Australian Bureau of Statistics

Rate the ABS website
ABS Home > Statistics > By Catalogue Number
1266.0 - Australian Standard Classification of Religious Groups, 2011  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 28/07/2011   
   Page tools: Print Print Page Print all pages in this productPrint All RSS Feed RSS Bookmark and Share Search this Product



A one-digit code is assigned to each first level unit in the classification. A two or three-digit code is assigned to each second level unit, and a four-digit code is assigned to each third-level unit.

Broad group level

The first level of the classification, the broad group level, comprises seven categories and provides a broad overall picture of the religious affiliation of the Australian population. The broad groups covering the major religions are arranged alphabetically, and are represented by one digit codes.

They are:

1 Buddhism
2 Christianity
3 Hinduism
4 Islam
5 Judaism
6 Other Religions
7 No Religion

Narrow group level

The second and third levels of the classification - the narrow group and religious group levels respectively - provide increasingly detailed breakdowns of the broad groups.

Most narrow groups are represented by a three-digit code, the first digit indicating the broad group to which they belong. For example, within the Christianity broad group (code 2), Anglican is code 201, Baptist is code 203, and Brethren is code 205, etc.

Religious group level

At the third and most detailed level, religious groups are represented by a four-digit code. The first three digits represent the broad and narrow groups to which they belong.

For example:

Religious groups 2012 Anglican Church of Australia, and 2013 Anglican Catholic Church, both fall within the Anglican narrow group (code 201) and the Christianity broad group (code 2).

2 Christianity
201 Anglican
2012 Anglican Church of Australia
2013 Anglican Catholic Church

Why there are two-digit and three-digit codes in narrow groups

Narrow groups generally consist of nine or less religious groups, thus allowing for the use of a three-digit narrow group code. However, an exception to this coding scheme was necessary for the narrow groups representing Pentecostal Religions (code 24), Other Protestant Religions (code 28), and Other Christian Religions (code 29). To allow these narrow groups to comprise more than nine religious groups without necessitating a five-digit code, they have each been allocated two-digit codes rather than three-digit codes.

For example:

The Pentecostal narrow group is represented by code 24, within which 14 religious groups are represented by four-digit codes ranging from 2401 Apostolic Church (Australia), to 2499 Pentecostal, nec.

2 Christianity
24 Pentecostal
2401 Apostolic Church (Australia)
2402 Assemblies of God
2403 Bethesda Churches
2404 Christian City Church
2405 Christian Life Churches International
2406 Christian Outreach Centres
2407 Christian Revival Crusade
2408 Faith Churches
2411 Foursquare Gospel Church
2412 Full Gospel Church
2413 Revival Centres
2414 Rhema Family Church
2415 United Pentecostal
2499 Pentecostal, nec

If processing or storage systems require all categories at a particular level of the classification to use the same number of digits, it is recommended the codes of these three two-digit narrow groups are backfilled by use of the digit zero: 240 Pentecostal, 280 Other Protestant, 290 Other Christian.

Adding religious groups to the classification

The religious profile of Australia is likely to change over time because of factors such as changing migration patterns. So it may be necessary to add religious groups to, or delete religious groups from, the lists of religious groups currently separately identified in the classification as the number of affiliated persons to particular religions changes. (All religious groups not separately identified in the classification are notionally included in a residual category.)

If a religious group needs to be added to (separately identified in) the classification structure, it is given the next available four-digit code, in the numerical sequence of codes, of the narrow group to which it is being added. The available four-digit codes are those ending in the numerals one to eight (four-digit codes ending in zero or nine are reserved for residual categories). The religious groups in narrow groups are generally in alphabetical order. However, this order of religious groups, while useful, is not imperative and is not considered in the addition of new religious groups.

If a religious group ceases to have a sufficient number of affiliated persons in Australia to justify it continuing to be separately identified in the classification, then it is deleted from the classification. If a religious group is deleted, its code would only be reallocated to another religious group in exceptional circumstances. Reallocating a code could cause confusion with time series data.

The ASCRG code scheme has been devised so that any changes to the classification structure can be easily accommodated. However, in order that the classification remain a standard, users should not make changes to the structure. Rather, users should contact the ABS and identify any problems they encounter in the course of implementation, data collection, or data analysis when using the classification.


