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SEX AND GENDER
For more information on procedures, limitations and additional data on sex and gender in the 2016 Census, refer to 2071.0 - Census of Population and Housing: Reflecting Australia - Stories from the Census, 2016: Sex and Gender Diversity in the 2016 Census.
DRIVERS FOR THE CHANGES MADE IN THE 2016 CENSUS
In November 2015 the Attorney-General's Department updated the Australian Government Guidelines on the Recognition of Sex and Gender. The focus of the guidelines was on personal identification of individuals in records kept by Australian Government departments and agencies. Definitions and principles were outlined on the collection, use and amendment of sex and gender information in individual personal records. The guidelines recommended that where sex and gender information is collected, people should be given the option to select a sex or gender other than male or female if they wanted to.
In February 2016, the ABS released the Standard for Sex and Gender Variables (cat. no. 1200.0.55.012). The standard aligns with the Guidelines and includes concept, classification, and collection procedures for sex and gender including the addition of a third response category.
MEASURING SEX OR MEASURING GENDER?
While the ABS defines the Census topic as sex, the 2016 question does not specifically mention sex or gender. As a result, the ABS acknowledges that the question in its current format collects either sex and/or gender. So how do they differ?
Gender refers to the way in which a person self-identifies their masculine or feminine characteristics. A person's gender relates to their deeply held internal and individual sense of gender and is not always exclusively male or female. It may or may not correspond to their sex at birth and can be fluid over time.
Varying levels of understanding in the wider community about the difference between the concepts of sex and gender can affect how an individual may respond. We would like your input on how we collect this data in the 2021 Census. The topic is essential in assisting the ABS to meet its legislative requirement for estimating the size and profile of the population across Australia and will continue to be an important part of the 2021 Census. However, we’d like to consider whether there is a stronger driver for one concept to be collected over the other. Please consider making a submission and use the assessment criteria to share your views on the following:
You can make your submission to our review of 2021 Census topics at the ABS consultation hub. Following the close of submissions, views will be summarised and options assessed via further user consultation, questionnaire development and testing. Understanding the impacts on data quality of changes will be important given the critical value of this topic.
SAME-SEX RELATIONSHIPS AND SEXUAL ORIENTATION
The ABS has undertaken initial discussions and reviewed feedback from the 2016 Census in preparation for this consultation. The Census has been able to publish estimates of same-sex couples living together on the basis of household relationship questions since the 1996 Census. The 2016 Census counted just under 46,800 same-sex couples living together in Australia. This represents a 39% increase since the 2011 Census, which counted 33,700 same-sex couples living together, and has more than quadrupled since 1996 (10,200 couples).
Recent changes to Australian Marriage Laws allowing registered marriages for same-sex couples will enable the registered marital status of same-sex couples to be collected, along with responses to questions on household relationships.
There are currently no questions on sexual orientation collected on the Census, however the inclusion of a question on this topic has been previously raised as a potential information need. Data on sexual orientation is currently available from two ABS surveys - see 4159.0 - General Social Survey: Summary Results, Australia, 2014 and 4326.0 - National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: Summary of Results, 2007.
To better understand the data needs in regard to sexual orientation, we encourage you to share your views. Make your submission to our review of 2021 Census topics at the ABS Consultation Hub.
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