Pacific statistics: Census of a small island nation

Penny - Population expert

Based in New Zealand, Penny primarily looks after our Kiwi clients but also lends her expertise to the Australian context. Penny has extensive experience as a Communication Manager in Local Government and has a degree in Business and Communications. She also brings a breadth of generalist management experience in fields as varied as research, civil defence, project and event management, marketing and training. Penny’s knowledge combined with the .id tools help clients work with their communities to empower grass roots decision-making, advocacy and grant applications, and focus on strengthening council-community relationships. Penny has a rural property and enjoys growing and eating food and wine, which she runs, walks, bikes or swims off, when she’s not in the art studio.

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3 Responses

  1. Ian Bowie says:

    How do they know that exactly 302 residents were overseas on census night. For that matter how do we in Oz know the comparable number for us (especially at sub-national level) and indeed in the absence of anything like an administrative census how do we know how many residents there are for the purposes of ERP which obviously is a better number than census enumerated residents?

  2. Penny Bloomberg says:

    Hi Ian,
    yep good questions. In the case of Tokelau, their report (included in the blog link) recognised that the movement of their people presented a unique challenge in counting the population. Their report notes ..
    ” In the 2016 Census, approximately 20 percent of the usually resident population was away from Tokelau. While Tokelauans travel overseas for many reasons, healthcare and education are two notable reasons for absence. Due to the high number of people absent from Tokelau on census day, in 2006 we developed stringent criteria to determine who was a ‘usual resident’. These criteria were applied consistently across the 2006, 2011, and 2016 Censuses… Demographic information was completed by the head of the household for usual residents who were away on census day (absentees). Where the whole household was absent on census day, the census day supervisor for each atoll was responsible for answering basic demographic information for the household.”

    The Tokelauan’s called this count the de jure usual resident count. In 2016 the de jure count of 1,499 was made up of 1,197 usual residents who were present in Tokelau on census night, and 302 usual residents who were overseas. The absentee sub-population of 302 included 48 Tokelauan TPS employees and their immediate families based in Apia, and 254 usual Tokelauan residents who were overseas at the time of the

    Tokelau has a tiny population so the census collectors/supervisors for each of the three Atolls would feel confident completing the census form for an absent household. Clearly the same approach could not be taken in Australia or New Zealand as census supervisors would not have the same intimate knowledge of local populations. In New Zealand we rely on our population filling out the census forms if they are away from their usual place of residence.

    Yet the usual place of residence is an inherently tricky concept. For example there is no time criterion given for when a place becomes a usual residence, largely because the concept is self-determined and associated with perceptions of belonging. Stats NZ provides some interesting notes on defining usual residences …

    “If you are an overseas resident and will be staying in New Zealand for less than 12 months, give your address in your home country. Otherwise, give your New Zealand address.
    If you are a New Zealand resident, follow these guidelines to give the right address.
    If you are a primary or secondary school student at boarding school, give your home address.
    If you are a tertiary student, give the address where you live during the semester.
    If you live in more than one dwelling, give the address of the one you most consider to be your home. If you spend equal amounts of time at different addresses, give only one of those addresses.
    Children in shared care should give the address where they spend most nights. If children spend equal amounts of time at different addresses, give the address of where they are staying tonight. (see )

    Finally, your note picks up on the ERP (Estimated Resident Population) as a better number than the census enumerated residents. The ERP is certainly the official population figure however the URP data is still used for understanding the socio-demographic characteristics of a population.

    Glenn Capuano, our resident census expert talks to this subject in his February blog “How should I use enumerated data usual residence data or estimated resident population figures?”

  3. Ian Bowie says:

    a very helpful answer, thank you and I wish that some in local government understood the data better. Perhaps local governments should be invited to assist with post-enumeration surveys.

    of course, definitions (and data) are only good if respondents take them seriously, for example with increasing online completion of census forms and more than 2½% of residents as defined being overseas on census night (on the basis of time away reported in arrivals and departures statistics) how many residents out of Oz or NZ on census night completed their forms anyway? These numbers could distort both counts of residents and socio-economic data on resident populations in local area with populations prone to travel (as indeed in the case of the Tokelaus)

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