to enhance the Australian CPI (ABS, 2015b), the ABS investigated the frequency of the CPI and SLCIs expenditure class (EC) weight updates. A feasibility study was conducted using Household Final Consumption Expenditure (HFCE) data from the National Accounts to annually update the CPI EC weights. The findings from this work showed that more frequent weight updates using HFCE data reduces substitution bias in the Australian CPI (ABS, 2016).

Following extensive consultation with key stakeholders, as well as peer review of methods and data sources by Prices and National Accounts experts, the ABS announced stakeholder support for the annual re-weight of the CPI and the intention to implement these new methods and data sources from the December quarter 2018.

The consultation also identified further topics for ABS investigation. These topics included: methods to more frequently re-weight the SLCIs; and providing methodological clarity for the calculation of CPI capital city weights in between the Household Expenditure Survey (HES) years (ABS, 2017a).

The ABS has now completed these investigations. The ABS is now in a position to update users of the CPI and SLCIs on the following:

  • Annual re-weighting of the SLCIs using HFCE data.
  • Methods to calculate the capital city EC weights for the inter-HES years.


The methods presented in this paper will be implemented in the December quarter 2018 for both the SLCIs and the CPI.

User and stakeholder comments and feedback relating to this paper are welcome. Please contact prices.statistics@abs.gov.au by Friday 28th September 2018 or write to:

Mr Leigh Merrington
Director
Economic Research Section
Australian Bureau of Statistics
PO Box 10
Belconnen ACT 2617

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

Introduction

1.1 As part of the Enhancing Australia's CPI work program (ABS, 2015b), the ABS has reviewed data sources available to re-weight the CPI more frequently. Annually available Household Final Consumption Expenditure (HFCE) data from the National Accounts enables updating of the CPI and SLCIs expenditure class (EC) weights on an annual basis.

1.2 In 2016, the ABS proposed annually re-weighting the Australian CPI using HFCE data from the Australian National Accounts (ABS, 2016). The research presented gave empirical support for higher frequency re-weighting of the CPI to reduce substitution bias. The proposal to annually re-weight the CPI using HFCE data ensures greater coherence across macroeconomic statistics and aligns the ABS with international standards.

1.3 Following the release of the 2016 paper, the ABS undertook an extensive stakeholder engagement program (including the Reserve Bank of Australia, Department of Social Services, Department of Finance, Commonwealth and State Treasuries), a call for public submissions, and an external review of methods and data sources by price index and National Accounts experts.

1.4 Stakeholders and public submissions were supportive of the ABS proposal to annually re-weight the Australian CPI. Consultation with key stakeholders also raised additional topics for further ABS research. These topics included: methods and data sources to more frequently re-weight the SLCIs; and providing methodological clarity for the calculation of capital city weights in the inter-HES years. This paper presents concepts and methods (section 2), and empirical results (section 3).

1.5 The methods presented in this paper will be implemented in the December quarter 2018 for both the SLCIs and the CPI.

Utilising HFCE data for annual re-weighting

Background

2.1 HES data provides weighting information for CPI and SLCI sub-populations, and will continue to be the principal data source for the CPI and SLCIs weights when they are updated for the reference period of the survey. The CPI population subgroups are the eight capital cities; the SLCI subgroups are Employee, Aged pensioner, Other government transfer recipients, and Self-funded retiree Households, as a weighted average of the eight capital cities. The next HES is scheduled to be conducted in 2021-22. Until then, the ABS will use HFCE data to annually re-weight the CPI and SLCIs. ABS research shows that annually re-weighting reduces the upward substitution bias that can emerge when expenditure weights are held fixed across a number of years.

2.2 Methods to align HFCE data to the CPI scope and concepts are outlined in ABS (2016), along with the approach to produce an annually re-weighted CPI. Since then, the ABS has further investigated two related topics to:
(a) annually re-weighting the SLCIs; and
(b) deriving capital city expenditure weights in inter-HES years.

Producing annual weights for the SLCIs

2.3 The current expenditure weights for the SLCIs are derived from the HES. Weights for four household types are produced, based on the principal source of household income.

2.4 The SLCIs sub-populations are:
(a) Employee households - those households whose principal source of income is from wages and salaries;
(b) Age pensioner households - those households whose principal source of income is the age pension or veterans affairs pension;
(c) Other government transfer recipient households - those households whose principal source of income is a government pension or benefit other than the age pension or veterans affairs pension; and
(d) Self-funded retiree households - those households whose principal source of income is superannuation or property income and where the HES defined reference person is 'retired' (not in the labour force and over 55 years of age).

2.5 As is the case for the CPI, the SLCIs will be enhanced by more frequent weight updates. The key benefits from annually re-weighting the SLCIs include:
(a) maintaining coherence between the CPI and the SLCIs; and
(b) reducing substitution bias.

