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Microdata is used to undertake data manipulations requiring individual unit record data reflecting the diversity within a population. Some typical applications include production of papers, journal articles, books, PhD theses, microsimulation, modelling and conducting detailed analyses. Data contained in microdata products are also used for producing detailed tabulations in a disaggregated form. Published Research Using Microdata provides many examples of what is possible.
Microdata is released at the discretion of the Australian Statistician after an assessment process conducted by the ABS. The ABS has protections in place to ensure microdata is managed to maintain the confidentiality of individuals and businesses, as required under the Census and Statistics Act 1905. This is fundamental to the trust the Australian public has in the ABS, and that trust is in turn fundamental to the excellent quality of ABS information. Without that trust, survey respondents may be less forthcoming or truthful in answering our questionnaires. For more information, see 'Avoiding inadvertent disclosure' and 'Microdata' on our web page How the ABS keeps your information confidential.
In response to the legislative requirement for the Australian Statistician to release microdata ‘... in a manner that is not likely to enable the identification of a particular person or organisation to which it relates’, the ABS:
In addition, we place restrictions on how you may use some types of microdata. These restrictions are set out in the Undertaking signed by each organisation's Responsible Officer, and for some modes of access, in an individual undertaking which is signed by the microdata user. Each individual must agree to the conditions of accessing and using ABS microdata when submitting an application.
Types of microdata
There are three types of microdata:
See Access Modes and Levels of Detail for more information about types microdata and other modes of access.
Applying for microdata access
To apply for access to microdata, see the Microdata entry page. See the Available microdata page for a full list of microdata, including which microdata are available in each format, and a link to associated product information and data item lists.
If you are a member of an organisation, and you intend to access microdata in order to undertake analysis under your organisation, then you must apply for access as a member of your organisation. If you are supervising a research project and you will be examining unit record information from microdata, you are required to apply for and be approved to access the relevant microdata product. An individual who is not associated with an organisation can also apply for access to microdata. In practice nearly all microdata users are members of an organisation.
The ABS will consider all microdata access applications, including international applications.
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