Microdata: Business Characteristics, Australia

The Business Longitudinal Database (BLD) is designed to facilitate micro level analysis for a panel (cohort) of small and medium businesses over time

Introduction

About this publication

This publication provides a range of information about the release of microdata from the Business Longitudinal Database (BLD). Microdata are the most detailed information available from a survey and are generally the responses to individual questions on the questionnaire. The microdata is made available through an Expanded Confidentialised Unit Record File (CURF) released with the approval of the Australian Statistician. The CURF is accessible through the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) DataLab.

This publication includes details about the survey methodology and how to use the microdata. It also includes a data item list, a test file, definitions of common terminology used, and information on the quality of the microdata.

Available products

An Expanded CURF is available via the DataLab. Expanded CURFs allow approved users to query the data via statistical languages.

Further information about these services and other information to assist users in understanding and accessing microdata in general, is available from the Microdata Entry Page.

Apply for access

Before applying for access, users should read and familiarise themselves with the information contained in this publication and the Responsible Use of ABS Microdata, User Guide.

For information on how to apply for access to the BLD CURF, refer to the Microdata Entry Page.

Further information

Further information about this microdata product can be found in this publication:

  • A detailed list of data items for the BLD CURF is available in the Data downloads section.
  • Information on data quality and definitions can be found in the Glossary and Quality declaration sections.

Support

The Microdata Entry Page contains links to microdata related information to assist users in understanding and accessing microdata. For further information users should email microdata.access@abs.gov.au or telephone (02) 6252 7714.

Survey methodology

Scope and coverage

The scope of the Business Longitudinal Database (BLD) is restricted to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) maintained population (ATOMP), i.e. businesses with a simple structure. This facilitates the confidentialisation process as larger businesses may be more easily identified. On this basis, the statistical unit for the BLD is the Australian Business Number (ABN) unit, and for the purposes of the BLD, the term business is interchangeable with the ABN unit.

The scope of the BLD is actively trading businesses in the Australian economy. An actively trading business is one which is registered for an ABN and remits Goods and Services Tax (GST).

The BLD includes both non-employing and employing businesses in the Australian economy except for:

  • large businesses, i.e. with 200 or more employees;
  • complex businesses (those which comprise multiple ABNs);
  • all units classified to Financial corporations (SISCA Sector 2), General Government (SISCA Sector 3), Not-for-profit Institutions Serving Households (SISCA Sector 5) and Rest of the World (SISCA Sector 6);
  • businesses with Income Tax Instalment Payer (ITIP) role only and/or Trusts without an active Income Tax Withholding (ITW) role;
  • non-employing businesses in ANZSIC Divisions L, M, N and S which report an estimated turnover of less than $100,000 for sales of goods and/or services in their Business Activity Statement (BAS) return annually;
  • non-employing businesses in ANZSIC Divisions B, C, E, F, G, H, I, J and R.
  • businesses classified to the following ANZSIC industries:
    • ANZSIC06 Division D Electricity, Gas, Water and Waste Services
    • ANZSIC06 Division K Finance and Insurance Services
    • ANZSIC06 Division O Public Administration and Safety
    • ANZSIC06 Division P Education and Training
    • ANZSIC06 Division Q Health Care and Social Assistance
    • ANZSIC06 Division S - Other Services - Group 954 - Religious services
    • ANZSIC06 Division S - Other Services - Group 955 - Civic, Professional and Other Interest Groups
    • ANZSIC06 Division S - Sub-division 96 Private Households Employing Staff

The businesses that are included in the BLD are classified:

Sample design

The sample design involves the use of panels that represent the Australian business population at the point in time that each panel is initiated into the BLD. This product relates to panel seven of the BLD, which is representative of the in-scope business population as at 30 June 2012. A new panel is normally initiated each year, with no additions to the sample after initial selection.

The sample for each BLD panel is stratified by industry division and business size. Industry is based on ANZSIC 2006 division, and business size is based on the Stratification Derived Employment Size (SDES). Once a business is included in a panel, and irrespective of changes to business size or industry division, the selected business remains in the stratum for which it was originally selected. As employment is collected in the survey, users will be able to observe businesses which have changed size over time.

There are four business size ranges used in the stratification:

  • non-employing businesses (i.e. businesses without an active ITW role);
  • businesses with 0-4 employees;
  • businesses with 5-19 employees(a);
  • businesses with 20-199 employees.

(a) Size 2 and 3 strata have been collapsed for ANZSIC Division B Mining. Therefore, size 2 for Mining units represents businesses with 5 to 199 employees.

