Who decides what’s in the 2016 Census?
The Australian 2016 Census is fast approaching and we’ll be bringing you interesting and informative insights over the next month. As you are filling in your Census form on the 9th of August, you may wonder: who decides which questions will be on it?
Every 5 years Australia conducts a Census, which generates a wealth of information about who we are, where we live and how we are changing as a nation.
Some of the most common questions we are asked at .id are “How do I get a question onto the Census?” and “Is <insert topic here> going to be on a future Census?” While everyone can be involved in the process of shaping the Census, it is not an easy feat to get a new question on the form.
The results of the Census are typically released around a year after Census. For the 2016 Census, we are looking to see some data rolling in around June 2017 and beyond. After the release of the results, the ABS starts up a consultation process for the next one, calling for submissions from organisations and the general public. For the 2011 Census, this was announced in late 2012, with the consultation process happening through to 2013.
The Census is a $400 million exercise and adding extra questions would incur additional costs. Here are some considerations by the ABS for topic recommendations:
- The topic is of current national importance.
- There is a current need for data on the topic for small population groups and/or at the small area level.
- There are no other suitable alternative data sources available for the topic.
- The topic is suitable for inclusion in the Census.
- There is likely to be a continuing need for data on the topic in the following Census.
It is important to note (particularly in relation to number 4) that the Census is a self-responded questionnaire that aims to provide a demographic snapshot of the nation rather than in-depth insights into individuals or particular groups of people (eg. Persons with a disability).
More information on the Census assessment criteria are available on the ABS website.
Some interesting topics that have been collected in the past but are no longer collected:
- Duration of marriage (all up to 1986)
- Orphanhood (1921)
- Life insurance (1976)
- Holidays (1976)
- Duration of unemployment (up to 1961)
- Computer use (2001)
- Material of dwelling walls and roof (various prior to 1976)
- Access to Television (1961-1971)
- Method of sewerage disposal (1971-76)
- War service (1933)
Some common suggestions we’ve heard (and are listed as potential new topics after the consultation) include:
- Long-term health status
- Journey/mode of travel to education institution
- Multiple jobholding
- Ownership of other dwelling
- Sources of income
- Pet ownership
What are some of the burning questions you would like to ask/be asked in the coming census?
.id specialises in analysing 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