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Data Collection Overview

Australian Bureau of Statistics, Births

Data Collection Sources

State/territory Registrars of Births, Deaths and Marriages

Institutional environments

Birth statistics published by the ABS are sourced from birth registration systems administered by state and territory Registrars of Births, Deaths and Marriages, based on data provided on a registration form completed by the parent(s) of the child. Registration of births is compulsory in Australia under relevant state/territory legislation. Births data are supplied to the ABS, on a monthly basis and in electronic format. The systems used to collect and process the data are constantly being reviewed and developed in order to make the most effective use of technology.

For further information on the institutional environment of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), including the legislative obligations of the ABS, financing and governance arrangements, and mechanisms for scrutiny of ABS operations, please see the ABS Institutional Environment.

Relevance and Scope

Birth statistics are one of the components in the production of estimates of natural increase (excess of births over deaths) used as a component of population change in the calculation of population estimates of Australia and the states and territories. The primary uses of population estimates are in the determination of seats in the House of Representatives for each state and territory, as well as in distribution of Australian Government funds to state, territory and local governments. Population estimates are also used for a wide range of government, business and community decisions, both directly and indirectly, by contributing to a range of other social and economic indicators. Birth statistics are also essential in the analysis of fertility in Australia, and inform on the population's growth and replacement. Trends in fertility are used in the development of assumptions on future levels of fertility for population projections.

Births, Australia (cat. no. 3301.0) contains statistics for births and fertility in Australia. Data refer to births registered during the calendar year shown, unless otherwise stated. Statistics on demographic characteristics of the parent(s) such as age, place of usual residence, marital status, Indigenous status and country of birth are included.
Births data include:
• all live born births registered in Australia that have not been previously registered;
• births to temporary visitors to Australia (including visitors from Norfolk Island);
• births occurring within Australian Territorial waters;
• births occurring in Australian Antarctic Territories and other external territories (excluding Norfolk Island);
• births occurring in transit (i.e. on ships or planes) if registered in the Australian state or territory of 'next port of call';
• births to Australian nationals employed overseas at Australian legations and consular offices (i.e. children born overseas to Australian diplomats or their families); and
• births that occurred in earlier years that have not been previously registered (late registrations).

Births data exclude:
• still births/fetal deaths (these are accounted for in perinatal death statistics published in Causes of Death, Australia(cat. no. 3303.0);
• adoptions, sex changes, legitimations and corrections;
• births to foreign diplomatic staff ; and
• births occurring on Norfolk Island.

Prior to the 2007 reference year, the scope for the reference year of the Births Registration collection included:
• births registered in the reference year and received by ABS in the reference year;
• births registered in the reference year and received by ABS in the first quarter of the subsequent year; and
• births registered in the two years prior to the reference year but not received by ABS until the reference year.

From the 2007 reference year, the following business rules are used to determine the scope of the birth collection for any given reference year.
Births for a reference year Y comprises those events:
• added to the register in reference year Y (i.e. date of registration falls within 12 months comprising Y), and provided to the ABS in the monthly files received from the Registrar in the reference year Y or the 3 months ending 31 March of the year following the reference year Y; and
• added to the register in reference year Y-n (i.e. date of registration falls earlier than 1 January in reference year Y) and is received by the ABS in the monthly files received from the Registrar in reference year Y or the 3 months ending 31 March of the year following the reference year Y and has not been included in any statistics reported for earlier periods.


Registration of births is collected by the registry in each state and territory. There exists a national legislative requirement that all births be registered by the parents within 60 days of occurrence. Hospitals, doctors and midwives have responsibility for providing Birth Registration Statements (BRS) to the parents. As responsibility for registration lies with the parents of the child, the Registry must wait for the parents to submit the BRS before they can add the birth record to their database. It is well known that there can be a lag between occurrence and registration, which can often be longer than the 60 day window specified in the legislative Act. Additionally, records flagged as containing missing or incorrect information are not registered or provided to the ABS until the registry follow up with the parents and sufficiently complete the BRS.
The interval between the occurrence and registration of a birth can vary. Some births occurring in one year are not registered until the following year or later. This can be caused by either a delay by the parent(s) in submitting a completed form to the registry, or a delay by the registry in processing the birth (for example, due to follow up activity due to missing information on the form, or resource limitations). However, given that the responsibility for registration rests with the parents, the problem to a large extent is beyond the control of the ABS and the Registry.