State/territory is not included in the stratification and no level of geography is available on the BLD Confidentialised Unit Record File (CURF).

The intent of the BLD design is to maximise longitudinal, micro level comparisons across the five years during which each panel remains in the BLD. While the sample is stratified on the basis of business size and industry division, the sample is not allocated to enable the creation of population or cross-sectional estimates with any reasonable accuracy. The major consideration in allocating the sample in the current BLD design is ensuring that enough sample is included to facilitate longitudinal analysis, i.e. that sufficient live sample remains in each stratum at the end of five years.

During the development of the BLD, consultation with users determined that the minimum number of businesses considered to be viable for longitudinal analysis was approximately 30 businesses per stratum still live at the end of five years. As part of BLD design, expected death rates for each panel over the five years were calculated for each individual stratum. To achieve the endpoint number of 30 live businesses per stratum, taking attrition rates into consideration, a starting point of 40 businesses per stratum, on average, was required. Therefore, the sample size for the entire BLD is approximately 2,000- 2,500 businesses per panel.

Population counts and panel sample size

This sample was selected from a survey frame created in June 2012 and includes 1,967 businesses. There were a total of 926,088 businesses eligible for selection. This BLD CURF release contains a completed set of five reference periods of data (2011-12, 2012-13, 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16).

BLD panel seven, business population counts (a), business employment size
Industry Division (ANZSIC06)Non-employing businesses(b)0-4 persons5-19 persons20-199 personsAll business size groups
No.No.No.No.No.
Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing117,60238,36510,9581,675168,600
Mining02,2387402483,226
Manufacturing027,80115,3965,20548,402
Construction0113,36219,6073,798136,767
Wholesale Trade027,47710,3393,10240,918
Retail Trade052,14523,7664,54180,452
Accommodation and Food Services034,58420,4615,46860,513
Transport, Postal and Warehousing033,4305,7691,36440,563
Information Media and Telecommunications05,5181,2605377,315
Rental, Hiring and Real Estate Services43,63224,6047,4531,17476,863
Professional, Scientific and Technical Services31,76391,83118,2062,919144,719
Administrative and Support Services8,49726,5578,4372,89746,388
Arts and Recreation Services06,6292,0796559,363
Other Services11,53840,1869,28698961,999
Total in-scope population213,032524,727153,75734,572926,088
  1. Population count as at 30 June 2012.
  2. Non-employing businesses are those without an active ATO ITW role.
BLD panel seven, business sample counts (a), business employment size
Industry Division (ANZSIC06)Non-employing businesses(b)0-4 persons5-19 persons20-199 personsAll business size groups
No.No.No.No.No.
Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing44434146174
Mining040(c) 54(c) 094
Manufacturing0454140126
Construction0413640117
Wholesale Trade0413739117
Retail Trade0474340130
Accommodation and Food Services0564441141
Transport, Postal and Warehousing0433937119
Information Media and Telecommunications0464137124
Rental, Hiring and Real Estate Services50443939172
Professional, Scientific and Technical Services51444039174
Administrative and Support Services51443840173
Arts and Recreation Services0504138129
Other Services54454038177
Total in-scope sample2506295745141,967
  1. Sample count as at 30 June 2012.
  2. Non-employing businesses are those without an active ATO ITW role.
  3. Size 2 and 3 strata have been collapsed for ANZSIC Division B Mining. Therefore, size 2 for Mining units represents businesses with 5 to 199 employees.

Weighting

In the BLD CURF, weights are based on the stratum (i.e. industry division by business employment size).

Use of the BLD CURF to calculate population or cross-sectional estimates is not recommended as the BLD sample is not designed to enable the creation of such estimates with reasonable accuracy.

Data sources

The BLD is populated from data directly collected via the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Business Characteristics Survey (BCS) and administrative data provided to the ABS for statistical purposes by other government agencies.

Business Characteristics Survey

The BCS is an annual ABS survey that is conducted via an online form or mail-out questionnaire. It is designed to collect characteristics data of small and medium Australian businesses. It is intended that each year the survey will contain a set of core questions to allow longitudinal analysis.

In developing the BCS instrument, as with all ABS surveys, it has been necessary to achieve an appropriate balance between developing a survey which enables the collection of comprehensive, integrated data with the responsibility of managing the reporting load of businesses.

Most of the items included in the BCS are categorical in nature (i.e. require a yes/no response) and cover topics such as innovation practices and barriers; use of information technology; market share and competition, barriers to business performance; employment arrangements; and skills utilised within the business.

The reference period for the data included in the BCS is the year ended 30 June, or as at 30 June of the relevant year.

