Census 2021 questions: internet access out, chronic health in

By David Donaldson

Thursday November 15, 2018

Census ABS site

The ABS is reviewing the topics for the next census to reflect a changing Australia.

The 2021 census will not ask about household internet access, under a proposal released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The spread of mobile devices has rendered questions about household internet “less relevant”, says the ABS.

Questions about the number of vehicles per household are also slated for removal, as this information is available from other sources.

But the ABS wants to test out eight new topics in three years’ time:

  • Chronic health conditions
  • Journey to education
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural identity
  • Current or previous service in the Australian Defence Force
  • Smoking status
  • Non-binary sex and/or gender identity
  • Sexual orientation, and
  • More contemporary measures of household and family relationships, including shared care of children.

The ABS will also explore enhancing existing information collected in areas such as disability and young carers.

Topic review process

“We want our most valuable dataset — the census — to grow in its usefulness while not creating an unnecessarily long or complex form.”

The topic review process is undertaken every census to ensure information collected remains relevant as Australia changes, says Caroline Deans, the ABS director responsible for census topic consultations.

“The ABS identified the topics to be considered for the 2021 census following an extensive public consultation process between April and June this year. This included over 450 submissions received and meetings with a range of stakeholders,” Deans explains.

“The ABS will now review these potential topics in-depth by consulting further with key stakeholders to refine data needs, ascertain statistical quality, assess cost and operational implications, and develop and test possible questions.

“We want our most valuable dataset — the census — to grow in its usefulness while not creating an unnecessarily long or complex form. This is especially important given the census must be completed for every person in the country.”

A final list of recommended new topics will be presented to the Australian government in mid-2019 for its decision on which topics to include in the 2021 census. The ABS will list the final questions in an information paper in late 2020.

Information collected in the census underpins a wide range of important decisions, such as setting electoral boundaries, allocating Commonwealth funding to states and territories, planning educational and health services and other infrastructure for local communities.

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