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2.1 STRATEGIC PRIORITY ONE: PROVIDING HIGH QUALITY OFFICIAL STATISTICS
2.1.1 Economic measurement and the Labour Force Survey
Main Economic Indicators: The main economic indicators are the National Accounts and the critical business survey and administrative data feeders into the national accounts, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and the Labour Force Survey. These remain the highest priority economic statistical programs.
The ABS has prioritised maintaining the quality of these core statistics, and ensuring their continuing relevance. This has included enhanced statistical risk management through promulgating risk mitigation strategies and quality controls, and prioritising critical staff capability and availability. Throughout 2018–19, enhanced risk planning and culture will remain a focus, and progress will be closely monitored.
The ABS Economic Statistics Advisory Group will continue to provide a strategic focus to the economic statistical program.
Enhancing economic measurement and relevance in a changing economy: The ABS has sought to develop new CPI sources and methods, improve statistics of the non-market sector of the economy and productivity, and enhance the measurement of the labour market.
The use of new sources is enabling improvements to the CPI. Web scraping, a technique employed to extract large amounts of data from websites, is being used with transactions or point-of-sale scanner data from retailers to: increase the sample of goods and services in the CPI basket; lower collection costs; and increase data collection frequency.
The ABS will be examining the key areas of globalisation, digital economy, and non-market outputs. An Economics Research Hub was recently established to support this work. Initial research projects for the Hub include enhancing measurement of health care outputs for economic and productivity measurement; researching potential impacts from globalisation and the digital economy on economic statistics; and development work for a potential monthly CPI. The Chief Economist role is also bringing a whole-of-economy view to this work, ensuring a coherent and consistent economic story across the breadth of economic indicators.
The ABS, in collaboration with the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) and the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), will start implementing the new Economic and Financial Statistics (EFS) collection. This will modernise all data collected from the financial sector by APRA on behalf of the ABS and the RBA. Some of the frameworks and classifications for financial data haven’t been updated for nearly 20 years. This work will significantly improve the quality of financial data in national accounts and finance and wealth publications, and will enhance key indicators of lending activity.
The ABS is participating in a review led by the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science into innovation metrics and methodologies which will assess current measures and explore new ways of measuring innovation performance.
The Government investment (announced in the 2018–19 Budget) in improving housing-related data over the next four years will enable the ABS to construct better-quality estimates of the stock of affordable housing and enhance existing survey-based planning and zoning data and dwelling construction cost collections.
Through the creation of an Annual and Quarterly Labour Account, the ABS has built an overarching picture of the labour market over time, with highly coherent estimates of the number of jobs, people, hours worked and labour income in each industry. The Australian Labour Account complements other ABS measures to build a comprehensive and coherent picture of the labour market: Labour Account data provides the number of filled jobs at a point-in-time each quarter; Jobs in Australia data provides insights into all jobs held throughout the year; and Labour Force Survey data measures the number of people employed each month.
The ABS is exploring the potential of existing large datasets, and plans to build on its Linked Employer Employee Dataset (LEED), which links selected Personal Income Tax data to the ABS Business Longitudinal Analytical Data Environment. The LEED for 2011-12 to 2015-16 (Jobs in Australia) was published on 19 September 2018 and brings together consecutive years of tax data, so communities can better understand how their local labour markets are changing.
Labour Force Survey: The Labour Force Survey remains our flagship labour indicator; considerable attention has and will continue to be paid to sustaining a high quality Labour Force Survey.
Australia’s Labour Force Survey is first class by world standards, see Box 3. The Monthly Population Survey, which includes the Labour Force Survey, represents a considerable financial challenge for the ABS, with its collection costs accounting for around 40% of total ABS data acquisition costs, and increasing. Internationally, statistical agencies are facing increasing difficulty in maintaining high response rates to surveys as society and people’s lifestyles change.
These two factors will put pressure on maintaining the quality of Australia’s world class labour force statistics. In order to sustain the survey, the ABS has identified a range of essential changes which it will look to implement over the coming years.
