Glossary of Terms

Accessibility A dimension of quality relating to the ease with which statistical data and published estimates can be retrieved, used and understood. For more information refer to ABS Data Quality Framework: Accessibility.

Accuracy A dimension of quality relating to the degree to which the statistical information correctly describes that which it was designed to measure. For more information refer to ABS Data Quality Framework: Accuracy.

Administrative data Information primarily collected for the purpose of record-keeping, which is subsequently used to produce statistics. Some examples include data from registrars, hospital morbidity data, housing assistance data and child protection data.

Affordable housing indicators Indicators associated with the National Affordable Housing Agreement, which are reported on to inform the Council of Australian Government Reform Council.

"All of Australia" count The count of Australia's population.

Annual Proxy An estimate of the total population value at that given point in time.

Associated costs (1) The price paid to acquire, produce, accomplish, or maintain something.
(2) An outlay or expenditure of money, time, labour, trouble, etc. in relation to something.
(3) A sacrifice, loss, or penalty that occurs in relation to something.

Attitudinal data Information of or relating to attitudes.

Australia level data Information pertaining to the whole of Australia.

Bench Mark A point of reference from which subsequent measurements or observations of the same items of interest may be made. The total population value (e.g. Census counts).

Bias (1) Inclination or prejudice in favour of a particular person, thing or viewpoint.

(2) A systematic distortion of data which causes resulting estimates to deviate from the true value.

COAG The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) is the peak inter governmental forum in Australia. COAG comprises the Prime Minister, State Premiers, Territory Chief Masters and the President of the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA). For more information go to

COAG Reform Council The COAG Reform Council was established by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) as part of the new arrangements for federal financial relations to assist COAG to drive its national reform agenda.

The goals of the COAG reform agenda are to boost productivity, workforce participation and geographic mobility, and support wider objectives of better services for the community, social inclusion, closing the gap on Indigenous disadvantage and environmental sustainability.

The council aims to strengthen accountability for the achievement of results through independent and evidenced-based monitoring, assessment and reporting of the performance of all governments. For more information go to

Coherence A dimension of quality relating to the degree to which statistical information can be compared with itself and other information over time. For more information refer to ABS Data Quality Framework: Coherence.

Collection size The number of observation units which are to be included within a collection.

Comparable (1) Information that can be compared, is similar, is worthy of comparison.

(2) Comparability refers to the extent to which differences between statistics for different places or times can be attributed to real differences between the things being measured.

Compiled data Data from various sources that has been gathered together in an orderly form.


(1) The state of being secret; discretion in keeping secret information.

(2) Legislative measures or other formal provisions which prevent unauthorised disclosure of data that identifies individuals. Also refers to the procedures to prevent disclosure of confidential data.


(1) The individual members of a target population about which information can be obtained.

(2) The part of a population covered by a sample (for example 50% coverage indicates that 50% of the target population was examined).

(3) The extent of the material collected from sample members.

Coverage error An error that arises from failure to cover adequately all components of the population being studied.

Custodian A person entrusted with the custody or care of something or someone.

Data comparison Considering two pieces of information with regard to some characteristic that is common to both.

Data compilation Gathering together information from various sources in an orderly form.

Data items A particular characteristic of units in a population which is measured or observed. There are two main types of data items: parametric data items and classificatory data items.

Data reference period A specific time frame for which data has been collected.

Dataset A dataset (or data set) is a collection of data, usually presented in tabular form.

Data source Sources of information from which data can be extracted or obtained (e.g. databases, web services, disks, files, organisations, statistical collections, units etc.)

Denominator The part of a fraction, usually written under the line, that indicates the number of equal parts into which the unit is divided (e.g. the denominator for the fraction ⅝ is 8).

Disaggregation Breaking up of a total (aggregate), integrated whole, or a conglomerate, into smaller elements, parts, or units. For example, data at the national or state level may be disaggregated to smaller levels of geography, or population estimates may be disaggregated by age, sex or indigenous status.

Estimate An estimate is an indication of the value of an unknown quantity based on observed data.

More formally, an estimate is the particular value obtained from a particular sample of data and used to indicate the value of a parameter.

Fitness for Purpose The suitability of data for the intended use, that is, the degree to which the statistical information meets the needs of the data.

Indigenous status Indigenous Status is a measure of whether a person identifies (or is identified) as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

A dimension of quality relating to the institutional and organisational factors which may have a significant influence on the effectiveness and credibility of the agency producing the statistics. For more information refer to ABS Data Quality Framework: Institutional Environment.

Interpretability A dimension of quality relating to the degree to which statistical information can be understood, explained and used. For more information refer to ABS Data Quality Framework: Interpretability.

Interpretation error An error based on an individual's interpretation of a subject, phrase or word. For example, a respondent answering a survey may interpret a question differently to another respondent and provide an inaccurate/incorrect response.

Item non-response The percentage of sample members who fail to provide information in response to particular items included in a survey or administrative data collection.

Jurisdiction A power to adjudicate concerning any given region or subject matter (e.g. Commonwealth, NSW etc.)

Labour Force Survey The Labour Force Survey is a collection conducted by the ABS on a monthly basis since February 1978 and provides timely information on the labour market activity of the usually resident civilian population of Australia aged 15 and over.

