Australia's General Social Survey - Frequently Asked Questions

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About this survey

About this survey

I've been chosen to be in the General Social Survey – what is this?
This is an important national survey that collects information about how people in Australia feel about different aspects of their life including health, access to services, participation in community, support, feelings of safety and trust.

How is the information from this survey used and why is it important?
Your participation in this survey is an opportunity to make a real difference. Results are used by governments, researchers and community groups to better understand the social characteristics and wellbeing of people in Australia. The information you provide will contribute to important decisions being made for your local area and the wider Australian community.

By taking part, you can ensure that your experiences and circumstances become part of the story of life in Australia today. Decisions about employment, families, community services and volunteering can be made by analysing the data from this survey. The information you provide will help to shape policies and services which improve the lives of all Australians.

Why was my household selected?
Each year, we collect data about all aspects of life from thousands of households throughout Australia in order to better understand our population and future needs. Households from every state and territory are selected at random to participate in this survey.

Rather than survey the whole population, we use a scientific sampling process designed to collect data which builds a picture that includes people from all areas of Australia. All households have a chance of being selected for this important national survey.

Once a household has been selected, another household cannot be substituted in its place, as changing the random selection could mean some parts of the community are under or over represented.

It is important that all selected households complete the survey in order to make sure the results represent the whole community. This means that decisions made about services provided by government, local councils and community groups are made using the most accurate information.

How do I complete the survey?
Given the recent spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) we ask that all households selected complete the survey online.

If you are unable to respond online, please call us on 1800 642 381 to complete the survey over the phone. For more information about the ABS response to Coronavirus (COVID-19) you can visit our Information for Survey Participants page by clicking here.

To respond online please follow the instructions in the letter that we sent you. This includes step-by-step instructions for you to create your ABS Survey Account and start your survey online.

If you are having trouble accessing your form, completing the survey or have lost your Form Access Code, please call us on 1800 642 381 and an ABS officer will be happy to assist you.

If we don’t hear from you before the due date (shown on the letter we sent), an Interviewer will make contact with your household to complete the survey. ABS Interviewers will always identify themselves as an ABS officer, and show you their official ABS photo identification. They will conduct the interview using a laptop computer.

Who in my household will be required to participate?
First, you can choose someone from your household to be your household representative who will be asked to provide general information about everyone in the household.

Then, we will randomly select one person from your household, aged 15 years or older, to answer questions about their social characteristics and wellbeing. The Survey Account login details created by your household representative can be used to start, save and return to submit the survey.

If the randomly selected person is 15-17 years, the consent of a parent or guardian is required.

What kinds of questions will you ask?
This survey collects general information on everyone in the household and includes questions about age, country of birth and relationships within the household.

The survey then asks one randomly selected person, aged 15 years or older, to answer a range of questions about involvement in the community, employment, education, volunteering, discrimination, health and wellbeing.

How do I know the person contacting me is from the ABS?
If your household has been selected to participate in this survey, you will have received a letter and flyer informing you about your selection.

You may receive calls from numbers that you are not familiar with including mobile phones or “unknown” numbers. This is because many of our Interviewers are teleworkers and use ABS authorised mobile phones and office phones, connected to our highly secure networks, to conduct interviews over the phone.

Remember -The ABS will NEVER ask you to provide or confirm your bank details.

If you are concerned, you can call us on 1800 642 381 and we will verify your selection in the survey and the identity of the Interviewer who is contacting you.

What happens if there are people in my household who don't speak English?
Where possible, we can arrange for an ABS interviewer who is fluent in the language of the householder to conduct the survey. If there is someone in the household who can translate, and the respondent agrees, they can help the interviewer.

Will I be paid for my time?
No. There is no provision within the Census and Statistics Act 1905 to reimburse people for the cost of providing statistical information. In line with other national statistical organisations throughout the world, individuals, businesses and other organisations are asked to supply information for statistical purposes without compensation. It is only with the support of people like you that we can continue to produce the statistics that inform Australia's important decisions.

How will you keep my information safe, secure and confidential?
We take the security of the information you provide to us very seriously. Your information remains strictly confidential to the ABS and is not shared with other agencies. We use the information you provide to calculate statistics, which are released in ways that do not allow for the identification of individuals or households.

All ABS employees have signed a legally enforceable Undertaking of Fidelity and Security in which they agree to keep any information, including personal information which they may deal with in the course of their work, private and confidential. This agreement applies to ABS employees for the rest of their lives, even if they leave the ABS. The penalty for breaching this is two years jail, a $21,600 fine, or both.

We comply with the Australian Privacy Principles. If you believe we have breached these principles, please see the information on how to lodge a complaint about privacy matters, contained within our privacy policy.

Will the information I provide be combined with other data?
The information you provide will be combined with the information from other respondents to produce vital statistics about Australian households.

We often combine data from two or more surveys because combining data helps fill the gaps — and saves you time. Combining data helps provide a clearer picture of Australia than what can be achieved by any one survey alone, and creates new insights about our society and the economy. By reusing existing data, we reduce the need for Australian households and businesses to provide more information.

Governments, researchers and community groups will use this vital data to better understand how Australians live and feel about different aspects of their lives. This will help design policies and services to improve the lives of Australians.

How can I provide feedback about my experience in the General Social Survey?
If you have participated in this survey, or any of our other surveys, we want to hear about your experience. We value your feedback and will use it to improve how we work with our survey participants.

You can use our feedback form to provide us with feedback. For this survey, please select the option "Participation in an ABS Household Survey".

I'm having trouble completing the survey online – where can I find help?
Please see our Survey Account Help page for assistance with technical difficulties and answers to frequently asked questions on creating and using an ABS Survey Account.

You can also call us on 1800 642 381 and one of our team will be happy to assist you.

Who can I contact for more information?
For help or more information about this survey, please call us on 1800 642 381 during business hours. For help outside these hours, please leave a message with your contact details and we will return your call as soon as possible.

Thank You
We acknowledge and value your time and effort participating in this survey. It is only with the support of people like you that we can continue to produce the statistics that inform Australia's important decisions.