Administrative data

Administrative data included in the BLD are:

  • ATO BAS data - Business Activity Statements (BAS) are submitted by businesses in respect of their GST obligations. Activity statements are submitted to the ATO on either a monthly, quarterly or annual basis, depending on the size and, to some degree, preference of the business. The Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 provides for the ATO to pass information to the Australian Statistician for the purposes of the Census and Statistics Act 1905. See the Data Item List in the Data downloads section for the BAS variables available in the BLD, and the Glossary on the Explanatory Notes tab for definitions of these variables. Users of the BLD CURF are advised to refer to the ATO website www.ato.gov.au for more information about BAS reporting requirements.
  • Customs administrative data - Value of imports and exports of goods are drawn from information provided to the ABS by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP). These data also provide the source for ABS Merchandise Trade statistics. More information about import and export reporting requirements is available at the DIBP website www.border.gov.au.

Data quality

The volume of data included in the BLD is substantial and resource constraints mean it is not possible to quality assure each individual item. Users should take the following into consideration when using the BLD CURF.

Business Characteristics Survey

The approach to quality assurance for the BCS aims to make the best use of ABS resources to meet user prioritised requirements - both in terms of data quality and timing of release. The approach specifies the level and degree to which each data item is quality assured, noting that only some of the total number of items in the BCS are able to be quality assured to the highest standards. Most of the data contained in the BLD CURF are 'as reported' by businesses with limited editing and cross-validation being applied. The qualitative nature of most of the categorical information included in the BCS also contributes to the difficulty of quality assuring these items. For example, there are a small number of items where businesses have been asked to 'tick one box only' yet multiple responses may have been provided. In these cases, contact would need to be made with the respondent to ascertain the correct response. However, it has not been possible to make contact with all businesses that may have reported in this way, in all instances. These responses have been appropriately flagged.

While every effort is made to aid reporting accuracy through form design and checking of a selection of the "more important" items (such as employment and innovation indicators), the BCS is subject to reporting error and users should take this into account when undertaking analysis,

Missing data

There are three reasons why data may be missing in the BLD CURF:

  1. Question not completed

It is common in surveys for there to be some degree of missing information as a result of forms not being completed. Forms which are received without being completed at all (i.e. blank forms) are returned to respondents for completion. Forms which are received partly completed are not returned and may have some missing data in the BLD CURF. The ABS has not imputed for missing data and, where a response could be expected, the variable has been flagged as missing. Users should be aware that investigations by the ABS into non-response at particular questions indicate that, in the majority of cases, non-response equates to a negative response.

  1. Question not required to be completed

There are a number of topics included in the BCS for which filter questions are used and a negative response usually results in the respondent being sequenced past other questions for that topic. Businesses for which this is a legitimate scenario will have the relevant variables flagged as not requiring a response. These items are coded as missing due to sequencing.

  1. Question not asked

Some questions from the BCS form may have changed over the five years included within this panel. These changes are made in order to improve the reliability of the data and increase the relevance of the question over time. These items are coded as question not asked this year.

Business Activity Statement (BAS)

BAS data are supplied by the ATO to the ABS. Please note that the data is "as reported" to the ATO, and users should be aware that any discussion of the data limitations or weaknesses is in the context of using the data for statistical purposes at the unit record level, and is not related to the ability of the data to support the ATO's core operational requirements.

In some cases, BAS data may be partially missing for an individual business (for example, data may be available for three out of four quarters), due to the timing between the data being supplied to the ATO and compiling these data for inclusion in the BLD. No imputation is applied for missing data. BAS data included in the BLD were extracted in October 2018. Any BAS data items which are either missing or have not been reported have been assigned the missing value of 999999999 within the BLD CURF.

BLD CURF users should also be aware that there are specific reporting requirements for businesses with Pay As You Go withholding payments. For example, these requirements may impact on values for wages and salaries as shown in BAS data included in the BLD CURF. For this reason, missing values for this item should not necessarily be interpreted as nil payment of wages and salaries.

BAS data are treated to account for consolidated reporting arrangements. The treatment apportions the consolidated values equally to each member of the consolidated reporting group.

Data related to imports and exports of goods

Data included in the BLD CURF related to the imports and exports of goods are available from three sources:

  • BCS - respondents to the BCS are asked to report if they have received income from the exports of goods during the reference period. This item requires the respondent to self identify via a categorical response;
  • Export Sales as reported on BAS - the free on board (f.o.b.) value of sales of exported goods that meet the GST-free export rules; sourced from data reported to the ATO. These data are matched to sampled businesses using the ABN;
  • Merchandise trade information originally from the DIBP - Merchandise trade statistics on a recorded trade basis (Australian Customs Value for imports and f.o.b. value for exports) are compiled from information submitted by exporters and importers or their agents to the DIBP. These data are matched to sampled businesses using the ABN.

