Friday, 20 February 2015

The question of whether the census

is worth the money spent on it or whether there are other ways to gather the necessary information to plan for the future.
Remember, the Romans had censuses? There's that famous one that sent Joseph and Mary off to Bethlehem. I suspect that the Romans were more concerned about borders and security than providing services but they did conduct censuses.
We have moved on a long way from there. And yes, I agree that the census is important. But, it only collects a limited amount of information. 
Last year our household was required to participate in an on-line trial designed to see if the census can be conducted electronically. That would save an enormous amount of money. (The last census cost the country about $440m.) I don't know how secure it would be - or how secure census data is at all. How accurate is it? Nobody really knows. There just has to be an assumption that people fill out the form and do it accurately. Yes, those are legal requirements but how many people do not give the correct information. Some don't do it intentionally but others do. It doesn't help.
And I have another problem with the census. It still isn't asking some of the questions it should be asking. The census doesn't ask about the support networks people have. It doesn't ask about how much leisure time people have and how they are using it. That is information which is vital to the mental health of a nation but it isn't being asked. 
It is all very well knowing that "X" number of people live in a household and what their ages are but it doesn't find out whether those people are coping, whether they access services now or will need to do so soon or in the future. Some of those things are unpredictable. But it doesn't ask "Did you meet friends on a social basis this week" or "did you spend time actively engaged in a hobby this week" and "what was that hobby". The questions would, of course, need to be put differently but that sort of information could be immensely valuable. It would tell government something about people living in isolation and whether they are possibly at risk. It would tell them something about networks and whether funding should be directed at something more than the football club. 
Yes, it is expensive to ask questions in the census. There's only so much room but perhaps if these sort of questions were asked people might better understand why the census is important - and how it relates to them. 
Has any one got questions they would like to see asked? 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Last census I couldn't find a question that government agencies would not have been able to answer from their records. They should either ask some of your questions or don't bother, just get public servants to sort out their files properly. Would save a lot of money and some people would be gainfully employed for a while instead of just turning up for work.