Census (Fail) 2016

Census night in Australia was Tuesday, 9th of August 2016.

Census Household Questionnaire

It is supposed to be the evening where everyone in Australia completes their answers to a series of questions in order to give the Australian Bureau of Statistics an accurate snapshot of the country and its citizens at that particular moment in history.

It’s also supposed to be the method by which all infrastructure and government planning is informed for the next five years.

Why then has there been an unprecedented amount of dispute, to the point of international recognition, regarding this clearly valuable and essential system of statistical data collection?

Let’s go into the details, shall we?

Arguments for the Census

So, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) says that:

The Census provides a snapshot of Australia’s people and their housing. It helps estimate Australia’s population which is used to distribute government funds and plan services for your community. – ABS Census Household Form 2016.

Arguments against the Census

One of the main argument against the Census is that the questions being presented are antiquated and can no longer be used to give the accurate snapshot of Australian people that the ABS is after. Later on in this article, I go through the questions, so you can make up your own mind.

One of the biggest arguments this time round is that in 2015 the ABS announced it would be requiring you to give your name with your supposed anonymous data, and that this is in direct breach of the intention of the Census Act.

Another argument being presented is that the online system is not sufficiently secure to ensure end-to-end closed loop transmissions.

What’s different this year?

This year, people were able to submit their census responses online. This was not as viable an option as some might have liked, with the ABS and Census websites falling over in a very short amount of time.

It was expected that somewhere in the vicinity of 15 million people were expected to complete their civic census duty online. So, it’s more than a little disappointing that the servers dealing with the delivery and submission of online census forms weren’t able to deal with the load.

Also of note, is that this is the first year that respondents have been asked to provide their name with all this identifying information. This has been a main cause of concern for privacy advocates, who have said this is in clear breach of parliamentary acts, puts people at risk of discrimination, violence, and more. Many people online have been asking if they have to place their name on the form, with some legal experts trying to give unbiased and informative guidelines on what is and isn’t necessary, according to the word of the law. Suffice to say, that this is the main reason many are giving for not completing the Census this time round. These people have accepted potential for AUD$180 per day fines under the Census and Statistics Act 1905.