The reporting requirements for data collected by the ATO and the DIBP are detailed and there are differences in requirements between the two. As the information from each of the three sources is collected on a different basis, it may result in some inconsistencies between the trade data items included in the BLD CURF. For example, a business may have self identified as an exporter on the BCS yet no corresponding BAS export sales and/or value of exports from merchandise trade data are available. The differences between the three sources relate to:

  • the scope of the exporting activity and whether it includes both export of goods and of services, or goods alone;
  • whether any financial threshold is applied to the inclusion of the activity; and
  • the degree of subjectivity involved in the method of identification of exporting status, e.g. a business which produces goods for export but on-sells them to an exporter may incorrectly self identify as an exporter in the BCS.

The ABS has not contacted businesses in the sample to clarify specific reasons for the differences. BLD CURF users are advised to use the source best suited to their specific analytical needs.

Sample loss

The business population in Australia is not static, changing constantly as a result of new businesses being created (often referred to as births), businesses which cease operation (deaths) and businesses which undergo structural change. As each panel in the BLD represents the business population at the time of selection, it is these latter two changes (deaths and structural change) that need to be dealt with in the BLD.

No action is taken to adjust for births as this would be inconsistent with the principle that each panel represents the business population at the time of initiation and not the population as it may be after five years (i.e. when the panel lapses).

Deaths

The statistical unit for the BLD is the ABN and it is the operations of the business represented by that ABN that are followed for the life of the panel. ABNs (i.e. businesses) which cease to operate during the life of the panel are considered to be deaths. Businesses may cease to operate for a variety of reasons, for example, they may be wound up or they may be sold to or taken over by another businesses entity. For the purposes of the BLD, businesses (as represented by ABNs) which cease to operate or are wound up during the life of the panel remain in the sample and are appropriately flagged. Any data for that business prior to it ceasing to operate is included in the BLD. As noted above in SAMPLE DESIGN, each BLD panel includes an allowance for expected deaths.

Structural change

There are a number of reasons why a selected business will change in structure over the life of the panel. A business may merge with another business; be wholly or partly taken over; split into multiple new businesses; take over part or all of another business; or, any combination of these. For the purposes of the BLD, if the original ABN continues to operate, the business will remain in the sample without having any flags incorporated to indicate change. It is recognised that this may create a difficulty for the analyst as the business has undergone a change and should be treated as such, but such change is not easily identifiable. Businesses which undergo structural change and cease using the original ABN are treated as deaths.

Businesses which are out of scope

It is possible that businesses which have been selected in a BLD panel may have incorrect structural information (industry and/or employment size) on the ABS Business Register (ABSBR). Part of initialising each panel includes checking the structural information to ensure that the business is actually in scope of the BLD, for example, not a large business or part of a business with a complex structure. Businesses may be made out of scope during the life of the panel if they become part of a complex business structure. These will be flagged appropriately and no subsequent data will be present in the BLD CURF. Businesses which, at the time of initiation, were below the employment size cut-off but grow to have 200 or more employees remain in scope and continue to have data collected and included in the BLD CURF.

Businesses with a "live" ABN but no operations

There are businesses in the BLD panels which have become dormant and are flagged as nils. These are businesses which retain their ABN but no longer operate in the market. Nils include businesses which have temporarily ceased their operations.

Non-response

While every effort has been made to achieve full response for businesses selected in each BLD panel, there is a small level of non-response. In combining survey data with that from administrative sources, it is possible for a business which did not respond to the BCS to have ATO or Customs sourced data present. All non-responding businesses have been confirmed as live and operating and have been flagged in the CURF using the status field.

File structure and content

File structure

Businesses on the Business Longitudinal Database (BLD) Confidentialised Unit Record File (CURF) have one record for each of the five financial years contained in the panel.

File content

BLD CURF files

The 2011-12 to 2015-16 BLD CURF contains the files listed below which are available through the DataLab:

  • BLD16E.SAS7BDAT: the BLD CURF file in SAS for Windows format.
  • FORMATS.SAS7BDAT: the format file that provides the labels for associated codes in the SAS version of the BLD CURF.
  • BLD16E.SAV: the BLD CURF file in SPSS format.
  • BLD16E.DTA: the BLD CURF file in STATA format.
  • BLD16E.CSV: the BLD CURF file in Excel Comma Separated Values format.

