Update on the 2021 Census collection

Update on the 2021 Census collection

Our Census expert, Glenn, gives an update on where the Census collection sits two weeks after Census night.

Keep up-to-date on all Census 2021 news.

Two weeks after Census, and the ABS has provided an update on the number of forms returned.

As of Monday morning 23 August 8,762,036 household forms have been returned, which the ABS estimates as 78% of all dwellings in Australia. The state breakdown is shown in the link and repeated below. It follows expected levels, based on socio-economic status; the ACT “leads” with 84% return, while the NT only has 67%. With a lot of remote indigenous communities, return rate is always lower in the NT (and mail from remote areas can be slower as well). 78% Australia-wide is higher than it was this time in 2016 – but that year we did have the website going down due to cyber attacks on Census night, which made a lot of people delay their response.

How are Census responses tracking?

State/Territory Household forms received (online and paper) Household forms received (estimated %)
Australian Capital Territory 166,968 84%
South Australia 647,584 80%
Victoria 2,285,414 80%
Tasmania 205,085 79%
New South Wales 2,732,644 78%
Western Australia 902,837 78%
Queensland 1,732,464 77%
Northern Territory 60,696 67%
Australia** 8,762,036 78%

Source: ABS, Census 2021 website media releases

Online responses v paper forms

Interestingly, since  last week’s update, most of the increase has been from paper forms being mailed back to the ABS (presumably they took a while to get there and process). Paper forms are up to 1,506,129, increasing by over 700,000 since last week, while website forms are only up about 300,000.  ABS is seeking at least a 75% response rate via online, so these numbers represent 83% online return, which is higher – but presumably more paper forms are still to come in.

From this week, ABS Field Officers will be out following up addresses that haven’t responded. This will also include finding dwellings which are unoccupied. So the forms received estimate of 78% is of all dwellings, which includes unoccupied dwellings. Last Census 10.5% of all dwellings in Australia were unoccupied on Census night, so if that’s the case again, that 78% return is probably closer to 90% of occupied dwellings, a good figure.

Impact of COVID-19 restrictions

Recently I wrote a blog about the effects of Census in lockdown. This is mainly about how it will influence people’s answers to the questions, but there are also effects on the collection, particularly at this point, when the ABS are following up households who haven’t completed their Census. Since Census night, Qld has come out of lockdown, but all of NSW, Victoria and the ACT are now in lockdown, and these look like continuing for many weeks or months now. This does impact the collection, as field staff have less ability to speak to people door-to-door to follow up remaining households, due to the COVID-19 risk and social distancing requirements. It will be interesting to see if subsequent tallies show a lower response rate for these states compared to those where follow-up can happen in person.

You can still complete your Census!

We still have a few weeks of the collection phase of Census 2021 to happen. The Census website remains open, so if you haven’t filled in your Census form yet, please do so, or if you know someone who hasn’t, encourage them to get onto it ASAP!

Census data are expected to be released from June 2022, and we will be getting the data into the .id sites soon after that.

Glenn - The Census Expert

Glenn is our resident Census expert. After ten years working at the ABS, Glenn's deep knowledge of the Census has been a crucial input in the development of our community profiles. These tools help everyday people uncover the rich and important stories about our communities that are often hidden deep in the Census data. Glenn is also our most prolific blogger - if you're reading this, you've just finished reading one of his blogs. Take a quick look at the front page of our blog and you'll no doubt find more of Glenn's latest work. As a client manager, Glenn travels the country giving sought-after briefings to councils and communities (these are also great opportunities for Glenn to tend to his rankings in Geolocation games such as Munzee and Geocaching).

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