Administrative data – Frequently Asked Questions

What are administrative data?

Administrative data or information are collected by government agencies and private sector companies for their ongoing operations, which are then obtained by Statistics Canada to meet its mandated objectives. Statistics Canada has the obligation to keep your information private, secure, and confidential.  It’s the law. 

What does Statistics Canada do with this information?

Statistics Canada uses administrative data to complement or replace survey data, reduce response burden and costs, make statistical operations more efficient and also to improve data quality and timeliness. These data enable Statistics Canada to produce statistics and research to benefit Canada. 

How does Statistics Canada protect your confidentiality?

At Statistics Canada, the confidentiality of data is governed by three acts—the Statistics Act, the Access to Information Act, and the Privacy Act —and departmental policies and directives on the collection, protection and use of administrative data.

In addition, Statistics Canada employees are sworn to secrecy, and subject to fines and/or imprisonment, should they reveal confidential information.

Is the use of administrative data something new at Statistics Canada?

No. Statistics Canada has been receiving vital statistics data from the provinces and territories since 1921 and import and export data about businesses since 1938. Today, over 40% of Statistics Canada’s programs are based in whole or in part on data available from administrative sources.

Why is Statistics Canada asking for more administrative data now?

Statistics Canada has always worked towards achieving greater efficiency in data collection to reduce both duplication and the response burden placed on Canadians. This type of data is also used to measure changes in the economy or society (such as the share economy) that cannot be measured with survey data. In fact, Statistics Canada has been using administrative data for almost a century. More recently, federal departments have made an effort to reduce the burden that the government places on the resources of small and medium-sized businesses.

What are the benefits of using administrative data?

Using administrative data saves time and money—yours and ours. These data reduce the amount of time Canadians spend responding to surveys, while ensuring that Statistics Canada surveys and programs remain accurate, relevant and efficient. Over time, an increased use of administrative data would mean that you would not have to supply the same information repeatedly. This is especially helpful to us in gathering data pertaining to populations or topics that may be difficult or costly to obtain by survey.

Are government organizations and private businesses required to provide Statistics Canada with this information?

Yes. Statistics Canada operates under the authority of the Statistics Act which gives Statistics Canada powers to collect and compile a wide range of economic and social statistics that will benefit Canadians. Statistics Canada works in collaboration with organizations who have administrative data that can help in measuring the economy and society.  We request needed information that has statistical or research value, while respecting the principles of privacy. collecting the least amount of information.

Does Statistics Canada disclose administrative data to other government agencies or businesses?

In line with the Statistics Act, Statistics Canada may share select administrative data with other government agencies or businesses. This means releasing selected business data to other organizations to produce and improve official statistics of national importance. We apply ethical, statistical, and security best-practice standards to the data, and others who use the data are bound by the same security and confidentiality rules as Statistics Canada.

What legislation governs the sharing of administrative data by organizations with Statistics Canada?

The Statistics Act, Access to Information Act, Privacy Act, and legislation pertaining to data providers govern the sharing of administrative data with Statistics Canada. 

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