A demographic dipstick: 100 years and still counting
Apparently the Bureau of Statistics is considering eliminating the Australian Census.
The census is conducted every five years and has been going in its current form since 1961, that is, five years since 1961. It actually started in 1901, so it is a 100 years institution.
I see this as quite distressing. In fact I wrote an article on this in the Australian newspaper. We are losing a social record. This is a demographic dipstick into the Australian nation that has been going on for 100 years. And you can see the transformation of Australia through the census.
But I think it is more than that. The proposition apparently is to have the census every 10 years to bring it into line with the Americans and the British. However, Australia with 24 million people spread across such a vast continent we have to be razor sharp in allocation of our resources – the public sector and the private sector. We more than any nation on the planet can’t afford to be wasteful in our resource allocation. And that is why I think we need a five yearly census.
The other argument is, there is no arguing with a census. Everyone was asked, here is the answer. If you replace this with a series of surveys, well then, you know, how well was the survey taken, how representative was it. Was it representative from a geographic basis? You can never really be sure.
If you are in charge of a decision that allocates hundreds of millions or billions of dollars you really want to know you are on solid ground. A census delivers that solid ground.
For that reason I am in favour of maintaining the Australian Census.
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