Census data drop: What’s in there for science?

For statistic nerds like me, there’s nothing better than a Census data release day.

Every five years the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) counts every person and household in Australia. The process takes years of planning, coordination so people know about the Census date, follow ups as well as a huge amount of data analysis when the numbers come in.

And today the ABS has released the second drop of information – allowing us insights into both what Australia in the 2020s looks like, but also a specific snapshot of life under lockdown for many parts of the country.

Here are some of our favourite Census stats, with a science tinge:

‘Professional, Scientific and Technical Services’ came fifth overall in number of people employed in the industry – with 7.8 percent of the total workforce. That’s only half the number of employees as ‘Health Care and Social Assistance’ which employs a huge 14.5 percent.

This one is a bit of a weird one – Australians aren’t ageing! Well on average. The median age of all Australians hasn’t changed since last Census.  If we take the (median) average, we’re still 38 years old in 2021 – the same as 2016. Males make up 49.3 per cent of the population with a median age of 37 years and females make up 50.7 per cent with a median age of 39 years.

Despite not ageing, we are getting smarter. In Australia more than half of us now have a qualification of some sort. More than 11 million people in Australia have a vocational or tertiary qualification – a 20 per cent increase since 2016. This means that more than half of the population aged 15 years and older have a qualification, and if you don’t have a degree of certificate, you’re in the minority of Australians.

Read more: Census data gap is a blow for LGBTIQ+ research

The number of software and IT professionals went up significantly in the last five years. As the Optus breach shows us, that’s probably not a bad idea. ‘Security science’ is the fastest growing qualification and there are almost half a million people with an IT qualification of some sort.

Unfortunately, there are also jobs that aren’t quite as popular as they used to be. For example keyboard operators – there are 41,000 of them in 2021, compared to 170,000 Stenographers and Typists 50 years ago. There are also not many video rental people left. Across the whole country, there’s 160 people employed in Video and ‘Other Media Rental Hiring Services.’

COVID did have some pretty big effects on some data as well. Of the 12 million employed Australians, more than 21.0 per cent (2,531,262) worked from home on Census day. This was even more pronounced in the eastern states. This also changed the hours worked. A whopping 6.5 percent of employed people worked zero hours in the week before the 2021 Census, compared to 3.5 percent in 2016 – a pretty huge jump. 

Finally, a tipple to finish off. Employment in the ‘Spirit Manufacturing’ industry increased by 240 per cent and in Beer Manufacturing by 50 per cent. Although we can’t guess why, I have been enjoying the vast array of Australian boutique gin and beer in the last few years.

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