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Strategic Priority 1: Providing high quality statistics

Planned Performance: Decision making by governments, business and the community is informed by high quality statistics

Target 1.1: Statistical standards met*

*Source: ABS Corporate Plan 2018-19 to 2020-21, pg. 24-25


The integrity and credibility of the ABS, and productive stakeholder relationships, are built on the ABS’ continued provision of quality statistics that meet expected standards. The ABS is required by legislation to meet particular standards in its products, as well as assure the Australian public that its products can effectively inform new legislation and policy.

The ABS subscribes to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Special Data Dissemination Standard (SDDS)1 which allows surveillance of its data provision regarding national accounts, labour market, price indexes, general government, balance of payments, international investment position and merchandise trade. The ABS avails itself of flexibility options2 within the standard: a periodicity option for production indices, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and the production price indices3; and timeliness flexibility for production indices4.

Regarding CPI periodicity, Australia is the only G20 country that does not produce the index monthly. While the ABS is taking steps to develop data sources and methodologies to enhance the accuracy of the CPI and pave the way for improved periodicity, at this time and following consultation with stakeholders, the ABS is not actively pursuing the matter.

However, there are instances where the ABS exceeds other SDSS standards. For example, labour market statistics which are required on a quarterly basis under SDDS, are released by the ABS on a monthly basis. Similarly, population data, required on an annual basis are released by the ABS on a quarterly basis. Further, the Balance of Payments (BOP) and International Investment Position’s (IIP) timeliness5 exceeds SDDS as does the quarterly release of general government data, which remains an encouraged category.

ABS official statistics adhere to published Australian and international standards which are available on the ABS website.

How we will measure this

1.1.1 Assessment of key ABS statistics against international standards

Result: Achieved

The ABS continues to produce key economic and population statistics with appropriate coverage, frequency and timeliness as independently assessed by the IMF against the SDDS.

The ABS currently meets SDDS across all data categories, including the use of the aforementioned flexibility options. Where flexibility options have been used, the ABS has made an explicit decision to do so, following consultation with stakeholders, based on Australian needs and circumstances. The ABS exceeds other SDSS standards, for both periodicity and timeliness and periodicity for some key statistics.

The ABS has implemented all of the recommendations of the first phase of the G20 Data Gaps Initiative (DGI) except for the semi-annual reporting of Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey (CPIS) data and the Coordinated Direct Investment Survey (CDIS).

The ABS’ adherence to the SDDS is published on the IMF website and reviewed periodically.

Planned Performance: Decision making by governments, business and the community is informed by high quality statistics

Target 1.2: Stakeholders use ABS statistics and are satisfied with the quality, timeliness, range and value-add to their business*

*Source: ABS Corporate Plan 2018-19 to 2020-21, pg. 24-25


The core function of the ABS is to provide quality statistics to its users; the level of quality is determined by international standards and partner stakeholders. Failure to provide relevant, accurate and timely statistics reduces value to stakeholder business and may impact the ability of government, business and the community to make effective and informed decisions. Effective engagement with stakeholders and customers enables the ABS to monitor and assess the value of data products and services and identify areas for improvement.

How we will measure this

1.2.1 Stakeholder Relationship Health Assessment

Result: Substantially achieved

The annual Stakeholder Relationship Health Assessment (SRHA) survey was undertaken in mid-2019, with respondents from government, educational institutions, community groups, business and industry bodies. The survey aimed to assess their satisfaction as users of ABS data and products.

Consistent with 2018, survey results demonstrated that the majority of responding stakeholders use, and are satisfied with, ABS statistics.

Two thirds (66%) of stakeholders were very satisfied or satisfied with the timeliness of ABS statistics, whilst three quarters or greater were very satisfied or satisfied with the quality (84%), range (76%) and relevance (83%) of ABS statistics.

In addition, 95% of stakeholders or greater either strongly agreed or agreed that ABS statistics, information or services are valuable to their business or organisation, and that the ABS is a credible source and a national asset that provides value to Australia.

