Australian Bureau Of Statistics: Helpful Guide

Australian Bureau Of Statistics Helpful Guide

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Australian Bureau Of Statistics Everything A Business Owner Should Know

This guide will outline everything you need to know about the Australian Bureau of Statistics and how it can help your business.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) is a department every business owner should know and understand. The data they collect can be beneficial to your business planning.

What Is The Australian Bureau Of Statistics?

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) is Australia’s official statistics provider across all industries and markets.

They provide vital statistics on various economic, environmental, population and social issues affecting Australia.

The organisation works together with other government agencies to fulfil this role.

Federal government agencies, such as the Bureau of Meteorology and the Australian Taxation Office, produce official statistics for the ABS (on specialist topics like the weather and tax).

State and territory government agencies are also integral to the role that the ABS plays.

These agencies provide data sets such as climate monitoring, geological surveys, surveillance, national security, border control, law enforcement and public health. 

Fundamentally, ABS’s purpose is to inform decision-making by governments, businesses, households and the community. The Bureau does this with relevant and objective data and statistics. 

What Type Of Data Do They Hold?

The Australian Bureau of Statistics holds various data types and topics presented in monthly and quarterly Australian economic publications. This includes data on:

  • The Economy
  • Industry
  • Crime
  • Labour & Employment
  • Health
  • Environment
  • Small Business
  • Population Growth

The statistics about these crucial areas include interest rates and property prices, employment, the Australian dollar and commodity prices. These are then delivered via publications of Key Economic Indicators.

Some of these indicators include:

Consumer Price Index (CPI). The CPI measures household inflation and includes statistics about price change for categories of household expenditure.

CPI is the most widely used measure of inflation (when goods and services cost more) and the effectiveness of the Australian government’s economic policy.

When there is inflation, the CPI will increase over a short period. 

National Accounts. This encompasses the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the actual value of all goods and services owned by consumers, businesses, and the government in each period.

Increasing GDP is a sign of economic strength, while negative GDP indicates weakness and experiencing a recession.

International Accounts. This includes statistics about international trade in goods and services – relating to the export of goods overseas, the import of goods and the balance on our current account.

Statistics also include our net foreign debt.

Consumption and Investment. The indicators used under the ‘Consumption and investment’ category by the ABS include retail turnover, which involves looking at both store and sales volumes for a given period.

The statistics also look at inventories held by private businesses, estimating inventories and sales, wages and profits in the private sector.

They also look at total new motor vehicle sales as an indicator.

Labour Force and Demography. This set of statistics comprises data about the number of people who are employed or unemployed and looking for work.

Labour market conditions are essential in understanding economic developments – it is useful as a gauge of how much spare capacity (operating below the maximum sustainable level of production) there is in the labour market. 

Incomes. An important indicator for the ABS is also looking at incomes across Australia.

The critical indicators looked at including a company’s gross operating profits, as well as average weekly ordinary time earnings for full-time adults.

View more about Australia’s average weekly earnings here.

Lending Indicators. Lending is a critical indicator of Australia’s economic health.

The ABS records statistics of new housing loan commitments, personal loan commitments and business loan commitments 

Is The Australian Bureau Of Statistics Reliable?

The ABS is the most reliable source of statistics relating to Australian data.

It has operated officially since 1975 as a statutory authority headed by the Australian Statistician (head of ABS) and responsible to the Treasurer.

The Australian Parliament delegates this authority for many reasons: 

  • To ensure efficiency in the tasks assigned – namely collecting and maintaining relevant data sets.
  • Preventing areas of policymaking from becoming partisan issues – ensuring that the collection of data to inform government and community decision-making is bipartisan.
  • To guarantee transparency of delivering public data into the hands of the population as a whole.
  • To reinforce accountability– the ABS’ role is set out and key targets are required of the agency.  

On this basis, the ABS can consistently and successfully deliver relevant, trusted, objective data, statistics, and insights. 

The information is taken from a wide variety of sources which includes survey data in addition to research papers, annual reports, government reports and publicly available information on reputable websites.

Surveys are collected directly from people in the community about specific topics.

For example, surveys can capture incidents of violence that may not have been formally reported to police or other relevant authorities.

The biggest survey conducted by the ABS is the National Census survey. This is conducted every 5 years and is compulsory.

While surveys are still a highly reliable primary source of information, they can have drawbacks.

Surveys are limited by sampling and non-sampling error, problems of accurate recall, non-response bias, respondents’ reluctance to disclose information about sensitive topics, and inadequate coverage. 

While the ABS does not necessarily have a select target audience, it’s a provider of information for governments, businesses markets, communities, and others.

Because the data is used for decision-making, the statistics it maintains must be impartial. They achieve impartiality by:

  • Scheduling release dates of publications 12 months prior.
  • Using press and media releases to inform the community of publications being released.
  • Releasing information related to statistical standards, frameworks, concepts, sources and methods.
  • Adhering to a strict embargo policy to which all publications are subject. 

To maintain quality and reliability, the ABS employs the Data Quality Framework (DQF).  

The DQE provides the standards for assessing and reporting on the quality of statistical information.

Moreover, it assists in the decision-making process by improving the user’s ability to interpret and assess the quality of the data and decide whether the data is fit for the purpose.

How Can The ABS Help My Business?

As an Australian business owner, understanding the landscape you operate in can be key to your success.

The use of significant data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics can give you an in-depth understanding of your market or the larger economy as a whole.

Whether you run a major corporation or are a small to medium enterprise the data they hold can be extremely useful to your business.

Below is an example of a table showing how many new businesses are entering the Australian market each year, and how many are closing.

This type of data would be highly relevant if you operated in a B2B space. This data is pulled from ABN registration figures.

Understanding the numbers will allow you to map out your potential customer pool and market size.

ABS Small Business Entries and exits

Some other popular ways the Australian Bureau of Statistics can assist your business are:

Sector-specific sizes, (such as the mining sector). This can allow you to map your competition by identifying the number of active businesses in your sector.

Consumer demographic (population-based). You can use this data if you are in a B2C market. The data can illustrate your market size and location to assist with advertising.

Small business reports (such as employee count).

This can give you a great insight into where you sit within the Australian business landscape as a whole. It can also help map your potential customer market if you are in a B2B market.

Wage figures and growth. This can help with your own internal employee salaries, but can also be a good indicator for disposable income.

Consumer debt figures. This is great information if you operate in the financial market.

Industry Value ( To work out your market share ). This can help with proposals and projections of your potential business size.

Important References

The Australian Bureau of Statistics website.

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