New insights to social disadvantage – new SEIFA data released

New insights to social disadvantage – new SEIFA data released

After a long wait from the 2016 Census, the last piece of the Census puzzle was released on March 27th. The ABS have now released the Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA).

What is SEIFA?

SEIFA is a group of 4 indexes, which are used to rank areas broadly by their level of advantage or disadvantage. It consists of 4 measures:

  • Index of Relative Socio-Economic Advantage-Disadvantage
  • Index of Relative Socio-Economic Disadvantage
  • Index of Education and Occupation
  • Index of Economic Resources

The characteristics which go into each index are all from Census, and measure aspects of disadvantage in the community. They include (but are not limited to) things like:

  • Percentage of low-income households
  • Unemployment rate
  • Percentage of low-skilled occupations and people without qualifications
  • Percentage of households without a car
  • Percentage of people living overcrowded dwellings
  • Percentage of people under 70 with a disability
  • Percentage of children with jobless parents
  • Percentage of people with poor English proficiency

The full list of what goes into SEIFA is in the SEIFA technical paper. The ABS uses a statistical technique called “Principal Component Analysis” to look at correlations between these characteristics and combine them into a single index number (or 4 index numbers, for the separate indexes).

How is SEIFA used?

Of these, one, the Index of Socio-Economic Disadvantage (going by the awkward acronym IRSED) is by far the most widely used.

SEIFA indexes are mainly used in allocating funding or programs to areas of need, using an objective measure to assess that need.

Because they aggregate a number of measures, SEIFA is widely used by organisations, particularly at the State Government level, to allocate funding or services by ranking areas by their need. SEIFA is primarily used to compare across areas on this measure.

Due to the fact that the components of the indexes change in each Census, it is not recommended to compare SEIFA indexes over time (though everyone wants to see if their area is going up or down!). The numbers are not on a ratio scale, meaning that a difference of 10 SEIFA points at one point on the scale is not the same as a difference of 10 points in another part.

SEIFA scores are expressed on a scale where lower numbers always mean more disadvantage and less advantage, while higher numbers mean less disadvantage and more advantage. They are standardised so that the average for Australia is always close to 1,000.

So what are the results?

A further post will follow with some detailed results at the suburb and other geographic levels, including mapping. But here are the first results at the LGA level from the SEIFA indexes in 2016.

These are based on the Index of Socio-Economic Disadvantage.

Top 10 least disadvantaged Local Government Areas in Australia, 2016 Census

Local Government Area Index of Relative Disadvantage
Peppermint Grove (WA) 1123
Ku-ring-gai (NSW) 1121
Cottesloe (WA) 1118
Nedlands (WA) 1117
Mosman (NSW) 1115
Woollahra (NSW) 1115
Cambridge (WA) 1114
Lane Cove (NSW) 1111
North Sydney (NSW) 1108
The Hills Shire (NSW) 1107

Top 10 most disadvantaged Local Government Areas in Australia, 2016 Census

Local Government Area Index of Relative Disadvantage
Cherbourg (QLD) 404
Belyuen (NT) 435
West Daly (NT) 441
Central Desert (NT) 492
Aurukun (QLD) 504
Yarrabah (QLD) 518
Woorabinda (QLD) 523
Doomadgee (QLD) 548
Ngaanyatjarraku (WA) 559
Palm Island (QLD) 562
East Arnhem (NT) 562

The distribution here is pretty clear. The most well-off areas (least disadvantage) are all in Sydney’s northern suburbs, or the western suburbs of Perth. With the tiny LGA of Peppermint Grove having the lowest level of disadvantage in the country. While the most extreme disadvantage is concentrated in remote Indigenous communities in Queensland and Northern Territory, topped by the community of Cherbourg, west of Gympie.

One thing this does show is that smaller population areas are likely to have more extreme (high or low) SEIFA values. Generally, larger areas have more diversity of socio-economic characteristics within them, and so will appear closer to the middle of the distribution, while smaller areas are more likely to appear at either end.

With that in mind, these 10 LGAs came closest to the defined average of the national SEIFA index, at 1,000. You could say these are the most “average” areas in Australia, socio-economically speaking.

Local Government Area Index of Relative Disadvantage
Penrith (NSW) 999
Longreach (QLD) 999
Streaky Bay (SA) 999
Kojonup (WA) 999
West Tamar (TAS) 1000
Botany Bay (NSW) 1001
Frankston (VIC) 1001
Clare and Gilbert Valleys (SA) 1001
Marion (SA) 1001
Rockingham (WA) 1001

And the most “average” LGA in Australia, therefore, is West Tamar, Tasmania, which covers the northern part of Launceston and the Tamar Valley up to Beaconsfield. Check out the West Tamar community profile here.

When will you see this data in our online tools?

SEIFA indexes are an important dataset in our community profile tool, which is made publicly available by over 250 subscribing councils across Australia and New Zealand.

Each of these sites contains a list of all LGAs in that state with their advantage or disadvantage scores. Another page shows the breakdown by the custom small areas on the site (suburbs/districts/other areas).

SEIFA data tells a very powerful story when shown on a map, as it generally shows strong spatial patterns, allowing you to see the distribution of disadvantage across your area and zero in on specific pockets of disadvantage when targeting council services. For that reason, we show both the Disadvantage and Advantage/Disadvantage indices on, our spatial mapping tool that accompanies for subscribed councils and regional organisations.

We know SEIFA informs many important decisions, and many of you in both council and out in the community are awaiting this important data with bated breath, so we will be prioritising getting this into the and sites as soon as possible.

Our goal is to have SEIFA data added to and sites for our local government clients within the next three weeks. Between now and then, we will be working to make sure the raw data released by the ABS aligns correctly with the local geographic boundaries that make that data meaningful to you.

Keep up to date by bookmarking our product updates page, or be the first to know when new data is released by subscribing to product updates here.

.id is a team of population experts who combine online tools and consulting services to help local governments and organisations decide where and when to locate their facilities and services, to meet the needs of changing populations. Access our local government area information tools here.

Glenn - The Census Expert

Glenn is our resident Census expert. After ten years working at the ABS, Glenn's deep knowledge of the Census has been a crucial input in the development of our community profiles. These tools help everyday people uncover the rich and important stories about our communities that are often hidden deep in the Census data. Glenn is also our most prolific blogger - if you're reading this, you've just finished reading one of his blogs. Take a quick look at the front page of our blog and you'll no doubt find more of Glenn's latest work. As a client manager, Glenn travels the country giving sought-after briefings to councils and communities (these are also great opportunities for Glenn to tend to his rankings in Geolocation games such as Munzee and Geocaching).

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