2.6 Annual re-weighting of the SLCIs utilising HFCE data requires a number of challenges to be resolved. The most significant challenge is that HFCE data for the sub-population is not available.

2.7 Following ABS investigations, the approach to annually re-weighting the SLCIs can be summarised as follows:
(a) Align HFCE data with the scope and classifications of the SLCIs at a detailed level.
This requires removal of some components of HFCE (e.g. expenditure by Non Profit Institutions Serving Households (NPISH)) to align with the SLCIs, and concordance of HFCE data to the SLCIs and to the CPI EC classification (ABS, 2016). This provides HFCE data for 2015-16 and 2016-17 for each EC of the SLCIs and CPI (with the exception of the mortgage interest EC in the SLCIs sub-populations, which is discussed in 2.9).
(b) Apply the movements in HFCE aligned data between 2015-16 and 2016-17 for each EC to update the expenditure weights (footnote 1) for the SLCIs sub-populations.

2.8 This approach assumes that annual movements in HFCE aligned data capture annual changes in expenditure in response to relative price changes or preferences across the four sub-populations. For example, if the relative price of beef increases, it is assumed that the four household sub-populations groups adjust their level of consumption and substitute to, for example, chicken or lamb, in a similar manner.

Special case - Housing (New dwelling purchase and Mortgage interest charges ECs)

2.9 As part of these investigations, the ABS addressed unique conceptual differences between the CPI and SLCIs. Specifically, within the Housing group, the New dwelling purchase by owner-occupiers EC measured in the CPI is based on the acquisitions approach, whereas the mortgage interest charges EC measured in the SLCIs is based on the outlays approach, see paragraph 3.5 (ABS, 2017b). The ABS has investigated this conceptual difference and determined that the scope and coverage of the dwelling interest charges from the household interest data in the Australian National Accounts (ABS, 2017c) aligns with the SLCIs mortgage interest charges EC. Therefore, National Accounts data will also be used to re-weight Mortgage interest charges in the SLCIs.

2.10 Empirical results of this methodology are summarised in section 3 of this paper.

Producing annual weights for the CPI capital city indexes

2.11 National Accounts HFCE data is compiled at the national level (ABS, 2015a). This poses a challenge to derive expenditure weights for the individual capital cities. The ABS will address this challenge by:
(a) Applying the movements in HFCE aligned data for each EC to update the weighted eight capital cities CPI.
(b) Deriving HES based proportions for each capital city EC, using HES data of expenditure in each capital city to the weighted eight capital cities index for each EC.
(c) Applying these capital city proportions for each EC in (b), to the updated weighted eight capital cities index in (a) to produce capital city expenditure weights for each EC (footnote 2).

2.12 This approach assumes the following:
(a) no relative change in the expenditure proportions of capital city households relative to the rest of state households; this is implicit in applying National HFCE aligned data to the weighted eight capital cities; and
(b) for each capital city, ratios (in terms of underlying quantities) by EC are fixed for 6 years. This fixes the relative proportion of expenditure on, for example, milk by Sydney households relative to total milk expenditure by all capital cities.

The ABS will continue to monitor and test these assumptions each year. Where required, adjustments to capital city weights will occur by utilising alternative data and qualitative information to incorporate significant changes that apply to specific capital cities (e.g. a significant downturn in the housing market in one capital city).

1 Expenditure weights derived from the HES (in this case, HES 2015–16).
2 A detailed numerical example demonstrating this approach is presented in Appendix 2.

Empirical results

3.1 In theory, annually re-weighting the CPI and SLCIs reduces substitution bias. To test this theory, this section presents empirical results that compare: (a) the published SLCIs and CPI eight capital city indexes which have weights updated every 6 years with (b) annually re-weighted SLCIs and the CPI capital city indexes.

3.2 Empirical analysis of the SLCIs sub-population indexes shows that the annually re-weighted indexes record lower rates of growth over the analysis period (September 2011- September 2015); see table 1 below.

3.3 The SLCIs results are consistent with the findings in ABS (2016) that more frequent (annual) weight updates reduces substitution bias in the CPI. Table 1 shows that the cumulative increase in the price index is lower when weights are updated more frequently.

Table 1 cumulative change - 2011-2015 (a)

Sub-populationAll groups (Annual HFCE weights) (%)All groups (Published) (%)
Employee
4.0
4.2
Age pensioner
6.9
7.0
Other government transfer recipient
7.3
7.4
Self-funded retiree
7.0
7.1
PBLCI(b)
7.1
7.2
a. The SLCIs sub-populations have undergone significant enhancements since introduction in June 2000. The analysis is limited to this more recent period for comparability.
b. Pensioner and Beneficiary Living Cost Index (PBLCI) is an aggregation of Age pensioner and Other government transfer recipient households.
 

