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.
The Business Longitudinal Database (BLD) is designed to facilitate micro level analysis for a panel (cohort) of small and medium businesses over time
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.
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.
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 about this microdata product can be found in this publication:
The Microdata Entry Page contains links to microdata related information to assist users in understanding and accessing microdata. For further information users should email email@example.com or telephone (02) 6252 7714.
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:
The businesses that are included in the BLD are classified:
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:
(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.
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).
|Industry Division (ANZSIC06)||Non-employing businesses(b)||0-4 persons||5-19 persons||20-199 persons||All business size groups|
|Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing||117,602||38,365||10,958||1,675||168,600|
|Accommodation and Food Services||0||34,584||20,461||5,468||60,513|
|Transport, Postal and Warehousing||0||33,430||5,769||1,364||40,563|
|Information Media and Telecommunications||0||5,518||1,260||537||7,315|
|Rental, Hiring and Real Estate Services||43,632||24,604||7,453||1,174||76,863|
|Professional, Scientific and Technical Services||31,763||91,831||18,206||2,919||144,719|
|Administrative and Support Services||8,497||26,557||8,437||2,897||46,388|
|Arts and Recreation Services||0||6,629||2,079||655||9,363|
|Total in-scope population||213,032||524,727||153,757||34,572||926,088|
|Industry Division (ANZSIC06)||Non-employing businesses(b)||0-4 persons||5-19 persons||20-199 persons||All business size groups|
|Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing||44||43||41||46||174|
|Mining||0||40||(c) 54||(c) 0||94|
|Accommodation and Food Services||0||56||44||41||141|
|Transport, Postal and Warehousing||0||43||39||37||119|
|Information Media and Telecommunications||0||46||41||37||124|
|Rental, Hiring and Real Estate Services||50||44||39||39||172|
|Professional, Scientific and Technical Services||51||44||40||39||174|
|Administrative and Support Services||51||44||38||40||173|
|Arts and Recreation Services||0||50||41||38||129|
|Total in-scope sample||250||629||574||514||1,967|
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.
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.
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 included in the BLD are:
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.
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,
There are three reasons why data may be missing in the BLD CURF:
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.
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.
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.
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 included in the BLD CURF related to the imports and exports of goods are available from three sources:
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 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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The 2011-12 to 2015-16 BLD CURF contains the files listed below which are available through the DataLab:
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:
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.
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:
Together these two sub-populations (of ABN units and TAUs) make up the ABSBR population.
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.
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'.
The BLD CURF includes several indicative items which will assist users in their analysis.
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.
1 = Registered company
2 = Sole proprietor
3 = Partnership
4 = Trusts; Other unincorporated entities
0 = Non-employer
1 = 0 to 4 employees
2 = 5 to 19 employees
3 = 20 to 199 employees
1 = Normal Unit
2 = Nils (temporary, permanent)
3 = Death (part-period)
4 = Death (full-period)
5 = Out of scope
6 = Outstanding
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.
Each business record has a unique randomly generated identifier (ABSBID), which is held constant over the five year period.
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.
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.
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.
For these items, respondents are asked to report if there have been changes in:
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.
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.
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).
|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|
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.
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)).
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.
Defined by the ABS as an 'always on' internet connection with an access speed equal to or greater than 256kbps.
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.
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.
An innovation is the introduction of a new or significantly improved good or service, operational process, organisational/managerial process or marketing method.
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.
Two measures of business innovation can be calculated from data in this release:
Further information about how to calculate these data items can be found in the Data Item section.
Three statuses of innovation are included in this release:
Four types of innovation are included in this release:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This release of the BLD CURF is consistent with the previous iteration for panel six.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (02) 6252 7714.
This release previously used catalogue number 8168.0.55.001.