Microdata: Management and Organisational Capabilities of Australian Business

This release contains management and organisational capabilities data for Australian businesses


This product provides a range of information about the release of microdata from the Business Characteristics Survey - Management Capabilities Module (MCM) 2015-16. Microdata are the most detailed information available from a survey and are generally the responses to individual questions on the questionnaire. Steps to confidentialise the dataset are taken to ensure the integrity of data, optimise its content and maintain confidentiality of respondents. These include removing any information that might uniquely identify an individual or business and reducing the level of detail for some items.

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 product includes details about the survey methodology and how to use the microdata. It also includes a data item list, definitions of common terminology used, and information on the conditions of use and 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, are available from the Microdata Entry Page. Before applying for access, users should read and familiarise themselves with the information contained in this product and also the Responsible Use of ABS Microdata, User Guide.

Apply for access

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

Further information

Further information about this microdata product can be found in the various sections associated with this product, including: 

  • A detailed list of data items for the MCM CURF is available in the Data downloads section.
  • The Quality Declaration and Glossary relating to this product can be found in the left navigation menu.


For assistance in registering for access to use this product, please contact Microdata Access Strategies at microdata.access@abs.gov.au or 02 6252 7714.

Survey methodology

Scope and coverage

The scope of the Business Characteristics Survey - Management Capabilities Module (MCM) 2015-16 consists of all employing business entities in the Australian economy, except for:

SISCA 3000 General government
SISCA 6000 Rest of the world
ANZSIC06 Division O Public administration and safety
ANZSIC06 Division P Education and training
ANZSIC06 Groups 624 (Financial asset investing) and 633 (Superannuation funds)
ANZSIC06 Groups 954 (Religious services) and 955 (Civic, professional and other interest group services)
ANZSIC06 Subdivision 96 Private households employing staff

The frame for the MCM is a subset of the ABSBR and includes employing businesses only. These are defined as those businesses which register for the ATO's Pay As You Go Withholding (PAYGW) scheme. It is not unusual for some of these 'employing businesses' to have zero employment at various times during the reporting period. The frame is updated quarterly to take account of new businesses, businesses which have ceased employing, changes in employment levels, changes in industry and other general business changes. Businesses which have ceased employing are identified when the ATO cancels their ABN and/or PAYGW registration. In addition, businesses with less than 50 employees, which did not remit under the PAYGW scheme in each of the previous five quarters, are removed from the frame.

Sample design

Collection of data were based on a random sample of approximately 14,500 businesses via online forms or mail-out questionnaires. The sample was stratified by industry and an employment-based size indicator. All businesses on the ABSBR identified as having 300 or more employees were included in the sample. The 2015-16 MCM was despatched from late October 2016.


The MCM CURF includes a weight variable which can be used to calculate population or cross-sectional estimates; however, users should note that the MCM CURF was designed primarily for micro data analysis.

Data sources

The MCM is populated from data directly collected via the ABS Business Characteristics Survey - Management Capabilities Module, 2015-16.

Data quality

The volume of data included in the MCM is substantial and resource constraints mean it was not possible to quality assure each individual item.

Quality assurance approach

The approach to quality assurance for the MCM aimed 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 items in the MCM were able to be quality assured to the highest standards. Most of the data contained in the MCM CURF are 'as reported' by businesses with limited editing and cross-validation applied. The qualitative nature of most of the categorical information included in the MCM also contributes to the difficulty of quality assuring these items.

While every effort is made to aid reporting accuracy through form design and checking of a selection of the 'more important' items, the MCM is subject to reporting error and users should take this into account when undertaking analysis.

Missing data

There are two reasons why data may be missing in the MCM 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, therefore there is some missing data in the MCM CURF. The ABS has not imputed for missing data, and, where a response could be expected, the variable has been flagged as missing.

2. Question not required to be completed

There are a number of topics in the MCM which use filter questions to determine which other questions need to be answered by the respondent. Where a business was not required to complete questions, the variables are flagged as not requiring a response. These items are coded as missing due to sequencing.

Using the CURF

About the CURF

The MCM 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 MCM CURF, and other steps have been taken to protect the confidentiality of respondents. These include: 

  • Reducing the level of detail shown on the MCM CURF for some data items. For example, some data items 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.

Users should be aware that the methodology applied to perturb data does not impact on the comparability between selected businesses.

