Australia's General Social Survey - Frequently Asked Questions
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I've been chosen to be in the Monthly Population Survey – what is this?
If you are reading this it's likely to be because you have found a letter in your mailbox telling you that your household has been selected to be in the Monthly Population Survey. 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. Information collected from the survey tells us 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). Results of this survey are used by government, local councils, industry business, and community groups to make important decisions that can directly affect you, your family and people you know.
We need your help to get it right. Every month around 26,000 households participate in this survey. Unless everyone plays their part we can't get a true picture of employment in Australia. That is why, no matter what your circumstances are, 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 survey results and services are provided in the right areas for those who need them most.
How do I complete the survey?
The easiest way to complete the Monthly Population Survey is online.
If you have been selected in this survey you will receive a registration letter in the mail that contains instructions and a secure Form Access Code for you to register online at www.abs.gov.au/mps. Once you have created your ABS survey account and registered your contact details for the Monthly Population survey we will send you an email each month when your survey is ready to complete.
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.
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. To do this, we use a fair statistical method to randomly select households. This means everyone has an equal chance of being selected for this important national survey. Once a household has been selected, another household cannot be substituted in its place as other households have already had their chance of selection, and changing the random selection could mean some parts of the community are under or over represented.
It is very important that all selected households complete the survey to make sure the survey results represent the whole community, so that decisions made based on the results of this survey, such as the services provided by government, local councils and community groups, are made on the right information.
If you are interested in the sampling methodology used to select households for the Monthly Population Survey see here for more information.
What will you ask me?
The Monthly Population Survey collects a range of information to produce important information about Australia's workforce, such as our employment and unemployment figures, and enable important decisions about employment, industry support and education.
The main part of the survey asks about your employment:
These questions are asked each month to measure changes in peoples circumstances over time, so while it may feel a little repetitive, it is very important that we capture whether there have been any changes from month to month so we can make sure we are producing reliable statistics and measure changes in the community accurately.
In some months you'll be asked some additional questions on various topics including employment arrangements, education or childcare arrangements.
These questions are 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 is the information from this survey used? Why is it important?
Your participation in this survey will help us to produce statistics about matters that affect the whole community, including work, unemployment, training, retirement, looking after the family and home.
The Monthly Population Survey provides information about the Australian population and workforce on a regular basis. The nation's official employment and unemployment figures are produced from this survey.
Government departments use the information from this survey to identify how and where they should be using public resources. They use this information to check how different groups of people in the Australian community are impacted by existing policies, and to inform future changes to policy. Industry, trade unions and academics also use information from this survey for research and to inform important decisions about employment services, industry support and education.
By taking part you ensure that your experiences and circumstances become an important part of the bigger picture of life in Australia today and help to shape policies that affect everyone in the nation.
Full results of the survey are available free of charge for everyone on the ABS website in Labour Force, Australia (cat no 6202.0).
Which people in my household will be required to participate?
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.
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.
Is the survey compulsory?
The questions included in this survey are being asked under the authority of the Census and Statistics Act 1905. Under the Act, you are obliged to provide the information being requested, unless otherwise stated. The ABS is required by the Act to maintain the secrecy of all information provided to it. No information will be released in a way that would enable an individual household to be identified
What happens if there are people in the household who don't speak English?
An ABS interviewer who speaks the language of the householder will conduct the interview if possible. Alternatively, arrangements can be made to organise an interpreter to conduct the interview. Please call 1800 023 105 (free call, excluding mobile phones) so that these arrangements can be made.
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.
How will you keep my information safe, secure, and confidential?
The ABS takes the security of the information you provide to us very seriously.
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 imprisonment, a $26,640 fine, or both.
How do I know the person contacting me is from the Australian Bureau of Statistics?
You will be sent a survey guide and registration letter in the mail to advise that you have been selected in the Monthly Population Survey and explain the purpose of the survey. 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, 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 or tax file number (TFN).
If you are concerned you can call us on 1800 023 105 and we can confirm your selection in the survey and the identity of the staff member who is contacting you.
I received mail addressed to me, where did you get my name from?
To make our communication more tailored, we may source names enrolled to vote at an address from the Australian Electoral Roll. This information will be kept secure and confidential. For more information, please see the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918.
All household members over the age of 15 are included in the Monthly Population Survey so it is important for all people living at the address to participate in the Monthly Population Survey, even if they did not receive a letter.
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.
Where do I find my Form Access Code?
Your secure Form Access Code is included in the letter that you will receive in the mail.
You'll need this code to link the Monthly Population Survey to your ABS Survey Account and complete your contact details form. If you are having trouble finding or using your Form Access Code please call 1800 023 105 and an ABS officer will be able to assist you.
Who can I contact for more information?
If you need help or more information about the Monthly Population Survey please call us on 1800 023 105 Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm AEST.
For help outside these hours please leave a message with your contact details and we will call you back to assist 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.