Information files

  • Data Item List: Documentation relating to the content of the BLD CURF, including data item names can be found in 8168055001_data_item_list_2011-12_to_2015-16.xls. The file is an Excel spreadsheet and is available from the Data downloads section of this product.
  • Test File: This file contains 500 units of fabricated data for users to test and refine their code prior to conducting analyses on the BLD CURF in the DataLab. This file mimics the real CURF file, in terms of data items included, their names, values and formats, plus the relationships between items. The only difference is in the business identifier which appears as TESTID on the test file, versus ABSBID on the real file. Importantly, this file does not contain any real data and cannot be used for analysis. The test file is an Excel spreadsheet named 8168055001_test_file_2011-12_to_2015-16.xls, available from the Data downloads section of this product.

Using the CURF

About the CURF

The Business Longitudinal Database (BLD) Confidentialised Unit Record File (CURF) is released under the provisions of the Census and Statistics Act 1905. The Act allows for the release of data in the form of unit records where the information is not likely to enable the identification of a particular person or organisation. Accordingly, there are no names or addresses of survey respondents on the BLD CURF, and other steps have been taken to protect the confidentiality of respondents. These include:

  • Perturbing (value adjustment) of all Business Activity Statement (BAS) data for all businesses.
  • Perturbing of reported employment data for businesses which report below 100 persons.
  • Top coding reported employment data for businesses which report 100 persons or more.
  • Reducing the level of detail shown on the BLD CURF for some data items. For example, some data items collected in the survey have been omitted, collapsed with other data items, or presented in ranges.
  • Changes to some data item values for a very small number of businesses with rare characteristics.
  • Top coding Imports and Exports data for businesses which report $500,000 or more.

Users should be aware that the methodology applied to perturb financial and employment data does not impact on the comparability between selected businesses within a time period or over time.

Steps to confidentialise the data made available on the BLD CURF are designed to ensure the integrity of the dataset and optimise its content, while maintaining the confidentiality of respondents. Users intending to apply for access to the CURF should ensure that the data they require, at the level of detail they require, are available on the BLD CURF prior to submitting their application. The Data Item List for the BLD CURF is provided in Excel spreadsheet format in the Data downloads section of this publication.

Statistical units

In using the data in the BLD CURF for analysis, it is important to understand how the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) classifies businesses for statistical purposes. Statistical units are those entities from which statistics are collected, or about which statistics are compiled. In ABS economic statistics, the statistical unit is generally the business. The ABS Business Register (ABSBR) is used to record information about statistical units and is used to create the frames for most ABS economic collections.

The ABS uses an economic statistics units model on the ABSBR to describe the characteristics of businesses, and the structural relationships between related businesses. Within large, complex and diverse business groups, the units model is used to define reporting units that can provide data to the ABS at suitable levels of detail.

This units model allocates businesses to one of two sub-populations:

  • Businesses with a simple structure - Most businesses and organisations in Australia need to obtain an Australian Business Number (ABN). They are then included on the whole-of-government register of businesses, the Australian Business Register (ABR), which is maintained by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). Most of these businesses have simple structures; therefore the unit registered for an ABN will satisfy ABS statistical requirements. For these businesses, the ABS has aligned its statistical units structure with the ABN unit. The businesses with simple structures constitute the ATO maintained population (ATOMP), and the ABN unit is used as the statistical unit for all integrated ABS economic collections.
  • Businesses with a complex structure - For the population of businesses where the ABN unit is not suitable for ABS statistical requirements, the ABS maintains its own units structure through direct contact with the business. These businesses constitute the ABS maintained population (ABSMP). This population consists typically of large, complex and diverse businesses. For businesses in the ABSMP, statistical units comprise the Enterprise Group, the Enterprise and the Type of Activity Unit (TAU). The range of activities across the Enterprise Group can be very diverse. The TAU represents a grouping of one or more business entities within the Enterprise that cover all of the operations within an industry subdivision and for which a basic set of financial, production and employment data can be reported.

Together these two sub-populations (of ABN units and TAUs) make up the ABSBR population.

Data item list

A complete list of all data items included on the Confidentialised Unit Record File (CURF) is provided in an Excel spreadsheet (refer to the Data downloads section). Please take note of the points below before commencing any analysis.

Special codes

Caution: Users should ensure that they do not inadvertently use the missing value code as a numeric value. This will ensure that these missing value codes do not incorrectly contribute to Business Longitudinal Database (BLD) CURF usage or outputs.

