5 things we would miss out on without the Census
With all the publicity around the failings of the 2016 Census, we thought it might be worth pausing and remembering some of the good things the Census provides for us all. It’s easy to get lost in the hassle of filling out the form and arguments about whether there was a #CensusFail or not, but why do we have a Census at all?
A quick update on where things are at
Following the hiccup of the Census website not being available on Census night and the day after, responses have picked up strongly and collections are well underway. The ABS has reported that almost two thirds of Australia’s households have now returned a form, which is great news, but that means that still a third of people haven’t yet submitted their Census two weeks after Census night. The ABS will shortly be sending out field officers to door knock, provide forms and remind people of the importance of Census.
5 things we get from the Census
In amongst all the kerfuffle, here’s some things we’re looking forward to seeing when the Census data are released:
- Everyone is counted. Census provides us with a population count, not just for the country, states and cities, but for EVERY little town, locality, suburb, village, street block and rural district in Australia. Everywhere matters! Without the Census, all these small areas would miss being counted. Read this related blog about the issues Taradale in Victoria had after it didn’t have enough people to be a named town.
- The changing face of Australian families. Census data tells the story of Australian families, showing which areas are now more favoured to raise children, where kids are leaving and returning home (boomerang kids), the types of housing being built in different areas, and how are empty nesters occupying housing once the kids leave home.
- Diversity revealed. The wealth of multicultural Australia is represented in the Census. Every one of about 300 possible countries of birth is included, as well as languages, ancestries, religions. This reveals the rich tapestry of multicultural Australian life, which again can be seen from a national level right down to each suburb and town..
- Local economic indicators. We can see the level of employment and unemployment, incomes, and growing and declining industries at a really local level. The data shows how each suburb or town is doing, compared to the average, and compared to the neighbouring areas to provide perspective. We can see where the haves and have-nots really are. And how this is changing over time. If the Census isn’t filled in accurately, this can be misleading.
- Where we work. Census also records our place of work, so we can see where the emerging centres of new industries are located and where declining industries are concentrated.
Another positive is that the Census is only conducted every 5 years! This reduces the frequency of the public’s undertaking to fill in the Census, but the regular 5 year intervals of Census data provides a consistent time series snapshot on most characteristics so we can understand how things are changing over time.
Remember, the Census isn’t about individuals – personal details are confidential and the data output is only based on aggregate statistics (totals for a number of people).
While all these topics may not be intensely interesting for everyone, the most important part is that they are used by decision makers at all levels of government and business, and particularly Local Government, to provide services to local communities, and advocate for funding based on evidence.
Here at .id, our toolkit provides a mechanism for displaying this information but we couldn’t do it without access to quality Census data. So if you haven’t done your Census form yet, get online and make this collection great!
.id specialises in analysing, enhancing and presenting Census data. Access our community profiles and see how some of the results from previous Censuses relate to your local area: Community profiles for Australia and New Zealand.