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Michelle Grattan: David Gruen and the race for real-time data

Michelle Grattan: David Gruen and the race for real-time data

Perhaps at no point in Australia’s history has the demand for real-time figures been stronger than during the coronavirus crisis.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has stepped up its efforts to get data fast, to help inform the government’s COVID-19 decision-making.

David Gruen, the Australian Statistician and ABS head, in this podcast tells how the bureau has used small, quick surveys to mine timely data from businesses and households.

Some of the more interesting findings concern household stresses felt during the crisis.

Some 28% of women reported feeling lonely, compared to 16% of men. “Overall, only about a fifth of people said they were lonely, but that was the most common of the stressors,” Gruen says.

ABS survey results also showed 75% of parents kept their children home from school. “Women were almost three times as likely to have stayed at home to take care of their children on their own, than men.”

“About 15% of parents said that a lack of access to a stable internet connection was impeding their children’s ability to undertake schooling from home,” Gruen says.

In the wake of the roll out of the single touch payroll system last year, the ABS has also had instant access to almost all business and tax data. “[Single Touch Payroll] is a huge addition to the statistical arsenal,” Gruen says.

In the next census of the Australian population, to be held in August 2021, there will be two new fields of questions - on chronic health conditions and veterans.

But the census will no longer ask Australians whether they use the internet.

“There’s huge public value in having an accurate census, because you collect an enormous amount of information which is of value both to government decision makers, and to decision makers in the community,” Gruen says.

“The things that you learn from the census form the basis for an awful lot of decision-making in subsequent years.”

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Additional audio

A List of Ways to Die, Lee Rosevere, from Free Music Archive.

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