The ABS has commenced consultation with key stakeholders on these changes, with a view to progressive implementation by June 2020. International and domestic methodological experts, alongside the Treasury, Reserve Bank, state treasuries and other key government agencies will inform the strategy.
2.1.2 Estimated Resident Population
Demographic statistics and, in particular, the Estimated Resident Population, remain a high priority. This statistical program is also the focus of risk planning and mitigation, staff prioritisation and capability development to ensure quality is sustained. This is crucial given the role these statistics play in determining the distribution of GST revenue and the number of seats in the House of Representatives for each state and territory.
With support from key stakeholders, the ABS has reviewed its methodology for compiling its population estimates and developed alternative data sources following the discontinuation of Outgoing Passenger Cards. Official population estimates have also been rebased following the 2016 Census.
2.1.3 Social statistics program
The ABS social statistics program over the next two years is significant. This includes in 2018–19:
In 2018–19, the household survey program, including the Monthly Population Survey, entails interviewing more than 360,000 households. Beyond 2018–19, the household program schedule includes the Personal Safety Survey, the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, and the next surveys of Income and Housing and Household Expenditure.
As part of the ABS broader transformation journey, the General Social Survey and the Survey of Income and Housing will, for the first time, use e-collection of information from households enabled by the SBTP investment. Where feasible, we are looking to implement continuous collection, in place of large one-off surveys—supporting a more responsive survey program and taking into account interviewer load and availability. The General Social Survey will be the first continuous collection.
The focus of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statistics program is to increase participation in 2021 Census, 2018–19 NATSIHS and future Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and social surveys. This will improve the quality of statistics for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, particularly for small areas. This work directly supports the measurement of the Closing the Gap Refresh, as it is anticipated this agenda will have an increased local area focus over the next five years. It also allows statistics to be made available for local communities, for example through the Empowered Communities initiative.
The ABS Population and Social Statistics Advisory Group will continue to provide a strategic focus to the demographic and social statistical program.
A wide range of standard products and analytical outputs have now been released from the 2016 Census covering a diverse set of social topics. Some of the more recent stories emerging from Census cover internal migration patterns, homelessness, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population, young carers, and sex and gender diversity.
Continued outputs are planned. A 1% sample basic Confidentialised Unit Record File is intended for release in late 2018. A release of the Australian Census Longitudinal Dataset is scheduled for late in 2018, combining a five per cent sample of data from the 2006, 2011 and 2016 Censuses to enable analysis of longer-term transitions.
Planning for the 2021 Census is on track and is overseen by a dedicated Executive Board including external representatives and chaired by the Australian Statistician. Significant improvements are being made in risk, privacy, cyber security, project management, communications and the design of service channels addressing the events and reviews of the issues surrounding the 2016 Census.
Consultations for new or changed content in the 2021 Census are already underway. The ABS will make a recommendation to Government in mid-2019 for 2021 Census topics. We have also commenced early engagement on the use of data for the 2021 Census. The preparations for the 2021 Census is reaching a number of other important milestones as activities build towards operational readiness tests commencing from May 2020. These tests will include our suppliers, and a major focus in 2018–19 will be the procurement of a number of suppliers to support 2021 Census operations, including for a secure, smart and simple digital service.
2.1.5 Adjustments to the ABS Forward Work Program
The proposed changes to the 2018–19 statistical program are at the margin, focusing on achieving minor efficiencies to address stakeholder feedback about the utility of some products. The ABS intends to consult stakeholders on the following potential changes to the program:
The ABS also recognises a review of the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) is desirable, alongside many other desirable developments to our statistical program that also cannot be funded. As the co-owners, both the ABS and Statistics New Zealand (Stats NZ) have decided not to commit to undertaking a review of ANZSCO at this stage. A review of this nature would be labour and resource intensive (over $4 million to fully implement) and was not assessed as highly against a range of other ABS priorities, given ABS funding constraints. Statistics New Zealand also has other higher priority activities at this time. ABS and Stats NZ will reconsider this position in coming years.
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