This paper outlines the key underlying concepts and questions used in the Labour Force Survey (LFS) component of the Monthly Population Survey (MPS), and describes recent changes made to the LFS questionnaire. A copy of the current questionnaire, introduced in July 2014, is available in the Survey material section.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has been conducting the LFS since November 1960. The survey was conducted quarterly, in February, May, August and November, from 1960 to 1977. The survey was initially restricted to state capital cities only, with quarterly national surveys commencing in February 1964. The national survey has been conducted on a monthly basis since February 1978.
Labour Force Survey data
Estimates from the LFS of the number of employed and unemployed people, the unemployment rate, the labour force participation rate and the employment to population ratio are released each month. These estimates determine:
- the rate of change in the level of employment which is a key indicator of the pace of economic growth in Australia;
- the unemployment rate (the proportion of the labour force who are unemployed) which is the main measure of the unutilised labour force; and
- the participation rate (the proportion of the population in the labour force) which reflects changes in total available labour supply.
In 2015 another important aspect of unutilised labour, underemployment, will commence being released monthly.
The LFS also collects a range of other information about the population. For employed people, information is collected on hours worked and whether they work full-time or part-time, whether they want and are available to work more hours, and their industry, occupation and status in employment. For people who are currently unemployed, the survey collects information about whether they are looking for a full-time or part-time job, how long they have been looking, and the characteristics of their last job (industry, occupation and reasons for leaving). Estimates of the labour force characteristics of families are also produced from the LFS (Footnote 1).
The Household form is also a component of the MPS. The Household form collects personal characteristics of each member of the household. These characteristics include sex, age, marital status, relationship in household, participation in school, country of birth, and, where applicable, year of arrival in Australia. Please note the Household form is not included in the attached LFS questionnaire.
In all months, additional questions are added to the end of the LFS questionnaire for selected population groups and/or a selected part of the sample. These additional questions relate to supplementary surveys or the Multi Purpose Household Survey (MPHS). The supplementary surveys provide data in relation to labour and non-labour (for example the environment and characteristics of recent migrants) topics. The MPHS is designed to provide statistics annually for a number of labour, social and economic topics. These topics include crime victimisation, the use of information technology and retirement and retirement intentions. For further information on supplementary surveys see Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 6102.0.55.001), or contact Labour Force and Supplementary Survey Section on (02) 6252 7206 or via email to email@example.com.
Estimates from the LFS are published monthly, initially in Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0) and later in the more detailed Labour Force, Australia, Detailed - Electronic Delivery (cat. no. 6291.0.55.001). Further detail in relation to the quarterly months (February, May, August and November) is published quarterly in Labour Force, Australia, Detailed, Quarterly (cat. no. 6291.0.55.003). More detailed estimates tailored to specific needs can be requested as a user pays service.
The LFS is based on a multi-stage area sample of private dwellings (currently about 26,000 houses, flats, etc.) and a list sample of non-private dwellings (hotels, motels, etc.), and covers about 0.32% of the population of Australia — see Information Paper: Labour Force Survey Sample Design (cat. no. 6269.0) for further information on how the LFS sample is designed.
The survey is generally conducted during the two weeks beginning on the Sunday between the 5th and the 11th of each month. The information obtained relates to the week before the interview (that is, the reference week). Selected dwellings remain in the survey for eight consecutive months.
The LFS includes all persons aged 15 years and over except:
- members of the permanent defence forces;
- certain diplomatic personnel of overseas governments, customarily excluded from census and estimated population counts;
- overseas residents in Australia; and
- members of non-Australian defence forces (and their dependants) stationed in Australia.
The information is obtained from the occupants of selected dwellings using a combination of online collection, telephone and face-to-face interviews. Information about each household member in scope of the LFS is generally collected from one adult member of the household. Coverage rules are applied to ensure that each person is associated with only one dwelling, and hence has only one chance of selection.
With the online LFS, every effort is made to minimise reporting error by the careful design of the questionnaire. Where necessary, the online LFS questionnaire includes additional information to assist respondents in completing the questions accurately to be consistent with data collected by interviewers.
Interviewers receive training in interviewing practices and techniques, and are required to ask questions exactly as they appear on the LFS questionnaire, in order to ensure consistency of approach in all interviews.
Interviewers are also instructed as to the significance of the questions in relation to the objectives of the survey so that they can explain concepts to respondents to help them relate the questions to their particular circumstances. This training equips interviewers to obtain the cooperation of respondents, and to collect objective, accurate responses to the questions.
1 The ABS plans to release Labour Force, Australia: Labour Force Status and Other Characteristics of Families (cat. no. 6224.0.55.001) again in 2015.