Australia's Monthly Population Survey
Frequently Asked Questions
I've been chosen to be in the Monthly Population Survey – what is this?
This is an important national survey that collects vital information about Australia’s workforce and has been run every month by the Australian Bureau of Statistics since 1960. The nation’s employment and unemployment figures are produced from this survey.
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 how many people in Australia have work, how many don’t have work, and how many are looking for work (or more work than they currently have). 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 and unemployment services, industry support, childcare and education can be made by analysing 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?
Every month about 26, 000 households participate in the Monthly Population Survey. We take a sample of households from all over Australia so that we can build a picture that includes people from all backgrounds and lifestyles. We collect data about all aspects of life from thousands of households throughout Australia in order to better understand our population and future needs.
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.
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.
Who in my household will be required to participate?
For the first part of the survey, choose someone in our household to be your household representative. They will be asked to answer general questions about your household and its finances.
For the rest of the survey, we will ask each person in your household aged 15 years and over about their income, education and other topics. All people completing the survey may need to refer to financial records.
All household members over the age of 15 are included in the Monthly Population Survey. The questions can usually be answered for all of your household members in a few minutes and the answers can be provided by any adult member of the household, or all members of the house can complete their own section online, over the phone or in person.
We need your whole household to complete the survey. It’s very important the survey captures all Australians, whether young or old, people who have jobs, people who don’t have jobs and people who are retired, to make sure everyone is represented in the survey results, and services are planned in the right areas for those who need them most.
How do I complete the survey?
If you have been selected in this survey you will receive a letter in the mail that contains instructions on how to create an ABS Survey Account, add your secure Form Access Code, and register for your survey online.
If you are having trouble registering, completing your survey, or have lost your registration letter please call us on 1800 023 105 and an ABS officer will be happy to assist you.
If you would prefer you can also complete the survey over the phone or in person with an ABS interviewer. If this is the best option for you please call us on 1800 023 105 or register your contact details online using the instructions and secure Form Access Code included in your registration letter so we can make sure we contact you on your preferred number at a time that is convenient for you.
If we don't hear from you an interviewer may come to your home to make contact with your household and 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. It would be appreciated if you could provide a table and chair to the interviewer.
We have done extensive planning on our community engagement and protecting people selected in our surveys, as well as our interviewers, during COVID-19. If you would like to know more about how the ABS is responding to the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) please see how we are keeping the community safe during COVID-19.
What kinds of questions will you ask?
The main part of the survey asks about your employment:
These questions allow us to produce a range of statistics about Australia’s workforce. Full results of the survey are available free of charge for everyone on the ABS website in Labour Force, Australia (cat no 6202.0).
How long will I be in the survey for?
You will be included in the survey once a month for eight months. Completing the survey for eight months is important as this allows us to measure any changes in your household's situation over time. This information is combined with other households to enable the ABS to produce reliable labour force statistics and measure change accurately at national and state levels.
Most months the survey will be very quick and completed in less than 10 minutes. Some months may have some extra questions about important topics relevant to the workforce, and how long these take can vary person to person.
If you move away from your address during the eight months you will not need to continue completing the survey as the new occupants of the selected address will replace you in the survey.
There are some instances in which a household may not be required to complete all eight months of the survey. In these instances, we will send the household a letter informing them of this decision.
There are several reasons why a household may not be required to complete the full length of an ABS survey. For example, there might be COVID restrictions or environmental factors preventing an interviewer making contact, or the household may have been part of a sample selected for a shorter survey period.
We do not remove households from the survey based on personal information they may have already provided for the survey.
I am retired, do I still complete the survey?
Yes, if you are retired you represent an important group of Australians and we need your information to make sure all Australians are represented in survey results.
To provide accurate statistics we need to survey a sample of households that provide a balanced representation of all households across Australia. If we didn't include retired people in the survey we would be unable to collect accurate information on the proportion of Australians who are looking for work, as estimates would not take into account the whole population. So while we understand that in most cases there will be no change month to month in your answers to questions, it is still very important that we check in with you each month to make sure the same people are living at the address and there have been no other changes to your work status.
By participating you help to ensure accurate statistics are produced to understand Australia's labour market and services are provided in the right areas for those who need them most. If you need help completing the survey online or would prefer to complete over the phone please call 1800 023 105 and an ABS officer will assist you.
Is the survey compulsory?
Ultimately, yes. The questions included in this survey are being asked under the authority of the Census and Statistics Act 1905, which has provisions to make surveys compulsory.
Under the Act, you are obliged to provide the information being requested, unless otherwise specified. All the information you provide will remain strictly confidential and is protected under the Act.
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 informing you about your selection . You can also call us on 1800 023 105 to confirm your selection.
For any personal visits, our staff will always identify themselves, show you their official ABS photo identification and clearly explain the information they are seeking and how this will be used.
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 to conduct interviews over the phone.
The ABS will NEVER ask you to provide or confirm your bank details or tax file number (TFN).
If you're concerned that a phone call, SMS, voicemail or email claiming to be from the ABS is not genuine, don’t reply to it. Instead, call us on 1800 023 105 and we will verify your selection in the survey and the identity of the Interviewer who is contacting you.
Will I be paid for my time?
No. There is no provision within the Census and Statistics Act 1905 to reimburse people for 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.
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.
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 $26,640 fine, or both.
Will the information I provide be combined with other data?
The information you provide may be combined with the information from other respondents to produce vital statistics about Australian households.
The ABS is committed to maximising the value of data and statistics. One way to do this is to combine data from two or more sources together. This is known as data integration. The ABS does this to create new statistics and insights that help address important questions about Australia’s communities, economy and environment, and to save you time when responding to surveys.
The new insights created through data integration assist policy makers and researchers to better understand Australian families, communities, industry and the economy. This wider understanding can help to improve the development and delivery of government services and programs in areas such as health, infrastructure, housing and other community services.
By reusing existing data, we can also reduce the amount or frequency of information needed from our surveys, saving you time, and using public money more effectively.
You can learn more about ABS data integration by visiting www.abs.gov.au/dataintegration
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, as well as answers to frequently asked questions on creating and using an ABS Survey Account.
Who can I contact for more information?
For help or more information about this survey, please call us on 1800 023 105 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.
We acknowledge and value your time and commitment 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.