The questions themselves – presented without comment

  1. What is the address of this dwelling?
  2. Name of each person including visitors who spent the night of Tuesday, 9 August 2016 in this dwelling.
    – include all adults, children, babies and visitors present.
    – include any person who usually lives in this dwelling who returned on Wednesday, 10 August 2016 without being included on a form elsewhere.
    for all other cases of persons away, please include them in Questions 52 and 53 only.
  3. Is the person male of female?
    – Mark one box for each person (male OR female).
  4. What is the person’s date of birth or age?
  5. What is the person’s relationship to Person 1/Person 2?
    – Husband or wife of Person 1
    – De facto partner of Person 1
    – Child of Person 1
    – Stepchild of Person 1
    – Brother or sister of Person 1
    – Child of both Person 1 and Person 2
    – Child of Person 1 only
    – Child of Person 2 only
    – Unrelated flatmate or co-tenant of Person 1
    – Other relationship to Person 1 (please specify)
  6. What is the person’s present marital status?
    – Never married
    – Widowed
    – Divorced
    – Separated but not divorced
    – Married
  7. Is the person of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin?
    – No
    – Yes, Aboriginal
    – Yes, Torres Strait Islander
  8. Where does the person usually live?
    – For persons who usually live in another country and who are visiting Australia for less than one year, mark ‘Other Country’.
    – For other persons, ‘usually living’ means the address at which the person has lived, or intends to live, for a total of six months or more in 2016.
    – For persons who have no usual address, write ‘NONE’ in the ‘Suburb/Locality’ box.
    – For boarders at boarding school, write the address of the boarding school or college.
  9. Where did the person usually live one year ago (at August 9 2015)?
    – If the person is less than one year old, leave blank.
    – For person who had no usual address on 9 August 2015, write the address at which they were then living.
  10. Where did the person usually live five years ago (at 9 August 2011)?
    – If the person is less than five years old, leave blank.
    – For persons who had no usual address on 9 August 2011, write the address at which they were then living.
  11. Is the person and Australian citizen?
    – Yes, Australian citizen
    – No
  12. In which country was the person born?
    – Australia -> go to 14
    – England
    – New Zealand
    – India
    – Italy
    – Vietnam
    – Phillippines
    – Other (please specify)
  13. In what year did the person first arrive in Australia to live here for one year or more?
    – XXXX (year)
    – Other (please specify)
  14. In which country was the person’s father born?
    – Australia
    – Other (please specify)
  15. In which country was the person’s mother born?
    – Australia
    – Other (please specify)
  16. Does the person speak a language other than English at home?
    – No, English only -> Go to 18
    – Yes, Mandarin
    – Yes, Italian
    – Yes, Arabic
    – Yes, Cantonese
    – Yes, Greek
    – Yes, Vietnamese
    – Yes, other (please specify)
  17. How well does the person speak English?
    – Very well
    – Well
    – Not well
    – Not at all
  18. What is the person’s ancestry?
    – Provide up to two ancestries only.
    – English
    – Irish
    – Scottish
    – Italian
    – German
    – Chinese
    – Australia
    – Other ancestry 1 (please specify)
    – Other ancestry 2 (please specify)
  19. What is the person’s religion?
    – Answering this questions is optional.
    – No religion
    – Catholic
    – Anglican (Church of England)
    – Uniting Church
    – Presbyterian
    – Buddhism
    – Islam
    – Greek Orthodox
    – Baptist
    – Hinduism
    – Other (please specify)
  20. Does the person ever need someone to help with, or be with them, for self care activities?
    – Yes, always
    – Yes, sometimes
    – No
  21. Does the person ever need someone to help with, or be with them for, body movement activities?
    – Yes, always
    – Yes, sometimes
    – No
  22. Does the person ever need someone to help with, or be with them for, communication activities?
    – Yes, always
    – Yes, sometimes
    – No
  23. What are the reasons for the need for assistance or supervision shown in Questions 20, 21, and 22?
    – No need for help or supervision
    – Short-term health condition (lasting less than six months)
    – Long-term health condition (lasting six months or more)
    – Disability (lasting six months or more)
    – Old or young age
    – Difficulty with English language
    – Other cause
  24. Is the person attending a school or any other educational institution?
    – No -> Go to 26
    – Yes, full-time student
    – Yes, part-time student
  25. What type of educational institution is the person attending?
    – Preschool
    Infants/Primary School
    – Government
    – Catholic
    – Other non-government
    Secondary School
    – Government
    – Catholic
    – Other non-government
    Tertiary institution
    – Technical or further educational institution (including TAFE colleges)
    – University or other higher educational institution
    – Other educational institution
  26. ONLY CONTINUE FOR PERSON AGED 15 YEARS OR MORE
  27. What is the highest year of primary and secondary school the person has ever completed?
    – Year 12 or equivalent
    – Year 11 or equivalent
    – Year 10 or equivalent
    – Year 9 or equivalent
    – Year 8 or equivalent
    – Did not go to school
  28. Has the person completed any educational qualification (including a trade certificate)?
    – No -> Go to 32
    – No, still studying for first qualification
    – Yes, trade certificate/apprenticeship
    – Yes, other qualification
  29. What is the level of highest qualification the person has completed?
  30. What is the main field of study for the person’s highest qualification completed?
  31. Did the person complete this qualification before 1988?
  32. For each female, how many babies has she ever given birth to?
  33. What is the total of all income the person usually receives?
  34. Last week, did the person have a job of any kind?
  35. In the main job held last week, was the person:
    – working for an employer?
    – working in own business?
  36. Was the person’s business:
    – Unincorporated?
    – Incorporated?
  37. Does the person’s business employ people?
    – No, no employees (other than owner/s)
    – Yes, 1 – 19 employees
    – Yes, 20 or more employees
  38. In the main job held last week, what was the person’s occupation?
  39. What are the main tasks that the person usually performs in that occupation?
  40. for the main job held last week, what was the employer’s business name?
  41. For the main job held last week, what was he person’s workplace address?
  42. What best describes the industry or business of the employer at the location where the person works?
  43. What are the main good produced or main services provided by the employer’s business?
  44. Last week, how many hours did the person work in all jobs?
  45. How did the person get to work on Tuesday, 9 August 2016?
  46. Did the person actively look for work at any time in the last four weeks?
  47. If the person had found a job, could the person have started work last week?
  48. In the last week did the person spend time doing unpaid domestic work for their household?
  49. In the last two weeks did the person spend time providing unpaid care, help or assistance to family members or others because of a disability, a long term health condition or problems related to old age?
  50. In the last two weeks did the person spend time looking after a child, without pay?
  51. In the last twelve months did the person spend any time doing voluntary work through an organisation or group?
  52. Were there any people away on the night of Tuesday, 9 august 2016 who usually live in this dwelling?
  53. For each person away, complete the following questions:
    – Name of each person who usually lives in this dwelling but was away on Tuesday, 9 August 2016.
    – Is the person male or female?
    – What is the person’s date of birth or age?
    – Is the person of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin?
    – Is the person a full-time student?
    – What is the person’s relationship to Person 1/Person 2?
  54. Please answer the following questions for this dwelling.
    – How many registered motor vehicles owned or used by residents of this dwelling were garaged or parked at or near this dwelling on the night of Tuesday, 9 August 2016?
  55. How many bedrooms are there in this dwelling?
  56. Is this dwelling:
    – Owned outright? -> Go to 59
    – Owned with a mortgage? -> Go to 58
    – Being purchased under a shared equity scheme? -> Go to 58
    – Being rented?
    – Being occupied rent free?
    – Being occupies under a life tenure scheme?
    – Other?
  57. If this dwelling is being rented, who is it rented from?
    – Real estate agent
    – Government Housing Authority/Housing Department (Public Housing)
    – Parent/ other relative not in this dwelling
    – Other person not in this dwelling
    – Residential park (including caravan parks and marinas)
    – Employer – Government (including Defence Housing Authority)
    – Employer – Private
    – Housing co-operative, Community or Church Group
  58. How much does your household pay for this dwelling?
  59. Does any member of this household access the internet from this dwelling?
  60. Does each person agree to his/her name and address and other information on this form being kept by the National Archives of Australia and then made publicly available after 99 years?