have gone "missing" in the 2011 Australian Census. This was reported in this morning's paper along with the concerns of the government at the failure of so many people to respond. A comment by a government official about increasing numbers of people "resisting" giving information to anyone was also included in the story. This does not surprise me. I was not surprised by the number failing to respond either.
I had to do some shopping the other day. I did it in a supermarket I rarely use because it happens to be the only place which stocks a brand of tea my father likes. While there I was asked by the assistant why I did not have a "rewards" card for that particular supermarket. My answer was because I do not wish the company to know what I, as an individual, am buying from them. They have other ways of keeping track of what is being sold. The so-called "rewards" card is a confidence trick. It is designed to track you as an individual. Very few people ever reach the point where the "reward" kicks in. It is also designed to buy your loyalty to that particular supermarket chain and their "name brand" products. The chain has a huge slice of the market. It is aggressive. In our area it has been trying to remove another excellent independently run supermarket. To do this information about spending habits is absolutely vital. The assistant tried to insist I was losing something. No, they are. They are losing information they want.
There is another small chain of shops in Adelaide which ask you for your postcode. People were objecting to giving this. More than once I heard people asking why did the assistant want to know that. An acquaintance of mine on being asked for his postcode asked for a reason and was told "I don't know. We have been told to ask." He went to the management and asked. "We are thinking of expanding. We want to know where are customers come from." His response was, "Well get your employees to say that. People will answer honestly then."
I also remember many years ago there was an Australian owned clothing company. It provided very high quality, Australian made clothing. Their shops were frequented by professionals who were often busy people but needed to look smart all the time. When my grandfather was no longer able to make my father's trousers my father bought them there. My mother bought skirts there. The shops kept customer details. We were in the Adelaide shop one day and an assistant asked a new customer for his name and address.
"What do you want that for?" came the rather aggressive response.
"Well sir. We can save you time. We have your measurements. If you decide you do need that extra pair of suit trousers all you need to do is let us know and we can post them to you. You won't need to come back to Adelaide."
He gave his name and address without further quibble.
I suspect that is what the government needs to do with respect to the census. They need to better explain why they want the information. Yes of course they do a little of that but they do not do enough. They do not explain how it is going to be used or who is going to use it.
People might be more cooperative if they did...on the other hand though, they might not.