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Place of Work

Place of Work

Place of Work (POWP) data provide information on where employed people over 15 years of age worked in the week prior to Census Night.

POWP is determined from written responses to the 'Business name' and 'Workplace address' questions about the main place of work last week. It is coded to geographic areas known as Destination Zones (DZNs). DZNs are defined by the relevant State Transport Authority (STAs) from each state or territory, in conjunction with the ABS.

These questions were first asked in the 1971 Census.

Data for POWP, Place of Usual Residence (PURP) and Method of Travel to Work (MTWP) can be cross-classified to examine movements of people to and from work, to analyse transport patterns and assist in the planning for transport systems.

Place of Work is a hierarchical field and for 2011 can be broken into State, SA2 and Destination Zone. The POWP variable replaced Journey to Work (JTW) in 2006.

POWP is determined from written responses to 'Business name' (Question 40 on the Census Household Form) and 'Workplace address' (Question 41).

Questions 40 and 41 as they appeared on the 2011 Census Household Form

A text only version of these questions is also available.

Geographic changes with the ASGS and ASGC and hierarchy aggregations

Place of work data for the 2011 Census has been 'dual coded' to both ASGS and ASGC using an index that derives Destination zone (DZN), SA2, and SLA. This is achieved by using firstly an ASGC index to derive SLA (and consequently LGA) and secondly an ASGS index to derive Destination Zone and the associated SA2.

For the 2011 Census, Destination Zone boundaries aggregate precisely to SA2 boundaries based on the new ASGS. It should be noted that for a given response, it may be possible for an SLA but not an SA2 to be obtained, or vice versa.

Since LGAs are aggregates of one or more SLAs, an LGA can then be derived from the SLA. Place of Work SLA/LGA data have been provided on the ASGC basis and are available in products such as 2011 TableBuilder and the Working Population Community Profile.

Further information on these correspondences is available from the Geography Portal.

Dual coding correspondences

ASGS Place of Work
ASGC Place of Work






Destination Zone

Geographic coverage

The STAs define study areas covering areas of interest to the transport authorities. Place of work data are produced for destination zones within these study areas.

Prior to 2001, the study areas were limited to major urban areas in each state and territory. For the 2001 Census, Destination Zones were expanded to encompass the whole of Australia, including the territories of Jervis Bay, Cocos Keeling Islands and Christmas Island (but excluding the External Territories).

In 1996 JTW data were available only for those people who worked in the Detailed Study Areas in urban areas. Any person who was enumerated in a study area but gave a workplace address that was outside this study area was coded as 'Worked Outside Study Area'. For example, if a person commuted from Mittagong to work in Sydney, JTW data for that person could not be obtained.

Destination Zones

This is the smallest spatial unit to which POWP is coded. Destination Zones for 2011 are aggregated from Mesh Blocks, and they aggregate to SA2s. In 2011, the ABS provided the coding indexes based on ABS indexes with supplementary information from the STAs. Data has been validated by both the ABS and the STAs.

Until 2006, responses to name and address of the person's place of work were coded using the index supplied by the STAs. Data was not fully validated by the ABS, and users of data prior to 2011 should consult with the relevant transport authorities on all aspects of DZN data.

Destination Zones before 2011 were not aggregates of Collection Districts (CDs). For output purposes, Destination Zones aggregated to SLAs in 2006.

Data is also available for Local Government Areas (LGAs) to assist with time series comparison; however, LGA boundaries may have changed. Prior to 1986, data is available at LGA level (the ASGC was introduced after the 1981 Census).

No fixed place of work

In 2011, persons who had no fixed workplace address, but who usually journeyed to a specific address in order to begin work (a depot) were coded to the address of the depot. If they did not begin work at a depot, they were coded to the Destination Zone of 9499.

Comparisons with other labour force data

The data variables most commonly cross classified with POWP – Place of Usual Residence (PURP) and Method of Travel to Work (MTWP) – both refer to Census Day. Workplace address (POWP) refers to the 'main job held last week', i.e. the week before Census Night, to improve comparability of Census labour force data with other ABS labour force data.

This difference in reference periods can cause apparent anomolies (outliers) for people who changed their place of work or their place of usual residence during the week prior to Census Night, and for people who were employed in the week prior to the Census but were no longer employed on Census Day. When using data for place of enumeration, there may be apparent anomalies for people who were not at their usual residence on Census Night – for example, if they worked in the week before Census Night but were on vacation away from home on Census Night.

Availability of area codes and boundaries

To assist ABS clients in understanding workplace address data, listings of SA2s, SLAs, LGAs and (for 2011) DZNs are available from the ABS National Information and Referral Service (NIRS).

Clients who would like to obtain the Destination Zone boundaries for 2006 and previous Censuses in digital or mapped form should contact the relevant STA. Workplace address data below the Statistical Local Area level for these Censuses was not fully validated by the ABS and should only be used in consultation with the relevant STA.

Time comparisons

Although place of work and journey to work data have been produced from the Census since 1971, data are not comparable across Censuses, for the following reasons:
  • The destination zones have been redefined for each Census, to take into account changes and growth within each state and territory and the needs of state and territory Transport Authorities.
  • Data were not available at Destination Zone level prior to 2011, except for customised data requests.
  • There have been changes to the questions about place of work, for example in the instructions for people with no fixed place of work, and in coding persons to 'not applicable' and 'not stated' categories.

Further information

Further information on Census Topics 1911-2011, can be found in How Australia Takes a Census (cat. no. 2903.0).

For a detailed description of POWP see the Census Dictionary 2011 (cat. no. 2901.0). Place of Work including DZN is explained in Chapter 7 of Statistical Geography: Volume 2 -- Census Geographic Areas, Australia, 2006 (cat. no. 2905.0)

More information about Destination Zones and coding indexes is available in the Place of Work Data Quality Statement.

More information about study areas and destination zones prior to 2011 is available in the 2006 Place of Work factsheet.

For information about Other Territories and External Territories, see Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS): Volume 1 - Main Structure and Greater Capital City Statistical Areas, July 2011 (cat. no. 1270.0.55.001).

Fact sheets

  • Place of Work


Enumeration procedures

2006 fact sheets

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