Census coverage more important than cost

The Waitaki District was used as a trial for the online collection of data for the census in 2013.

Everyone got a visit from someone who delivered the papers and explained there was choice of filling in the paper form or doing it online.

The trial was declared a success and this year the on-line census is being done nation-wide.

But unlike the trial in Waitaki, people will have to opt-out of the online  option if they can’t or don’t want to do it that way.

Instead of someone calling with forms, everyone will get a letter explaining how to fill the census in online and what to do if they’d rather have a paper form to fill in.

That sounds easy enough but the ODT reported on concerns for elderly, those with poor sight and others who don’t have computers.

These concerns have been echoed on Facebook where people are complaining about the difficulties faced by elderly relatives who rang the 0800 number to request forms.

There’s also concerns about people who can’t read and write.

The slowness of the postal system is another problem.

Mail is delivered only three days a week, if people didn’t get a form by yesterday, it will be tomorrow before one arrives. Even if they phone for a paper form straight away it could well be next Tuesday, census day, or later before the form arrives.

Completing the census is a legal requirement. It’s important that everyone is counted or districts will get less funding for health, education and other services and infrastructure which are allocated on a population basis.

The 2013 census showed only a tiny increase in the Waitaki District’s population.

That is difficult to understand when irrigation has created so many jobs on farms and in businesses which supply and service them.

There were 4 houses on our farm and our two immediate neighbours’ before irrigation, now there are 15. We’re the oldest in any of those houses by more than 15 years.

Most of the occupants are in their 20s and 30s and many have young families. This pattern has been repeated all around the district.

Irrigation hasn’t just created jobs on farms there are more in businesses which service and supply them and most of the people in those jobs live in the district.

Intensification hasn’t just happened on farms, there’s been a growth in lifestyle blocks too. There’s also a lot of new building in town and there     aren’t a large number of unoccupied houses.

Why weren’t these signs of population growth reflected in the census?

Could it be that a lot of people didn’t bother to fill in their forms, whether on paper or online five years ago?

With no one visiting each house as they used to do, it will be far easier for those who don’t want to fill in a form to ignore it, and far more difficult for those who would but can’t without help, to do so.

It will be much cheaper if more people do their census on-line but coverage is much more important than cost.

The on-line option should be the opt-in one rather than the paper one.

4 Responses to Census coverage more important than cost

  1. Andrei says:

    The on-line option should be the opt-in one rather than the paper one.

    Disagree – I have done mine already, it was straightforward and quick. When things are easy and quick compliance rises

    All the issues you raise are valid but in 2018 the vast majority of people have at minimum a cell phone and are competant in its use – most people have more, tablets, laptops etc – the old desktop computer is taking on dinosaur characteristics 🙂

    In fact I was reading a story the other day that people in their twenties can barely hold a pen (don’t know if that is true or it was journalistic bumph) but filling forms online is second nature to the vast majority


  2. Andrei says:

    Ele – we have lived through a revolution as profound as the Industrial revolution, the digital revolution, you might call it

    Started with the invention of the first solid state devices in the late 1950s I guess

    If you could show my cellphone to an electronic whizz in the 1950s he would be bamboozled as to how it works.

    Filling in census forms online is the way of the world now

    Take comfort in the fact that John Key’s legacy and what he will be remembered for is the Fibre Network as you do your form


  3. homepaddock says:

    Andrei – I did my census online last time and will again. Many, maybe most people will have no problems completing the form online. But there is still a significant number of people, especially the elderly, who don’t have a computer and may not have family or others to help them. There are also people who either can’t see or can’t read.

    The roll out of fibre has helped many but there are still rural properties with speeds little better than dial-up and people there will also prefer paper forms.


  4. Andrei says:

    But there is still a significant number of people, especially the elderly, who don’t have a computer and may not have family or others to help them. There are also people who either can’t see or can’t read.

    The Statistic Department has people employed to help these people and you can get a paper form if you want it

    Realistically 99%+ of the population are in a position to do the forms online. And even if you are constrained to dial up speeds (which the vast majority are not) filling the forms online would not be too onerous

    There always have been and always will be for one reason or another people who will have difficulty completing the census


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