Review of the Sex Standard


The Australian Bureau of Statistics has commenced a review of its Sex Standard.

The Sex Standard is used in all ABS household surveys. Sex is a fundamental demographic characteristic used in social and population analysis. It is a core cross-tabulation for practically all social statistical topics such as employment, education, and health. Sex, along with age, is also essential to the production of population estimates and projections.

The Sex Standard provides:

  • a conceptual basis for recognising the distinction between males and females based on biological differences in sexual characteristics. In some situations an additional category - 'Intersex or Indeterminate' - may be used to categorise people, who because of a genetic condition, were born with reproductive organs or sex chromosomes that are not exclusively male or female,
  • a framework for the collection of sex information in statistical surveys, and
  • standard output categories for statistical collections.

This standard provides a basis for the ABS to collect statistics relating to people but also provides a standard for other organisations to collect data about sex in surveys and administrative collections.

The review will focus on three areas;

(i) The capacity and need to distinguish the concept of sex from the concept of gender for different types of statistical collections and output, and whether there are grounds to develop a new gender standard to complement the revised sex standard. Although the terms sex and gender are often used interchangeably, they are separate concepts and may be important for different types of statistics. Sex refers to a person's biological sex and associated physical characteristics. Gender refers to the way a person self identifies and presents them self to the community, such as their name, outward appearance, mannerisms, and dress. A person's sex is not necessarily consistent with their gender.

(ii) Within a statistical environment, the capacity and need to collect information on gender/sex for those that do not identify themselves as either male or female, and who do not fall within the definition of the 'Intersex or Indeterminate' category of the current Sex Standard (i.e. genetic condition resulting in both male or female characteristics).

(iii) The practicality of what can be collected and output in different types of statistical collections.


Consultation is now closed. Further enquiries can be sent to