ABS Response to Sex and Gender Guidelines


How does the Australian Government Guidelines on the Recognition of Sex and Gender relate to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and its statistical information?

The ABS does not currently collect information on gender. Mindful of the Attorney General's Department's recommendations in this area, it is evaluating the need for gender-based statistics and the practical issues associated with the collection of such information. The ABS has also commenced a program of work to develop a Gender statistical standard to complement the Attorney General's Department's guidelines. It is expected that this standard will be completed during 2014/15 and be available to assist agencies to collect gender information for statistical purposes on a consistent basis.

The ABS currently collects information on the sex, rather than gender, of persons who participate in its statistical surveys. Sex is a key demographic indicator in its own right as well as an indicator against which many other streams of statistical information are cross-classified. For example, aggregates of income and employment are analysed by sex.

The ABS provides 'Male' and 'Female' response options on its survey forms, although the ABS Sex Standard includes guidelines for recording an individual's sex as 'Intersex or Indeterminate' if respondents volunteer this information. Data quality considerations, respondent's reporting practices, confidentiality requirements, and the capacity to publish aggregates for the ‘Intersex or Indeterminate’ category are reasons why this category is currently excluded from survey forms. These factors are being revisited as part of the ABS's current review of its Sex Standard, which is scheduled to be completed in 2014. It should be noted that at this point the ABS has not committed to including a third sex option on its survey forms in the future, and it will make a decision after reconsidering the reasons for current exclusion noted above.

Regardless of whether or not some ABS surveys move to collecting gender in the future, the ABS will continue to require information on sex to ensure the ongoing calculation of key demographic indicators such as Australia's population estimates, and to inform policy and research in fields which base analysis on the biological differences between males and females, e.g. aspects of health. To support any on-going need for sex-based data the ABS recommends that agencies which currently supply, or anticipate supplying, sex-based data to other agencies for statistical purposes contact those agencies to discuss the impacts of changing their current practices.