SAS and the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) contribute to Public Policy

Our research requires drawing from a large number of data sources and bringing them together to make sense of the insights. SAS is the key enabler in getting the accuracy in the answers we need.
Jeannine Thomas, Business Learning Manager, ANZ

Ben Phillips
Principal Research Fellow, NATSEM

The National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) at the University of Canberra provides social and economic research to assist in improving public policy and providing new insights into Australian society. To enable this, NATSEM relies extensively on high-performance computing power to analyse a wide range of very complex data sources.

Since NATSEM was established in 1993, it has been a reputable source of economic and social policy research for government, business and community organisations. The research conducted contributes extensively to public policy across family and community services, regional and urban modeling, wealth and housing, income and health.

Over its nearly 20 years, NATSEM has relied extensively on the analytical capabilities of SAS to provide impartial, non-biased evidence to guide policy and decision making within government. The modeling and analytical research conducted by NATSEM ranges from simple data analysis of large data sets to developing complex models of the Australian tax and transfer system.

Ben Phillips, NATSEM Principal Research Fellow, says the high performance analytical capabilities provided by SAS are at the core of many of the products developed by NATSEM, offering a reliable and efficient solution.

"Research at NATSEM has made a significant contribution to policy development, especially in the areas of tax and welfare policy," said Phillips. "Our research has also discovered that a number of new policies have led to controversial results, often dispelling myths regarding their potential impact on Australian families."

Carbon pricing makes a difference

A recent NATSEM contribution to Australian public policy was around the recently introduced carbon price. Modeling the carbon price's impact on households is not a simple undertaking. To gauge the impact on households, NATSEM applied predicted price impacts to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Household Expenditure Survey, which provides expenditure information for more than 600 household items. The research also considered the introduction of the compensation scheme, which included personal income tax cuts and the introduction of more than 100 new payments, all of which have different eligibility requirements.

NATSEM used the advanced capabilities of SAS to work through the complex interactions of the carbon price and compensation scheme to identify which households were ahead and which were behind. This analysis was considered for a range of different household and family types, such as low-income and high-income households, couples, families with children and single-person households. What they found contrasted with the prevailing perception that the carbon price would increase household costs – with NATSEM discovering that 70 per cent of Australian households were actually better off as a result of the carbon price legislation.

"The findings demonstrated that the new carbon price, in tandem with the compensation scheme, actually had a positive impact on the majority of household costs," said Phillips. "While the compensation package leaves most households no worse off, the carbon price offers an incentive to shift investment and consumption away from high-pollution goods and services."

Australian incomes outpace costs

Another recent foray into public policy debate was in the AMP.NATSEM report Prices these days! The cost of living in Australia. With increasing electricity prices being a topic of considerable public interest recently, government agencies sought an accurate view of Australian incomes and expenditures.

To the surprise of many, research by NATSEM found that incomes in Australia had actually outpaced the cost of living by $224 per week over the second half of the last decade. It was found that most groups in society experienced strong gains in income beyond their respective cost of living.

In developing the results, NATSEM used SAS to analyse a complex and vast range of large data sets, such as the ABS expenditure surveys going back to 1984, detailed consumer price data from the ABS Consumer Price Index publication and income data from ABS surveys.

"Our research draws from a large number of complex data sources, bringing them together to gain valuable insights," said Phillips. "SAS is the key enabler in getting the accuracy in the answers we need."

Through its research, NATSEM has earned a reputation as a credible contributor to the social and economic policy debate, not only in Australia, but also on a global scale. SAS has been at the core of the research conducted by NATSEM and has enabled the organisation to draw from the widest variety of data available and offer an evidence-based approach to guiding public policy and wider discussions.

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NATSEM needed a way to bring together a wide range of very complex data sources to drive insights for economic and social research to assist in improving public policy and providing new insight into Australian society.


NATSEM relies extensively on the high-performance analytical capabilities from SAS to draw insight from a wide range of very complex data sources.


With SAS, NATSEM is able to draw from the widest range of data available and offer research that is impartial, non-biased and evidence based to guide public policy and wider discussions. SAS provides a reliable and efficient solution to enable this research.

The results illustrated in this article are specific to the particular situations, business models, data input, and computing environments described herein. Each SAS customer’s experience is unique based on business and technical variables and all statements must be considered non-typical. Actual savings, results, and performance characteristics will vary depending on individual customer configurations and conditions. SAS does not guarantee or represent that every customer will achieve similar results. The only warranties for SAS products and services are those that are set forth in the express warranty statements in the written agreement for such products and services. Nothing herein should be construed as constituting an additional warranty. Customers have shared their successes with SAS as part of an agreed-upon contractual exchange or project success summarization following a successful implementation of SAS software. Brand and product names are trademarks of their respective companies.

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