Special codes are assigned to variables in the following circumstances:

999999999 = Missing
88888888 = Missing due to sequencing
7777777 = Ticked more than one box
55555 = Question not asked this year

Caution: Users should take care when analysing employment, trade and years of operation data, as a valid response for these data items could either be an actual number or a category. For example: for the variable EMPTOTAL, the number of persons working for the business during the last pay period could be any number from 1 to 99. However, a response of 100 does not correspond to 100 employed persons; it means the number of employed persons was '100 or more'.

Using the indicative items

The BLD CURF includes several indicative items which will assist users in their analysis.

Design weight (dweight)

The sample weight at time of selection. Use of the BLD CURF to calculate population or cross-sectional estimates is not recommended as the BLD sample is not designed to enable the creation of such estimates with reasonable accuracy.

ANZSIC 2006 Division (div06)
  1. A - Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing
  2. B - Mining
  3. C - Manufacturing
  4. E - Construction
  5. F - Wholesale Trade
  6. G - Retail Trade
  7. H - Accommodation and Food Services
  8. I - Transport, Postal and Warehousing
  9. J - Information Media and Telecommunications
  10. L - Rental, Hiring and Real Estate Services
  11. M - Professional, Scientific and Technical Services
  12. N - Administration and Support Services
  13. R - Arts and Recreation Services
  14. S - Other Services
Type Of Legal Organisation (tolo)

1 = Registered company
2 = Sole proprietor
3 = Partnership
4 = Trusts; Other unincorporated entities

Size (based on Stratification Derived Employment Size) (size)

0 = Non-employer
1 = 0 to 4 employees
2 = 5 to 19 employees
3 = 20 to 199 employees

Unit live status (status)

1 = Normal Unit
2 = Nils (temporary, permanent)
3 = Death (part-period)
4 = Death (full-period)
5 = Out of scope
6 = Outstanding

Stratum

The stratum is not included in the BLD CURF but can be recreated by using the Size and Industry Division variables. For counts of these combinations of indicators see Survey Methodology section.

Identifiers

Each business record has a unique randomly generated identifier (ABSBID), which is held constant over the five year period.

Selected BCS data items - considerations for BLD CURF users

When using the following set of Business Characteristics Survey (BCS) (directly collected) data items, users should take the information provided here into consideration. BLD CURF users are able to access copies of BCS forms upon request.

Employment (Variables emptotal, casuals, empft, empprop, empsaldr and empoth)

The reference period for these items is the last pay period ending in June, of the relevant reference year. For example, for the 2011-12 reference year, the last pay period in June 2012 is used to collect these data. These data items do not measure employment during the reference year and it is possible for a business that normally has employees to have no employees in the last pay period. Users should also be aware that while the business may have initially been selected in a non-employing stratum (i.e. did not have an Income Tax Withholding (ITW) role when included in the Australian Bureau of Statistics Business Register (ABSBR), it is possible for the business to report employees in the first or any subsequent survey iteration.

Years of operation, current owner and regardless of changes in ownership (Variables busownyr and busopyr)

While these questions are asked annually, the data are only quality assured in the first year that the business is included in its respective panel. For this reason, data for these items in subsequent survey periods has been removed from the BLD CURF.

Comparisons to the previous year (Variables compsogs, compprts, compprof, compprod, compjobs, compexp, compcont, comptra, compit and compsoc)

For these items, respondents are asked to report if there have been changes in:

  • income from sales of goods or services (compsogs);
  • range of goods or services offered (compprts);
  • profitability (compprof);
  • productivity (compprod);
  • total number of jobs or positions (compjobs);
  • export markets targeted (compexp);
  • contracting out work or outsourcing (compcont);
  • structured/ formal training for employees (comptra);
  • expenditure on IT (compit); or
  • social contributions (compsoc).

These data are presented as self-reported by the respondent and no effort is made to confront the veracity of the responses with other data items. For example, checks are not undertaken to compare an actual increase in the value of Business Activity Statement (BAS) total sales with a reported increase in "income from sales of goods or services" ticked as a response to this question.

Main source of income from the sales of goods and services (Variable mainsoi)

This question asks the respondent to identify the main source of income from sales of goods and services. In previous iterations of the BLD CURF, this question has been coded to allow for multiple sources of income. For this release, a new variable will identify only the main source of income.

How to derive ABS innovation indicators

In releasing Innovation statistics, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) produces two main indicators: proportion of innovating businesses and proportion of innovation-active businesses. The derived items used to produce these indicators have not been included in the BLD CURF. However, users may derive these ABS innovation indicators using the following derivation:

Innovating businesses = yes (value=1) if any of (d_gsnewy, d_opnewy, d_omnewy, d_manewy) was reported as yes (value=1).