'Not elsewhere classified' (nec)

Some narrow groups include residual 'not elsewhere classified' (nec) religious group categories. These categories are represented by four-digit codes consisting of the two or three digits of the narrow group code, followed by the digits 99 or 9. All religious groups which are not separately identified in the classification are notionally included in the nec category of the narrow group to which they relate. The classification currently has 11 nec categories at the religious group level for narrow groups where ABS experience indicates they are required.

'Other' or 'Miscellaneous'

In some broad groups, codes are also reserved for residual categories at the narrow group level. These codes consist of the broad group code followed by 9 or 99. These categories are termed 'Other' or 'Miscellaneous' categories and consist of separately identified religious groups which do not fit into other narrow groups on the basis of the classification criteria. The classification currently contains two such residual categories.

Additional residual categories

Provision exists in the code structure for the creation of additional residual categories. If experience indicates the need for further residual categories the ABS will create them and add them to the classification structure. It should be noted that residual categories are part of the classification structure and should not be created or used merely to 'dump' responses containing insufficient data to code to a separately identified category of the classification (see: Supplementary codes below, and Coding rules).


Supplementary codes are used to process inadequately described responses in statistical collections and are listed separately in the ASCRG data cube.

It should be noted that supplementary codes are not part of the classification structure. They exist for operational reasons only, and no data would be coded to them if sufficiently detailed responses were obtained in all instances.

The codes are of three types:
  • four-digit codes ending with one or more zeros;
  • four-digit codes commencing with three zeros; and
  • to meet specific needs.

Supplementary codes ending in zero

Codes ending in zero are described as 'not further defined' (nfd) codes and are used to code responses to a question about religion which cannot be coded to the four-digit (religious group) level of the classification but which can be coded to a higher level of the classification structure.

For example, responses which cannot be identified as relating directly to a particular religious group, but which are known to be within the range of religions relating to a particular narrow group, are coded to that narrow group. Such responses are allocated an nfd code consisting of the two or three-digit code of the narrow group followed by 00 or 0.

Similarly, responses which do not contain sufficient information to be related directly to a particular religious group, or to a narrow group, but which are known to be within the range of religions relating to a particular broad group, are coded to that broad group. Such responses are allocated an nfd code consisting of the one-digit code of the broad group followed by 000. For instance, the response 'Christian' does not contain sufficient information to be related directly to a religious group or a narrow group, but it can be coded to broad group 2 Christianity, which encompasses all Christian religions. So it is allocated the code 2000 Christianity, nfd.

Thus, religion responses which can only be coded at the broad or narrow group levels of the classification, can be processed within a collection, coded at the religious group level.

There are some cases where the classification structure would, in theory, support the creation of a supplementary nfd code not already included in the range of valid supplementary codes. For example, no nfd code has been created for narrow group 207 Catholic. The response 'Catholic' is allocated to the category 2071 Western Catholic.

Supplementary codes starting with zero

Four-digit codes commencing with 000 are supplementary codes included for operational purposes to facilitate the coding of responses such as inadequately described religious affiliations, which present particular problems in that they cannot be allocated one particular religious group, narrow group or broad group code.

For example, responses such as 'all religions' and 'own religion' are coded to 0002 Religious Belief, nfd.

Supplementary codes for specific needs

Additional supplementary codes have been included to meet specific needs and to maximise the value of data collected from statistical surveys.

For example, The Apostolic Church Australia (code 2401) is classified to narrow group 24 Pentecostal, and both The Apostolic Church of Queensland (code 2901) and The New Apostolic Church (code 2906) are classified to narrow group 29 Other Christian. The term 'Apostolic' lacks sufficient information to code to a specific narrow group, and to code such responses to 'Christian, nfd' (code 2000) would mean that useful information was lost. So supplementary code 2001 'Apostolic Church, so described', has been created to capture this information. The code 2001 is appropriate because any responses relating to it must necessarily lie within Broad Group 2 Christianity.

A similar approach has been taken for responses relating to the 'Church of God' (code 2002), 'Australian Christian Churches' (code 2003), and 'New Church Alliance' (code 2004).

For publication purposes, it is acceptable to aggregate all data classified to code 2001, code 2002, code 2003 and code 2004 to provide a total for Christian, nfd (code 2000).

Bookmark and Share. Opens in a new window

Commonwealth of Australia 2014

Unless otherwise noted, content on this website is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Australia Licence together with any terms, conditions and exclusions as set out in the website Copyright notice. For permission to do anything beyond the scope of this licence and copyright terms contact us.