1254.0.55.002 - Assessing impact on policy of ABS products-based data, March 2010  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 05/03/2010  First Issue
   Page tools: Print Print Page Print all pages in this productPrint All RSS Feed RSS Bookmark and Share Search this Product

ABS's Product Classifications

Classifications provide structured frameworks to support systematic data collection, collation, manipulation, dissemination, and statistical analysis.

Product classifications relate to physical goods, and in some cases, services. The ABS currently uses a range of product classifications which are each designed to meet specific objectives.

In many instances the ABS has followed the international statistical community and used international standards. These are classifications which have achieved broad acceptance and are approved and recommended for the collection and production of particular types of statistics. In some cases the international standard has been used without modification. For example, the United Nation's Standard International Trade Classification (SITC) has been adopted for the production of a range of import and export output data. Trade data is also produced using the World Customs Organization's Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (HS) as there is a strong link between the HS and widely agreed customs regulations and agreements.

Other international standards have been used with minor changes to suit local conditions, while others have been used only as a base from which major changes have been implemented to meet the ABS's and Australia's requirements.

Other product classifications which do not have any links to international references have been developed by the ABS to meet specific needs. In some cases they have been developed in close consultation with data providers, government agencies, and key stakeholders and data users. Australia's Agriculture and Mining industry commodity statistics have been largely developed using this approach.

The conceptual basis used, the extent of the goods and services covered, and the level of detail identified varies across these classifications.

The concepts and principles underpinning product classifications are essentially designed to reflect the nature and extent of the subject-matter being covered and support particular types of analysis and user needs. Aspects such as the physical properties of products, their intrinsic nature, the product's purpose or end use, and the industry of origin are all valid conventions upon which product classifications may be based.

Classifications which define categories according to the physical properties of the products and services covered are ideal for areas such as agriculture, mining and manufacturing where the main statistical interest lies in a relatively straightforward measure of production. In contrast the Australian Consumer Price Index Commodity Classification (CPICC) is a classification of all goods and services acquired by households. A feature unique to this classification (and other prices classifications) is the grouping together of substitutable items. For instance, take-away meals are recognised as substitutes for eating at home, so both at–home food products such as meat, fruit and vegetables, and take-away meals are included in the CPICC 'Food' group. Hence the CPICC includes a purpose dimension not required in agriculture, mining and manufacturing classifications. Please note the CPICC is also currently under review. Details can be found in the Information Paper: Issues to be considered during the 16th series Australian Consumer Price Index review (ABS Catalogue No. 6468.0). The outcomes of the CPICC review will be incorporated with the outcomes of this discussion paper.

The Australian National Accounts uses another conceptual approach. The Input–Output Product Classification (IOPC) used to compile Australia's input–output tables focuses on both the production and subsequent use of all goods and services. The IOPC groups products according to the industry to which the product is deemed primary.

The extent of correspondence and harmonisation possible between classifications depends on the relatability of the classification's item category breakdowns and the conceptual links that can be established between them. There is not a standard underlying basis linking all classifications. To overcome this issue the ABS uses a number of correspondence tables which link various combinations of classifications, and hence allows for a degree of relatability between data derived from different sources or by different collection standards. Whilst correspondence tables are a valuable tool for relating data to varying degrees, there are instances where it is difficult to establish a relationship between classifications.

It is in this area that data users, analysts and researchers face potential problems. Whilst the use of particular classifications may be well suited to those who have a specialised and focused interest in areas such as agriculture or price movements, it is less than ideal to those who relate data from many sources into a cohesive broader view of the economy.

A detailed list of statistical topics, the classifications used within these topics, and a selection of ABS publications in which relevant product data appears, is included in Appendix 1. The appendix provides an insight into the extent of data covered by product classifications and the different classifications used.