Innovation-active businesses = yes (value=1) if any of (d_gsnewy, d_opnewy, d_omnewy, d_manewy, d_inaban, d_ininco) was reported as yes (value=1).

Data downloads

Data files

Previous releases

 TableBuilder
data series
MicrodataDownloadDataLab
Business Characteristics, 2011-12 to 2015-16  Detailed microdata
Business Characteristics, 2010-11 to 2014-15  Detailed microdata
Business Characteristics, 2009-10 to 2013-14  Detailed microdata
Business Characteristics, 2008-09 to 2012-13  Detailed microdata
Business Characteristics, 2006-07 to 2010-11  Detailed microdata
Business Characteristics, 2004-05 to 2009-10  Detailed microdata
Business Longitudinal Survey, 1994-95 to 1997-98 Basic microdata 

History of changes

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01/04/2019 

The Test File data cube has been replaced to correct minor errors in the text on the Contents and Information sheets. No data has been changed.

Glossary

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Australian Business Number (ABN) unit

The statistical unit used by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to represent businesses, and for which statistics are reported. The ABN unit is the business unit which has registered for an ABN, and appears on the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) administered portion of the Australian Business Register. In most cases, the ABN unit represents the legal entity, which is suitable for ABS statistical needs when the business is simple in structure (as are all businesses on the Business Longitudinal Database (BLD) Confidentialised Unit Record File (CURF)).

Business

A business is generally considered to be a person, partnership, or corporation engaged in business or commerce. In the BLD CURF, the term business is interchangeable with the ABN unit.

Business Activity Statement (BAS) data items
  • Total sales - the gross amount of income for the business from the sales of goods or services. (Item G1 on the Business Activity Statement).
  • Export sales - the free on board value of exported goods that meet the Goods and Sales Tax (GST)- free export rules. (Item G2 on the Business Activity Statement). All amounts reported at G2 should also have been reported at G1.
  • Other GST-free sales - the value of supplies that do not attract GST. GST credits are able to be claimed for goods purchased in producing these supplies. (Item G3 on the Business Activity Statement). Amounts reported at G3 should also have been reported at G1.
  • Capital expenditure - the value of capital items purchased. This figure should include capital purchases that are imports. (Item G10 on the Business Activity Statement).
  • Non-capital expenditure - the values of other purchases and expenses made in the supply of goods and services. Non-capital purchases include trading stock and normal running expenses. (Item G11 on the Business Activity Statement).
  • Wages and Salaries - includes gross payments from which businesses are usually required to withhold tax, such as payments to employees; payments made by labour hire firms to individual workers under a labour hire arrangement; and payments made under a voluntary agreement and gross attributed to personal services income of an individual. (Item W1 on the Business Activity Statement).
Broadband

Defined by the ABS as an 'always on' internet connection with an access speed equal to or greater than 256kbps.

Collaboration

Active joint participation with other organisations which involves some sharing of technical or commercial risk. Straight fee-for-service arrangements are not deemed to be collaborative and are therefore excluded.

Number of persons working for the business during the last pay period

Includes working proprietors and partners, employees absent on paid or prepaid leave, employees on workers' compensation who continue to be paid through the payroll, and contract workers paid through the payroll. Excludes persons paid by commission only, non-salaried directors, volunteers and self-employed persons such as consultants and contractors.

Innovation

An innovation is the introduction of a new or significantly improved good or service, operational process, organisational/managerial process or marketing method.

Internet

A world-wide public computer network. Organisations and individuals can connect their computers to this network and exchange information across a country and/or across the world. The internet provides access to a number of communication services including the World Wide Web and carries email, news, entertainment and data files.

Measures of business innovation

Two measures of business innovation can be calculated from data in this release:

  • Innovating businesses - businesses that introduced any type of innovation during the reference period.
  • Innovation-active businesses - businesses that had undertaken any innovative activity during the reference period including: introduction of any type of innovation; and/or the development or introduction either still in progress or abandoned.

Further information about how to calculate these data items can be found in the Data Item section.

