Australian Bureau of Statistics to cut staff by 17% and axe some key surveys that explain the economy

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The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) will cut staff numbers by 17% over the next two years, as the organisation continues to struggle under the weight of government funding reductions.

The job cuts will amount to around 480 full-time equivalent jobs, out of the bureau’s total workforce of just over 2,800.

The agency will also cut some key statistical surveys which are used by economists and policymakers to estimate economic activity. The monthly reporting of vehicle sales will be axed, and there will also be potential changes to reports on housing finance — one of the key metrics used by financial and economic analysts when examining conditions in the property market. Other data series may be reduced in scope or changed depending on funding.

In the annual Forward Work Program for the 2017/18 financial year, Chief Statistician David Kalisch said the ABS would be focusing on infrastructure upgrades, along with workforce and organisational changes.

“The ABS does not have the resources to undertake all the activities that our customers demand, and this has more than likely been the case for at least the last decade,” Kalisch said.

“To ensure the ABS has sufficient resources for these enhancements while maintaining core statistical outputs within our diminishing budget, we have had to make some choices regarding the statistical work program.”

Government funding for the ABS had declined in recent years from an average of around $290 million per year, and Kalisch said the trend was set to continue.

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics

“Over the next three years the ABS’s appropriation will fall by approximately 10 per cent,” Kalisch said.

“In line with this decline in funding, average staffing levels will need to decline by around 17 per cent over the next two years.”

Kalisch said that as part of the Forward Work Program, the ABS had also elected to cancel or reduce some statistical programs, in order to main the requisite level of focus on its core responsibilities.

The monthly data on new motor vehicle sales will be discontinued in 2018.

The continuation of the Internet Activity Survey and some annual components of International Trade data will be dependent on the ABS securing additional funding.

Kalisch also said that from the middle of next year, the ABS will “reduce or streamline outputs for Housing Finance statistics, Lending Finance statistics, and Tourism region maps”.

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