Frequently asked questions

Getting access, using TableBuilder and microdata, responsibilities, working with others, and licensing

Applying for access to TableBuilder and microdata

Which topics and datasets are available?

There are many topics and datasets, including microdata related to households, businesses, the economy, health and the Census. See Find a topic.

Which product or system is right for me?

There are a number of ways to access ABS data, in addition to the publicly available data on the website. Compare data services to find the right solution for you.

How do I apply for access to TableBuilder and how much does it cost?

Register in the Registration Centre to access free products, and contact us to subscribe to additional datasets. See How to access TableBuilder for details and pricing.

How do I apply for access to basic microdata in MicrodataDownload and how much does it cost?

Basic microdata can be downloaded from MicrodataDownload. Register using your organisation email address to join your organisation in the Registration Centre. See How to access MicrodataDownload for details and pricing.

How do I apply for access to detailed microdata in DataLab and how much does it cost?

Detailed microdata is available in the DataLab for experienced researchers with suitable projects. You need to register in Registration Centre, complete training and sign undertakings before we can approve your access. You also need to have  See How to apply and DataLab costs.

Who can apply for TableBuilder and microdata access?

Anyone can register for TableBuilder. Register using your organisation email address to automatically join your organisation and immediately get access to datasets your organisation has subscribed to.

Microdata access is generally limited to Australian organisations. You need to be an experienced researcher to use DataLab. See Who can access DataLab.

Registering and Registration Centre

How do I register?

You can register in the Registration Centre. As an ABS registered user you can:

  • access free TableBuilder products
  • access products your organisation has subscribed to

What if I don't receive the activation email?

Check your spam folder to see if the email has been automatically categorised. If you still can't find the email, contact the ABS at microdata.access@abs.gov.au and an ABS staff member will help you.

I have forgotten my password/user ID or my secret question/answer

Select the Forgotten Password or User ID link on the TableBuilder Log in page and follow the prompts. If you have forgotten which email you registered with or your secret question and answer, contact microdata.access@abs.gov.au.

How do I update my contact details?

Log into the Registration Centre using the same user ID and password that you use for TableBuilder.

How do I update my name or email address?

You cannot do this yourself. Email microdata.access@abs.gov.au and an ABS staff member help you update your details. 

TableBuilder

What is TableBuilder?

TableBuilder is an online tool for creating your own tables, graphs and maps using ABS microdata. When you register, you are automatically granted access to free datasets. You can also subscribe to additional datasets. See TableBuilder for more information about the tool.

How do I use TableBuilder?

The TableBuilder user guide steps you through the features and functions in TableBuilder, and includes detailed tips in troubleshooting

Does Creative Commons apply to TableBuilder output?

Yes. TableBuilder output is licensed under Creative Commons licensing, allowing users to share and transform the material for any purpose. Publication of data and analysis using ABS microdata or TableBuilder products must attribute ABS as the source of the data. See Attributing ABS material and Guide to citing ABS sources for advice.

Microdata

What is microdata?

Microdata is unit record information that provides detailed information about people, households, businesses or other types of records. The ABS provides access to microdata collected through ABS surveys, censuses, administrative data and integrated data from a range of sources. Microdata is used to support informed decision making, research and discussion within governments and the community. It is particularly useful for researchers and analysts who want to conduct in-depth analysis of the data. Learn more about using microdata in the Responsible Use of ABS Microdata user guide.

What is the difference between aggregate data and microdata?

Aggregate data is produced by grouping information into categories and combining values within these categories, for example, a count of the number of people of a particular age (obtained from the question ‘In what year were you born?’). Aggregate data examples include tables, graphs, maps, means, medians, ranges and regressions.

Microdata is a dataset of unit records where each record contains information about a person, organisation or other type of record. This information can include individual responses to questions on surveys or administrative forms, which are characteristics of that record.

What types of microdata are available?

Basic microdata is the least detailed type of microdata. You can download basic microdata from MicrodataDownload to use in your own environment. Individual data items are likely to be at broad levels of their classification.

Detailed microdata is accessible in the secure DataLab. Records are de-identified and confidentialised appropriately within the context of the other security features. They contain finer levels of detail than basic microdata. For example, where a basic microdata might report an age classification in five-yearly increments, a detailed microdata file may include month and year of birth.

What skills are required to use microdata in DataLab?

Because of the highly detailed nature of the data in DataLab, you need to be an experienced researcher to work in DataLab. See Who can access DataLab.

What analytical software is available in DataLab?

R, SAS, Stata and Python are currently available in DataLab.

Why can I only use microdata for a 'statistical or research purpose'? And what is a 'statistical or research purpose'?

ABS legislation requires that microdata is used for statistical or research purposes. You must not use microdata for compliance or regulatory purposes. Examples of statistical or research purposes can be found in the Responsible Use of ABS Microdata user guide.

Does the ABS guarantee that microdata and systems are free from errors?

While the ABS has taken great care to ensure that microdata is as correct and accurate as possible, the ABS does not guarantee, or accept any legal liability arising from, or connected to, the use of any material contained within, or derived from microdata. See the ABS Disclaimer notice.

Confidentiality

How is microdata confidentialised to protect survey participant privacy?

In accordance with the Census and Statistics (Information Release and Access) Determination 2018 made under the Census and Statistics Act (1905), the ABS ensures that all identifying information is removed prior to release and that the information is released in a manner that is not likely to enable the identification of an individual. Learn more about

What is the Five Safes Framework?

The Five Safes Framework is an internationally recognised framework that poses specific questions to help assess the disclosure risk of microdata. Learn more in Data Confidentiality.