The survey contains information on the following:
Socio-demographic information; Persons in the labour force; Persons employed; Persons unemployed; Persons not in the labour force.

Levels of geography Data provided at various levels of detail based on geographic groupings. For example, data may be provided by State/Territory level, whole of Australia level etc.

Measure The act or process of assigning numbers to phenomena according to a rule; a standard: a basis for comparison; a reference point against which other things can be evaluated.

Methodology The way in which information is found or a task is carried out. The methodology includes the methods, procedures and techniques used to collect and analyse information.

Non-government organisation All organisations in an economy or jurisdiction that are not controlled by government, including privately owned businesses and not-for-profit organisations.

Non-response rate The percentage of sampled units (e.g. households) for which no information could be collected or reported.

Numerator The part of a fraction, usually above the line, that indicates the number of equal parts that are to be added together (e.g. the numerator of the fraction ⅔ is 2).

Organisation The persons (committees or departments etc.) who make up a body for the purpose of administering something.

Output Information transmitted from internal to external units of a computer, or to an outside medium (such as a Data Quality Statement).

Performance indicator A method to measure the degree to which key objectives are achieved.

Period An amount of time, the interval taken to complete one cycle of a regularly repeating phenomenon.

Post enumeration survey A post enumeration survey is conducted after a survey has been undertaken to determine any under or over count.

Potential source The inherent capacity of databases, web services, disks, files, or other collections of information to become usable sources of data.

Quality assurance checks A system or series of activities for ensuring the maintenance of proper standards especially periodic interrogation and sampling of the product.

Reference period The reference period refers to span of time to which the data refers. This may either refer to a single point in time or a span of time. E.g. Last week did you eat any chocolate?

Relative Standard Error Relative standard error (RSE) is the standard error for an estimate divided by the estimate itself. It is another way of expressing the standard error to make interpretation easier. It's useful for comparing the size of the standard error across different samples, and is often expressed as a percentage. As with the standard error, the higher the RSE, the less confident we are that the estimate from the sample is close to the true value.

Relevance A dimension of quality relating to to how well the data meets the needs of the user in terms of the concept(s) measured and the population(s) presented. For more information refer to ABS Data Quality Framework: Relevance.

Reliability (1) The extent to which a measure, procedure or instrument yields the same result on repeated trials.
(2) Authentic: conforming to fact and therefore worthy of belief; worthy of dependence; trustworthy.

Sample size The number of observations that make up a statistical sample. In general, the larger the sample size, the smaller the sampling error.

Several sources (1) Various things or places from which the data came, arose, or was obtained;
(2) The different origins from which the information was extracted or obtained (e.g. databases, web services, disks, files, organisations, statistical collections, units etc.)

Skills & workforce indicators Indicators associated with the National Skills & Workforce Agreement, which are reported on to inform the Council of Australian Government Reform Council.

Socioeconomic status Broad based classification of a person's social or economic position based on factors such as income, occupation, wealth and education.

Standard classifications A method of grouping into categories, according to some common characteristics.

Standard error A measure of the variation among estimates from all possible samples. A measure of the precision with which an estimate from a particular sample approximates the average results of all possible samples. The unit of measurement for the standard error is the same as the variable of interest.

State data Information pertaining to the population of a particular state or territory.

Statistical confidentiality Discretion in keeping information secret in relation to the collection and study of numerical data.

Survey data Information collected about characteristics of interest from some, or all, units of a population using well-defined concepts, methods and procedures.

Surrounding context (1) The set of facts or circumstances that surround a situation or event.
(2) Discourse that surrounds a language unit and helps to determine its interpretation.

The Census and Statistics Act 1905 (Cth) The Census and Statistics Act 1905 governs the collection of statistical and census information. The Australian Bureau of Statistics ('ABS') has been given wide powers under the Census and Statistics Act 1905 to gather statistical information. It is an offence for an individual to refuse to answer a survey which compelled them to disclose personal information relating to their shopping activities unless they were refusing to do so on religious grounds. The information however would remain confidential and cannot be disclosed unless it is already publicly available or the individual gave the ABS permission to disclose the information.

The Privacy Act Protects against unauthorized use of personally identified data by any agency of the federal government. The employee must consent to the release of the data.

The Survey of Education and Work The Survey of Education and Work is a survey conducted by ABS and collects information about the educational experience of persons aged 15-64 years, and persons aged 65 to 74 who are in the labour force or marginally attached to the labour force, especially in relation to their labour force status.

Timeliness A dimension of quality relating to (1) the time taken between the occurrence of the characteristics/events being measured and the release of statistical output and (2) whether the output of a collection is sufficiently up-to-date for the user's purpose. For more information refer to ABS Data Quality Framework: Timeliness.

Time Series A statistical record of a particular activity where data is measured at regular intervals over a period of time (e.g. a monthly unemployment rate). Time series are collected on this basis to assist understanding of the current situation, enabling the most recent data observations to be placed in a meaningful historical perspective.

Transcription error An error in the transcription of what has been written or said.

Typographical error An error in printed or typed material. For example, a number is inverted when being entered by a respondent or staff member (e.g. 56 is typed instead of 65).

Unit non-response The percentage of sample members who failed to provide any information in response to being surveyed.

Validity The extent to which an assessment measures what it is supposed to measure and the extent to which inferences and actions made on the basis of test scores are appropriate and accurate.