Introduction to SEIFA



The Census provides a rich source of community level information. About 50 questions of social and economic interest are asked on the Census. This is a lot of information which makes it difficult to draw a clear story of advantage and disadvantage across Australia.

SEIFA can help with this challenge, and this video will provide a brief introduction to the SEIFA product.

So, what is SEIFA? SEIFA stands for Socio Economic Indexes For Areas.
SEIFA is designed to measure social and economic conditions using information collected in the Census.

It contains a set of four indexes which summarise different aspects of advantage and disadvantage.

For each index, every geographic area in Australia is given a SEIFA score which shows how disadvantaged that area is compared with other areas in Australia. For example, the index score can be used to find the most disadvantaged areas across Australia.

Let’s look at the concept behind SEIFA. The ABS broadly defines relative socio-economic advantage and disadvantage in terms of people’s access to material and social resources, and their ability to participate in society. This broad concept is used to develop four indexes which summarise different aspects of advantage and disadvantage. These indexes are:
  • the index of disadvantage
  • the index of advantage and disadvantage
  • the index of economic resources
  • and the index of education and occupation.

Now we will briefly look at the indicators behind the index scores, using the Index of Advantage and Disadvantage as an example.

The index score is a data-driven summary of social and economic indicators of advantage and disadvantage. The indicators used are based on education, occupation, employment, income, families, and housing. Indicators of both advantage and disadvantage are included in this index.

Once a final set of indicators have been chosen, they are combined to produce an index score which summarises the socio-economic conditions of the geographic area. The index score can be used to rank and compare areas in terms of their advantage and disadvantage.

We now turn to some applications of SEIFA. There are many ways that SEIFA can be used effectively, and we will go through a few examples now.

SEIFA can be used to allocate Government funding and services that depend on how relatively disadvantaged an area is. Additionally, SEIFA allows policy evaluation to take account of varying levels of socio-economic conditions between different areas.

For businesses, SEIFA provides useful information on a range of topics, including choosing an appropriate business location and the development of targeted marketing strategies.

SEIFA is useful for designing cost-effective surveys. It can be used to target specific parts of the socio-economic spectrum, such as the most advantaged areas.

Finally, social and economic research can benefit from the use of SEIFA, such as investigating the relationship between health outcomes and socio-economic conditions of an area.

These provided a glimpse of the value that SEIFA can add to understanding Australian communities.

The latest version of SEIFA using the 2011 Census is now available free of charge from the SEIFA home page. This can be found by going to the ABS website at www.abs.gov.au, typing SEIFA in the search bar, and clicking the link.