2018 cen­sus: what hap­pened?

Taranaki Daily News - - National News - Leith Huf­fa­dine leith.huf­fa­dine@stuff.co.nz

The 2018 cen­sus had the low­est re­sponse in more than 50 years – now a team is look­ing to find out why.

Sta­tis­tics NZ had urged Ki­wis to com­plete their cen­sus on­line in 2018, how­ever one in 10 peo­ple didn’t re­spond, a drop of 5 per cent from the last cen­sus.

Sta­tis­tics Min­is­ter James Shaw was con­cerned about the low re­sponse and an in­de­pen­dent re­view will be con­ducted by New Zealand man­age­ment con­sul­tant Mur­ray Jack and Cana­dian cen­sus ex­pert Con­nie Grazi­adei, Stats NZ said on Wed­nes­day.

The gov­ern­ment agency wanted to know what caused the lower than ex­pected par­tic­i­pa­tion, and a fi­nal re­port from the re­view is sched­uled to be de­liv­ered by July 2019.

‘‘We want to know what worked well and what did not work well, and why,’’ gov­ern­ment statis­ti­cian Liz MacPher­son said.

‘‘We need to be clear about what we should have done bet­ter . . . We know how im­por­tant cen­sus in­for­ma­tion is for de­ci­sion mak­ers across New Zealand, and so it is vi­tal that we main­tain pub­lic trust and con­fi­dence in the cen­sus.

‘‘I’m de­ter­mined to do that, and the in­de­pen­dent re­view, as well as the ex­ter­nal data qual­ity panel, an­nounced in early Septem­ber, are key steps on the way,’’ she said.

The re­view will also con­sider the ‘‘de­sign, im­ple­men­ta­tion, and op­er­a­tion of the 2018 cen­sus, with a fo­cus on par­tic­i­pa­tion in and the cov­er­age of the cen­sus’’.

When Stats NZ was asked in July what went wrong, it did not an­swer the ques­tion but in­stead said: ‘‘We’re pleased with the on­line re­sponse and per­for­mance of the on­line sys­tem for 2018 cen­sus. Eighty-two per cent of re­sponses re­ceived were on­line which sur­passes our tar­get of 70 per cent.’’

It also pointed to the re­view as a way to iden­tify what needed to be im­proved.

Stats NZ also set up an in­de­pen­dent panel of data and sta­tis­tics ex­perts to as­sess the cen­sus re­sults. The aim was to give con­fi­dence in the re­sults.

That panel met for the first time in late Au­gust and would ‘‘pro­vide in­de­pen­dent ad­vice to the gov­ern­ment statis­ti­cian about whether the method­olo­gies used to pro­duce in­for­ma­tion from the 2018 Cen­sus of Pop­u­la­tion and Dwellings are based upon sound re­search and a strong ev­i­dence base’’.

In July, Stats NZ was still con­fi­dent the 2018 cen­sus would de­liver re­li­able data.

De­spite the lower re­sponse rate, it would ‘‘pro­duce a high­qual­ity data set by mak­ing use of re­li­able gov­ern­ment data to fill in gaps’’, deputy gov­ern­ment statis­ti­cian Denise McGre­gor said.

That method had been used by Stats NZ to fill in cen­sus gaps since 2001. Other na­tional sta­tis­tics or­gan­i­sa­tions around the world did the same, Stats NZ said.

‘‘We know how im­por­tant cen­sus in­for­ma­tion is for de­ci­sion mak­ers.’’ Liz MacPher­son Gov­ern­ment statis­ti­cian

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