Can I merge or link microdata files?

You may merge microdata files where:

  • the data has been released as a multi-level or linked file and
  • identifiers have been provided for this purpose and
  • you have been approved to do so as part of your project if you are using the microdata in the DataLab

You must not match microdata files where identifiers have not been provided for that purpose. Learn more in the Responsible Use of Microdata user guide.

Can I link microdata to my own data?

You must not attempt to match or link microdata records to your own data. When the ABS links records to create a linked microdata file, we assess the linked data to ensure that the confidentiality of the records is protected before being released. Where the linked data is provided in multiple files, they may only be used together if record identifiers have been provided for that purpose and you have been approved to do so as part of your project. Learn more in the Responsible Use of Microdata user guide.

Is there information on how to confidentialise my own aggregate data or microdata?

Yes, there is a detailed explanation about treating microdata in Data Confidentiality.

Working with others when using microdata

Can I collaborate with others for my microdata research?

Yes, as long as all researchers are approved to work on the project and access the microdata. 

Collaborating researchers can work on a project without seeking further approval if you will only be viewing or discussing basic microdata aggregate output or DataLab output that has been cleared by an ABS officer. For example, if a consultant provides a report with conclusions drawn from analysis of the microdata to another organisation, then that organisation is not required to have approved access to the microdata. See Collaborating on microdata research

Can I share microdata or microdata output?

Access to microdata can only be granted by the ABS. Microdata must not be shared with other individuals as this is a breach of the Undertaking signed by your organisation. See When can microdata be shared.

Output can only be shared when certain conditions are met. See When can output from microdata be shared.

Can I belong to more than one organisation?

Individuals belonging to multiple organisations may be approved to access microdata in each organisation. Separate approval must be sought from the ABS for microdata product access under each organisation, as access is granted at an organisational level as well as an individual level.

Can I compare Australian microdata to similar microdata from other countries?

Yes. Some examples of where ABS data has been included in international studies include:

Licensing, copyright and citations

What are the licence provisions and copyright requirements?

Intellectual Property rights in microdata, including copyright, are owned by the Commonwealth of Australia represented by the ABS. Copyright notices appearing on microdata products or on information displayed or printed by the microdata product must not be removed. See Licence provisions, copyright and attribution.

How do I attribute ABS as the source of data in my publication?

See Attributing ABS material.

How do I cite or reference TableBuilder or microdata output I have used in my research?

See How to cite ABS sources.

What other research has been done using integrated microdata?

Valuable and important research has been done using ABS microdata. See MADIP Research Projects and BLADE Research Projects for some examples of projects that used two of our biggest integrated datasets.

Obligations, responsibilities and liability

What are the Conditions of use for TableBuilder and microdata access?

There are a number of conditions of use that you must agree to before accessing TableBuilder and microdata. See Conditions of use.

What are the obligations for microdata users?

    Obligations for microdata users include:

    • only using microdata for statistical or research purposes
    • not attempting to identify individuals or organisations to which the information relates
    • not trying to avoid, override or otherwise circumvent the mode of access controls in place by the ABS

    What are the Responsible Officer's responsibilities?

    The obligations are detailed in the Responsible Officer Undertaking. In summary, the Responsible Officer agrees that all microdata users in their organisation will:

    • use the information for statistical or research purposes
    • not attempt to identify persons or organisations to which the information relates
    • not attempt to avoid, override or otherwise circumvent the controls put in place by the ABS
    • not attempt to match the information with any other list, database or repository of persons or organisations
    • not provide microdata to anyone without ABS approval

    Who can be a Responsible Officer?

    The Responsible Officer is usually the CEO or equivalent for the organisation.

    • For Universities: a Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Pro Vice-Chancellor or University Registrar.
    • For Government Departments: Statutory Head, Secretary of Department, Head of Agency or equivalent, as agreed with the ABS.
    • For all other organisations: a person who has the same legal responsibility for the actions of the entity as a Departmental Secretary does for a Government Department. This will usually be someone with the status of CEO, Company Secretary or Managing Director.

    Alternatively, the Responsible Officer may be another person in an organisation with a suitable delegation.

    What are the Contact Officer's role and responsibilities?

    Contact officers are appointed by your organisation to manage your organisation's users and their use of microdata, and to liaise with the ABS on microdata related matters.

    What are the penalties for breaching a microdata undertaking?

    Breaching an undertaking is very serious, and in extreme circumstances can lead to large fine or imprisonment for two years, or both. See Consequences of non-compliance with an undertaking.

    What is the ABS liability position for microdata?

    While the ABS has taken great care to ensure that microdata is as correct and accurate as possible, the ABS does not guarantee, or accept any legal liability arising from, or connected to, the use of any material contained within, or derived from microdata. See Disclaimer.

    ABS/Universities Australia agreement

    Do Australian university students have to pay to access TableBuilder and microdata?

    Under the ABS/Universities Australia agreement, students, staff and researchers are not individually invoiced for their use of the charged ABS data services that are covered under the agreement. Universities Australia and participating universities have paid for access on behalf of university members.

    Which products can I access under the ABS/Universities agreement?

    Users covered by the agreement can access TableBuilder, MicrodataDownload and DataLab. These products will allow users to access a broad range of topics, including the Census of Population and Housing, health, education, business, labour force, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, migrants, crime, disabilities, ageing and carers.

    Is my university a member of the ABS/Universities Australia agreement?

    See Participating Australian Universities.

    What is the Luxembourg Income Study?

    Luxembourg Income Study is a depository for anonymised household survey microdata provided by international agencies, including ABS Income and Housing Costs microdata. Australian users can apply to access LIS at no charge.