Steps to confidentialise the data made available on the MCM 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 MCM CURF prior to submitting their application. The Data Item List for the MCM CURF is provided in Excel Spreadsheet format from the Data downloads section of this publication.

Statistical units

In using the data in the MCM CURF for analysis, it is important to understand how the 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 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 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 MCM 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
666666 = Data not available at this level

Using the indicative items

The MCM CURF includes several indicative items which will assist users in their analysis. These are outlined in the below table.

DescriptionVariable nameValid response
Indicative Data Items
Randomly generated IDRandomID 
ANZSIC 06 DivisionIndustry_DivisionSee Table 12 in the MCS CURF data item list datacube (Data downloads section) 666666 = Data not available at this level
ANZSIC 06 Sub DivisionIndustry_SubdivisionSee Table 12 in the MCS CURF data item list datacube (Data downloads section) 666666 = Data not available at this level
ANZSIC 06 GroupIndustry_GroupSee Table 12 in the MCS CURF data item list datacube (Data downloads section) 666666 = Data not available at this level
ANZSIC 06 ClassIndustry_ClassSee Table 12 in the MCS CURF data item list datacube (Data downloads section) 666666 = Data not available at this level
ANZSIC 06 Additive VariableIndustry_AdditiveSee Table 12 in the MCS CURF data item list datacube (Data downloads section) 666666 = Data not available at this level
Stock WeightUnit_WeightNumber
Employment rangeSize1 = 0 to 4 employees
2 = 5 to 19 employees
3 = 20 to 99 employees
4 = 100 or more employees

Caution: Users should take care when analysing employment and years of operation data, as a valid response for these data items is a category. For example: for the variable SIZE, the number of persons working for the business during the last pay period could be any number from 1 to 4. However, a response of 4 does not correspond to 4 employed persons; it means the number of employed persons was '100 or more'.

Each business record has a unique randomly generated identifier - RandomID.

Conditions of use

User responsibilites

The Census and Statistics Act includes a legislative guarantee to respondents that their confidentiality will be protected. This is fundamental to the trust the Australian public has in the ABS, and that trust is in turn fundamental to the excellent quality of ABS information. Without that trust, survey respondents may be less forthcoming or truthful in answering our questionnaires. For more information, see 'Avoiding inadvertent disclosure' and 'Microdata' on our web page How the ABS keeps your information confidential.

CURF data

The release of the CURF data is authorised by Clause 7 of the Statistics Determination made under subsection 13(1) of the Census and Statistics Act 1905. The release of a CURF must satisfy the ABS legislative obligation to release information in a manner that is not likely to enable the identification of a particular person or organisation.

This legislation allows the Australian Statistician to approve the release of unit record data. All CURFs released have been approved by the Statistician. Prior to being granted access to CURFs, each organisation's Responsible Officer must submit a CURF Undertaking to the ABS. A copy of the CURF Undertaking can be found in the Downloads of the Responsible Use of ABS Microdata, User Guide. The CURF Undertaking is required by legislation and states that, prior to CURFs being released to an organisation, a Responsible Officer must undertake to ensure that the organisation will abide by the Conditions of Use of CURFs. Individual users are bound by the undertaking signed by the Responsible Officer.

All CURF users are required to read and abide by the conditions and restrictions outlined in the Responsible Use of ABS Microdata, User Guide. Any breach of the CURF Undertaking may result in withdrawal of service to individuals and/or organisations.

Conditions of sale

All ABS products and services are provided subject to the ABS Conditions of Sale. Any queries relating to these Conditions of Sale should be referred to intermediary.management@abs.gov.au.


Microdata access is priced according to the ABS Pricing Policy and Commonwealth Cost Recovery Guidelines. For details refer to ABS Pricing Policy on the ABS website. For microdata prices refer to the Microdata Entry Page.

How to apply for access

For general information on microdata and how to apply for access to microdata refer to the Microdata Entry Page.

Australian universities

The ABS/Universities Australia Agreement provides participating universities with access to a range of ABS products and services. This includes access to microdata. For further information, university clients should refer to the ABS/Universities Australia Agreement web page.

Further information

The Microdata Entry page on the ABS website contains links to microdata related information to assist users to understanding and access microdata. For further information users should email microdata.access@abs.gov.au or telephone (02) 6252 7714.


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

Data downloads

Data files

Survey material

To view the Business Characteristics Survey Management Capabilities Module 2015-16 Questionnaire (sample only) click here

History of changes

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Quality declaration

Institutional environment







Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 8172.0.55.001.

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