Use of 2016 Census data to inform on electorate level employment

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has released additional results from the 2016 Census of Population and Housing. This includes information about people who work: where they work; who they work for; what type of work they do; their hours of work; and how they travel to and from work. The Census release also provides data on people who were studying or had completed a non-school qualification, those who did any unpaid work, and information on population mobility. The focus of this article is on employment.


This Census release includes industry and occupation data by various geographic regions, including Commonwealth Electoral Divisions (boundaries at August 2016). The General Community Profiles provide this information by demographic characteristics such as age and sex, while the QuickStats option via the Census portal offers a quick way to check summary statistics (for example, top five industries of employment with comparisons for the electorate, the state/territory and Australia).


Why use the Census?

The Census provides a snapshot of employment at August 2016 based on where a person usually lives and, in this case, the electorate level data can assist in analysing variations in employment patterns for an electorate when compared to a larger region. Sub-regions within an electorate can also be analysed.


Outside of the Census, the smallest areas for which employment by industry (and occupation) data are regularly available are labour market regions (also referred to as SA4s). These regions are outlined in the ABS standard geographic framework. Matches between electorates and SA4s, based on estimated resident population, are available via the ‘Population’ page on the Parliamentary Library portal. The suitability of these matches varies, from a good representation of the electorate to a poor or muddied picture, with the available match reflecting a population that is not necessarily similar in character.


For example, the population of the Bendigo electorate falls almost wholly within one region—the Bendigo SA4. In contrast, the population of the electorate of Hume spans five separate regions. The following figure provides an outline of Hume (black line), as it sits across the five regions: Capital Region (red), Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven (blue), Sydney - Outer South West (green), Sydney - Outer West and Blue Mountains (purple) and Sydney - South West (gold). The small area of a sixth region, Illawarra (white), has no resident population. Census data makes it possible to analyse the labour market specifically for the electorate population, or for smaller areas.


Boundaries of the Hume electorate compared to ABS labour market regions, 2016 

Boundaries of the Hume electorate compared to ABS labour market regions, 2016 

Electorate to labour market region matches based on ABS population estimates (2016). See the ‘Labour’ page via the Parliamentary Library portal for more information. Image created using National Map.

Comparing the Census to the Labour Force Survey

The Census data and estimates from the ABS Labour Force Survey differ in their collection method, the questions asked and the people included. The Census also includes a proportion of the population for whom some of the responses are unknown (for example, someone states they are employed but they do not provide their occupation). The labour market is generally subject to fluctuations throughout the year, meaning that the point in time data from the Census may not be truly reflective of the local situation had it been run at a different time of year. For example, if the region has high periods of demand for employment around school holidays, or summertime, then the Census labour force results may not be representative. A summary table of the differences between the two sources is provided in ‘The 2016 Census and the Labour Force Survey’, see Census of Population and Housing: Understanding the Census and Census data, Australia, 2016 (cat. no. 2900.0).


Additional information

An article on the first release of 2016 Census data is provided in a June 2017 FlagPost, which summarises population, age profile, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, cultural diversity, religion and income. The Parliamentary Library also published an article on the quality of the 2016 Census data and the additional checks that were done as part of the review and assessment process.


Apart from products outlined earlier in this article, the ABS plans to re-release the Working Population Profiles sometime in December. Parliamentary clients can request customised data through the Parliamentary Library, or get it directly via the Census website by registering to use TableBuilder. Further articles are planned to be published as additional data and products from the 2016 Census are reviewed. 


Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament

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