Birth records are provided electronically to the ABS by individual Registrars on a monthly basis for compilation into aggregate statistics on a quarterly and annual basis.  Quarterly estimates of births on a preliminary basis are published five to six months after the reference period in Australian Demographic Statistics, and revised 21 months after the end of each financial year. Annual estimates on a year of registration basis are published within ten months of the end of the reference year in Births, Australia.


Information on births is obtained from a complete enumeration of births registered during a specified period and is not subject to sampling error. However, data are subject to non-sampling error, which can arise from inaccuracies in collecting, recording and processing of data. These include: misreporting of data items; non-response to particular questions; and processing errors. Every effort is made to minimise error by working closely with data providers, the careful design of forms, training of processing staff and efficient data processing procedures. (Another dimension that can create a non-sampling error in birth registrations data is the interval between the occurrence and registration of a birth).


Births data are available in a variety of formats on the ABS website. The formats are:
• Web content, which contains publication commentary; and
• data cubes (in Microsoft Excel spreadsheet format).
Further information on births and fertility may be available on request. The ABS observes strict confidentiality protocols as required by the Census and Statistics Act (1905). This may restrict access to data at a very detailed level which is sought by some users. The latest publication is
Births, Australia 2014.


Births statistics are generally straightforward and easy to interpret. It should be noted, however, that changes in numbers of births over time can be due to two factors: changes in fertility and changes in the number of women of child-bearing ages. For this reason, births data need to be considered in relation to the size of the relevant population(s) through the use of fertility rates.
Another aspect that may be overlooked is plurality, or the fact that each birth of a multiple birth is counted individually in births data. Confinement statistics remove the effect of plurality and are used when analysing characteristics of the mother or father; for example, for calculating median ages.
Information on fertility rates as well as data sources, terminology, classifications and other technical aspects associated with the statistics presented in this publication can be found in the Explanatory Notes, Appendices and Glossary.

The international standards and recommendations for the definition and scope of birth statistics in a vital statistics system are set out in the Principles and Recommendations for a Vital Statistics System Revision 2, published by the United Nations Statistical Division (UNSD). Consistent with the UNSD recommendations, the ABS defines a birth as the complete expulsion or extraction from its mother of a product of conception, irrespective of the duration of pregnancy, which after such separation, breathes or shows any other evidence of life, such as beating of the heart, pulsation of the umbilical cord or definite movement of voluntary muscles, whether or not the umbilical cord has been cut or the placenta is attached; each product of such a birth is considered live born. In addition, the UNSD recommends that the births to be counted include all births "occurring in every geographic area and in every population group comprising the national area". For Australia, this includes all births occurring within Australia as defined by the Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC) or Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) that applies at the time.
Registration of births is compulsory in Australia under relevant state/territory legislation. However, each state/territory Registrar has its own birth registration form. Most data items are collected in all states and territories and therefore statistics at a national level are available for most characteristics. In some cases, different wording of questions asked on the registration form may result in different answers which may affect final figures.
Use of the supporting documentation released with the statistics is important for assessing coherence within the dataset and when comparing the statistics with data from other sources. Changing processes over time and/or across state/territory registries can affect consistency and hence interpretability of statistical output. Explanatory Notes in in Births, Australia contain information pertinent to each particular release which may impact on comparison over time. Data presented in Births, Australia are reported by year of registration (unless otherwise stated) and differ from birth statistics published in Australian Demographic Statistics (cat. no. 3101.0) which are reported on a year/quarter of occurrence basis in final and revised data for use in population estimates.

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