Status of innovation

Three statuses of innovation are included in this release:

  • Introduced - the business successfully introduced an innovation during the reference period (although the innovation does not need to have been commercially successful).
  • Still in development - the business was in the process of developing or introducing an innovation during the reference period but work on the innovation was still in progress at the end of the period.
  • Abandoned - the business abandoned the development and/or introduction of an innovation during the reference period (i.e. work on the innovation ceased without full introduction occurring).
Type of innovation

Four types of innovation are included in this release:

  • Goods or services - Any good or service or combination of these which is new to a business (or significantly improved). It's characteristics or intended uses differ significantly from those previously produced/offered.
  • Operational processes - New or significantly improved methods of producing or delivering goods or services of a business (including significant change in techniques, equipment and/or software).
  • Organisational/managerial processes - New or significantly improved strategies, structures or routines of a business which aim to improve performance.
  • Marketing methods - New or significantly improved design, packaging or sales methods aimed to increase the appeal of goods or services of a business or to enter new markets.
Web presence

Web presence includes a website, home page or, in the case of a presence on another entity's website, is included providing the business has substantial control over the content. A website or home page is an electronic document that is accessed via a unique address on the World Wide Web. The document provides information in a textual, graphical or multimedia format. Web presence excludes on-line listings, directories, or a social media presence.

Quality declaration

Institutional environment

Confidentialised Unit Record Files (CURFs) are released in accordance with the conditions specified in the Statistics Determination section of the Census and Statistics Act 1905, noting that the Census and Statistics (Information Release and Access) Determination 2018 came into effect on 15 August 2018 and has replaced the Statistics Determination 1983. This ensures that confidentiality is maintained whilst enabling micro level data to be released. More information on the confidentiality practices associated with CURFs can be found on the About CURF Microdata page.

For information on the institutional environment of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), including the legislative obligations of the ABS, financing and governance arrangements, and mechanisms for scrutiny of ABS operations, please see ABS Institutional Environment.

Relevance

The directly collected component of the Business Longitudinal Database (BLD) CURF comes from the Business Characteristics Survey (BCS). The BLD CURF also includes financial data from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP).

The BLD CURF is designed to enable longitudinal micro level analysis. While the sample is stratified by industry division and employment size, it is not designed to produce cross-sectional or population estimates and, therefore, users are discouraged from doing so. The major consideration when allocating the sample in the first year of each panel is to ensure that enough live sample will be available at the end of five years to facilitate longitudinal analysis.

The BLD CURF includes data directly collected by the BCS, covering topics such as innovation practices and barriers; use of information technology; market share and competition, barriers to business performance; employment arrangements; and skills utilised within the business. These details are provided for the reference periods included within the BLD. No geographic information is included in the BLD.

Microdata from the BLD are available as an Expanded CURF. The Data Item List shows the level of detail available in microdata format and can be accessed from the Data downloads section.

For more information on the survey methodology, concepts and definitions see survey methodology section.

Timeliness

This is the seventh iteration of the BLD CURF. It contains data from a sample of the in-scope Australian business population, and is referred to as a panel. Panel seven contains five years of data (from 2011-12 to 2015-16) for 1,967 units selected from a survey frame created in June 2012. A new panel was initiated each year, and data released after five years worth of data has been collected.

Accuracy

The BLD CURF is unique in the fact that it provides longitudinal data on Australian businesses enabling finer level analysis on topics such as business productivity and innovation over time.

Steps have been taken to confidentialise the data on the CURF to ensure businesses cannot be identified, while at the same time maximising the usefulness of the content. Further information about the steps taken to confidentialise microdata can be found in the publication ABS Confidentiality Series (cat. no. 1160.0).

ATO data included in the BLD CURF have been supplied to the ABS under the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 which requires that such data are only used for statistical purposes. Customs data sourced from DIBP under the Census and Statistics Act 1905, is also included on the CURF. No individual information collected under the Census and Statistics Act 1905 is provided back to the ATO or DIBP for administrative or regulatory purposes. Please note that this data is "as reported" to the regulatory bodies and any discussion of data limitations or weaknesses are in the context of using the data for statistical purposes, and are not related to the ability of the data to support the ATO's or DIBP's core operational requirements. The ABS wishes to acknowledge the assistance of both of these organisations in the development of the BLD.

Coherence

This release of the BLD CURF is consistent with the previous iteration for panel six.

Interpretability

The information within this publication should be referred to when using the microdata product. It includes details about the survey methodology and how to use the microdata. It also includes a data item list, a test file, definitions of common terminology used, and information on the quality of the microdata.

Accessing the data

This Expanded CURF can only be accessed through the ABS DataLab.

Users wishing to access the CURF should read the How to Apply for Microdata page before applying for access. Users should also familiarise themselves with information available via the Microdata Entry Page.

Any questions regarding access to microdata can be forwarded to microdata.access@abs.gov.au or phone (02) 6252 7714.

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 8168.0.55.001.