Thursday, 4 August 2016

Census 2016

Oh yes, the Census. 
Now I do happen to think the Census is important. It is essential for future planning. The government does need to know if thousands upon thousands of kittens have arrived and will need schooling. They do need to know whether cats in the ninth lives are likely to need care. There is much more they need to know too. 
Last year I was part of a research project which required some people to fill out "mini" census forms on line. The Bureau of Statistics must have decided this would work because they have gone ahead with this and people are being asked to fill out the form on-line. 
I do have concerns about this because you are now required to put your name on the form. (I can see no good reason for this. It seems to fly in the face of privacy claims.) You also need to add your date of birth of course - and details about such things as income, employment and religion. I am very definitely "employed" but the income I get does not reflect the hours I work each week.
There are several questions that it is impossible to answer satisfactorily. The  question about languages always puzzles me. It is a much more complex issue than they make it out to be and the answers people give don't necessarily reflect the potential need for services. 
But at least I know I can fill the form out - provided that the website doesn't crash.
This may be where the problems start. Census night is next week. Some people still don't have the letter giving them the number they need to access the website. If they don't want to fill it out online  then they need that number to phone the ABS to send them a paper form.  If you want to put "other" for gender then you need a paper form too. If you do have the letter and the number and you are trying to phone the ABS then you can find yourself in more strife - because, all too often, they don't answer the phone. 
People have simply been giving up - even with the threat of a hefty fine. Someone asked me the other day whether she should tell the ABS that her daughter (who lives at another address) was away overseas. I told her not to bother. If the ABS want to follow up the lack of a response her daughter only needs to show them her passport which will tell them she is out of the country. Nevertheless such things  should be made clear in the information people receive. 
I wonder at this chaos. The ABS has four years to prepare for each census. They now say they intend to keep the data for four years - because it will take them that long to analyse it. Really? They claim about 65% of households will answer it online - and that means that the data  will already be keyed in. It shouldn't take them that long to work on it.If it does then the data will be out of date by the time it is made public.
Perhaps it is time to have a sense-us on the census?

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