3.4 Empirical analysis of the eight capital city indexes, and the weighted average index also shows that the annually re-weighted indexes record lower rates of growth over the analysis period (September 2005 - September 2015); see table 2 below. Substitution bias is reduced for all the capital cities and the weighted average index.

Table 2 cumulative change - 2005-2015 (a)

Capital cityAll groups (Annually HFCE weights) (%)All groups CPI (%)
Sydney
28.4
29.8
Melbourne
27.4
28.6
Brisbane
31.3
33.1
Adelaide
27.3
28.6
Perth
30.7
31.9
Hobart
24.6
25.7
Darwin
32.0
33.4
Canberra
26.4
27.7
Weighted eight capital cities
28.5
30.1
a. The analysis period maintains consistency with previous investigations (ABS, 2016).
 

3.5 The empirical results from this analysis support the proposed methods for the weight update of the SLCIs and the capital cities CPIs in the inter-HES years.

Conclusion

4.1 The “Enhancing Australia's CPI” program has provided an opportunity for the ABS to re-examine the frequency of updates to the CPI and SLCIs expenditure weights.

4.2 The ABS has conducted detailed investigations into increasing the frequency of EC weights updates by using HFCE data in the inter-HES years for both the CPI and SLCIs. These investigations address the various challenges in using HFCE data for these purposes.

4.3 The ABS has now completed further investigations, and provided empirical results that support the annual re-weight of the CPI and SLCIs in the inter-HES years using HFCE.

4.4 The ABS will update the Australian CPI and SLCIs expenditure weights using HFCE data in the inter-HES years, starting December quarter 2018.

4.5 User and stakeholder comments or feedback relating to this publication are welcome, and can be directed to details provided in the Preface section.

Appendix 1 - enhancements

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Recent history of enhancements to the Australian CPI

PublicationPurpose
6401.0.60.001 - Enhancing the Australian CPI: A roadmap, August 2015To introduce the ABS Prices Branch research program to enhance the Australian CPI, identify, and highlight key areas raised by users during the 16th Series review consultation.
 Outline research work to examine methods and approaches to enhance the Australian CPI.
6401.0.60.002 - Information Paper: Increasing the Frequency of CPI Expenditure Class Weight Updates, July 2016To provide detailed investigations and empirical results on the feasibility of using the Household Final Consumption Expenditure (HFCE) data to update the Australia's CPI EC weights annually. It identifies challenges and various approaches to address these challenges.
 It highlights areas for feedback and comments from stakeholders and the public.
6401.0.60.003 - Information Paper: Making Greater Use of Transactions Data to compile the Consumer Price Index, November 2016To investigate, assess and present various multilateral methods for the compilation of transactions data in the Australian CPI.
6401.0.60.004 - Information Paper: An Implementation Plan to Maximise the use of Transactions Data in the CPI, June 2017To provide an implementation plan for the introduction of multilateral method into the CPI. The paper explains the choice of method and aggregation structure.
6401.0.60.005 - Information Paper: An Implementation Plan to Annually Re-weight the Australian CPI, 2017To highlight stakeholder and public submissions in support of the ABS to annually re-weight the Australian CPI.
 Address areas raised by key stakeholders for the ABS to undertake additional research.
ABS Chief Economist Series Discussion Paper - Towards an Australian Monthly CPI, June 2018To examine the feasibility of producing a monthly CPI and outline the challenges under investigation in the development phase of the project, and propose an implementation plan.
6401.0.60.006 - Information Paper: An Update on the Annual Re-weighting of the Australian CPI and Living Cost Indexes, 2018For a second round of consultation, and to present empirical results on the approach for annual SLCIs re-weight and capital city re-weight in the inter-HES years.
 It revisits ABS’ position to maintain the quality of the SLCIs, and to re-weight the SLCIs annually using HFCE in the inter-HES years, in line with the CPI.

Appendix 2 - expenditure weights

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Capital city expenditure weights in the inter-HES years (extract from ABS cat. no. 6401.0.60.002)


A2.1 To illustrate the application, an example is included below with reference to September quarter 2011 and September quarter 2012. Table 1 shows hypothetical expenditure aggregates of a simplified economy (i.e. three products and city) following the HES. The capital city expenditure aggregates are then aggregated to derive a new set of expenditure aggregates used for the total of the three capitals.

Table 1 September 2011 link period expenditure aggregates (millions)

 SydneyMelbourneBrisbaneTotal (three capitals)
Milk EC
40.00
35.00
25.00
100.00
Bread EC
60.00
30.00
30.00
120.00
Vegetables EC
30.00
30.00
30.00
90.00
Total
130.00
95.00
85.00
310.00

A2.2 The expenditure aggregates in Table 1 are used in the compilation of the CPI using the Lowe index formula. In September 2012, suppose prices for each capital city have moved dynamically over the past twelve months which produced the following four quarter average of expenditure aggregates in Table 2.