The ABS facilitated a broad range of consultative fora across the statistical work program in 2018-19, including (but not limited to): the Australian Statistics Advisory Council (ASAC), as the key consultative forum, and Population and Social Statistics Advisory Group, which each met three times each, and the Economic and Labour Statistics Advisory Groups and State Statistical Forum which each met twice. Outcomes of these meetings indicate that stakeholders are finding value in consultation and the opportunity to discuss strategic work program issues.

ABS Senior Executive Staff (SES) reported that in 2018-19 a number of secondments both inward and outward between the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), The Treasury, state government departments, and the Productivity Commission resulted in a deepening of bilateral relations. These relationships strengthened the understanding of data sources, methods and new insights into ABS microdata e.g. the Wage Price Index microdata analysis undertaken by the RBA.

In 2018-19, a range of stakeholders committed significant funding for the National Health Survey, Survey of Disability and Carers, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey and the Personal Safety Survey. This level of investment reflects partner confidence in the ABS to deliver quality statistics.

Qualitative survey responses and interviews conducted with key senior stakeholders by an independent consultant in late 2018 reveal a more detailed picture. Timeliness and accessibility to data are areas of concern for some stakeholders. Funding cuts and resourcing constraints on the ABS over the past decade are recognised by stakeholders and are impacting the ABS’ ability to service their current and future data requirements.

How we will measure this

1.2.2 Stakeholder case studies

Result: Achieved

Overall, an increase in the use of ABS statistics demonstrates that ABS stakeholders have continued trust in ABS delivery of high quality, relevant products that directly inform priority policy decisions. The following suite of case studies indicate how the ABS is partnering to ensure its statistics are widely used.

Case Study 1: Coordination of Health Care Study.

Case Study 2: Release of headline monthly underemployment and underutilisation statistics.

Case Study 3: ABS study identifies risk factors to enhance suicide data.

Case Study 4: New data insights provide more accurate information for school funding model.

Case Study 5: The great Australian commute: understanding the journey to work.

Case Study 6: New insights utilising the Business Longitudinal Analytical Data Environment (BLADE).

How we will measure this

1.2.3 Use of consultancy services, microdata products and ABS website

Result: Achieved

There were 53,346,109 page views on the ABS website for 2018-19. This is down from 64,001,395 in the previous financial year; the difference can be attributed to the release of the results from the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey in 2017-18, which caused an atypical rate of website use in that year.

The number of DataLab sessions for 2018-19 was 6,589. This is a 19% increase on the 5,541 sessions recorded in the previous financial year.

The growth in the number of DataLab sessions is attributed to a wealth of new datasets resulting from the Data Integration Partnership for Australia (DIPA), which can only be accessed in the DataLab environment.

In demonstration of use of ABS statistics, the value of information consultancies6 for the 2018–19 financial year was $859K. This value represents a decrease from the previous financial year by $103k, attributed to a reduced demand for 2016 Census of Population and Housing (Census) data, which was released in the previous financial year. This is a cyclical trend experienced over all Census data releases.

Overall, these results represent a healthy level of use of information products and services, indicating ongoing and increasing use of ABS data, particularly in the area of microdata access through the DataLab. The latter is an indicator of the user community’s growing interest in, and use of, integrated data sets.


  1. https://dsbb.imf.org/sdds/country/AUS/summary-of-observance
  2. The SDDS sets out standards for how frequently data should be released (periodicity) and how quickly it should be released (timeliness). A flexibility option within the SDDS means that the ABS may vary its periodicity or timeliness for selected collections and still be assessed as compliant with the standard.
  3. Australia compiles and disseminates quarterly data and not monthly data as required
  4. Australia disseminates the index no later than one quarter after the reference quarter and not within six weeks as required
  5. BOP and IIP statistics are released approximately two months after the end of the reference quarter
  6. Information consultancies: cost recovered customer requests for customised data.