2007.0.55.001 - Census of Population and Housing: Topic Directions, 2021  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 14/11/2018   
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Image: Australian Statistician, David W. Kalisch


The Census of Population and Housing is a critical source of information collected every five years about Australians and the way we live.

The next Census will be held in 2021. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has commenced consultation and planning to ensure a successful Census.

Public consultation on the range of topics to be included in the 2021 Census occurred between 3 April and 30 June 2018. More than 400 submissions were received from a range of sectors including: all levels of government, academia, community and advocacy groups, industry bodies, businesses and individuals. This report summarises the outcomes of this consultation and outlines the next steps in determining the topics for the 2021 Census. Ultimately the topics for the Census are decided by the Australian Government, informed by the ABS’s recommendations.

The ABS is required to run a five yearly Census by law. The information is used to shape our country’s services and infrastructure needs; to locate health, education and transport services where they are needed. The Census allows us to understand the cultural, economic and social diversity of our communities, providing information about the population across small geographic areas.

The Census also provides long-time trends in key aspects of the lives of Australians. Many Census topics will be retained to continue this important trend data.

Decisions to change the questions asked in the Census are not made lightly. While changes improve the data available to inform planning for a modern and changing population, they may reduce the value of data trends that have been collected for decades. The Census has always had to move with the times. In 1947, the Census form included questions on running water and flushing toilets. In the 1960s, Australians were asked if their house had a television set.

There is a limit to the number and type of questions that can be reasonably asked through a Census due to the burden on respondents in answering questions and the cost of collecting and analysing the information collected. Within these constraints there is opportunity for some changes in the questions to be asked in the 2021 Census.

Over the next two years the ABS will continue to explore areas of innovation and change to ensure a simple, secure and easy Census experience. We are drawing on the lessons from the 2016 Census and recommendations from a range of reviews to continually improve our delivery of the Census.

I thank those who have invested time and effort to make submissions on the topics for the 2021 Census. With this input we can be confident that our recommendations to Government have been informed by a wide range of views obtained through an open consultative process.

David W. Kalisch - Australian Statistician

14 November 2018