Table 2 average expenditure aggregates for December 2011 to September 2012 (millions)

 SydneyMelbourneBrisbaneTotal (three capitals)
Milk EC
48.00
36.75
25.50
110.25
Bread EC
66.00
31.50
31.20
128.70
Vegetables EC
32.10
30.00
30.00
92.10
Total
146.10
98.25
86.70
331.05

A2.3 Suppose National HFCE data is available and indicates that the following changes in expenditure have occurred between September 2011 and September 2012: milk (+3.0%), bread (-5.0%) and vegetables (+7.0%). These estimates are used to derive new link period expenditure aggregates for each EC at the weighted three capitals level as shown in Table 3.

Table 3 weighted three capital city link period expenditure aggregates

 September 2011September 2012
Milk EC
100.00
103.00
Bread EC
120.00
114.00
Vegetables EC
90.00
96.30
Total
310.00
313.30

A2.4 Once new link period expenditure aggregates are derived at the weighted three capital city level, they are distributed across each EC in a manner that preserves each capital city's contribution to the weighted three capital aggregate for the preceding four quarters. The new link period expenditure aggregates for September 2012 are shown below in Table 4. For example, the value of $44.84 million for milk in Sydney is derived by multiplying the proportional expenditure for Sydney in Table 2 (48/110.25) by the new link period expenditure aggregate for milk ($103 million). The expenditure aggregates in Table 4 form link period expenditure aggregates from which future period-to-period price change can be derived.

Table 4 September 2012 link period expenditure aggregates (millions)

 SydneyMelbourneBrisbaneTotal (three capitals)
Milk EC
44.84
34.33
23.82
103.00
Bread EC
58.46
27.90
27.64
114.00
Vegetables EC
33.56
31.37
31.37
96.30
Total
136.87
93.60
82.83
313.30

A2.5 This approach can be generalised and denoted as follows:

\(E A_{i 8 c a p s}^{*}=E A_{i 8 c a p s} \times\left(\frac{H F C E_{i}^{t}}{H F C E_{i}^{t-1}}\right)\)

Step 2: Pro-rate weighted eight capital expenditure aggregates across capital cities.

\(E C_{i j}=\frac{E A_{i j}}{\sum_{j=1}^{8} E A_{i j}} \times E A_{i 8 c a p s}^{*}\)

Where:

\(E A_{i 8 c a p s} =\) previous weighted eight capitals link period expenditure aggregates

\(E A_{i 8 c a p s}^{*}=\) new weighted eight capitals link period expenditure aggregates adjusted using HFCE 

\(\mathrm{HFCE}_{i}^{t-1}\ = \) HFCE for the previous year for EC \(i\)

\(\mathrm{HFCE}_{i}^{t}= \) HFCE for the current year for EC \(i\)

\(E A_{i j}=\) four quarter (DQ,MQ,JQ SQ) average of EC \(i\) and capital city \(j\) updated expenditure aggregate

\(E C_{i j}= \)  link period expenditure aggregate for EC \(i\) and capital city \(j\).

Bibliography

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Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2010, Outcome of the 16th Series Australian Consumer Price Index Review, Dec 2010, cat. no. 6469.0, ABS, Canberra.

ABS 2015a, Australian System of National Accounts: Concepts, Sources and Methods, 2015, cat. no. 5216.0, ABS, Canberra.

ABS 2015b, Enhancing the Australian CPI: A roadmap, Aug 2015, cat. no. 6401.0.60.001, ABS, Canberra.

ABS 2016, Information Paper: Increasing the Frequency of CPI Expenditure Class Weight Updates, July 2016, cat. no. 6401.0.60.002, ABS, Canberra.

ABS 2017a, Information Paper: An Implementation Plan to Annually Re-weight the Australian CPI, 2017, cat. no. 6401.0.60.005, ABS, Canberra.

ABS 2017b, Information Paper: Introduction of the 17th Series Australian Consumer Price Index, 2017, cat. no. 6470.0.55.001, ABS, Canberra.

ABS 2017c, Australian System of National Accounts, 2016–17, cat. no. 5204.0, ABS, Canberra.

ABS 2018, Consumer Price Index: Concepts, Sources and Methods, 2017, cat. no. 6461.0, ABS, Canberra.

International Labour Office 2004, Consumer price index manual: theory and practice, International Labour Office, Geneva. Available at: http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---dgreports/---stat/documents/presentation/wcms_331153.pdf

Abbreviations

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ABSAustralian Bureau of Statistics
CPIConsumer Price Index
ECExpenditure Class
HESHousehold Expenditure Survey
HFCEhousehold final consumption expenditure
ILOInternational Labour Organization
NPISHnon-profit institutions serving households
NSONational Statistical Office
PBLCIPensioner and Beneficiary Living Cost Index
SLCISelected Living Cost Index

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 6401.0.60.006.