COVID-19 and the Census

Information on how the Census was run during COVID-19 restrictions.

The 2021 Census will be the first major data insight to show impacts of COVID-19 on the living and working arrangements of everyone in Australia. It will provide valuable insights into how the pandemic has changed life in Australia.

Census data will provide us with a detailed picture of the:

  • changing employment profiles and work practices
  • changes in work commutes and use of public transport
  • towns and cities we have moved away from, and where we have moved to
  • impact of reduced migration and less overseas visitors, students and workers
  • changes to industries and occupations, such as transport, hospitality and agriculture.

Census data is used to inform decisions that impact all of us. From schools, healthcare, transport and infrastructure to local services for individuals, families and communities.

Completing the Census in lockdown

We undertook extensive planning for engaging with the community and protecting our staff during COVID-19.

We continuously monitored the changing COVID-19 environment to ensure that our safety measures were up-to-date and met the guidelines and advice from federal, state and territory governments. We actively adapted our approach to suit local circumstances including lockdowns.

People under COVID-19 lockdown restrictions were still required to complete the Census. The ABS provided advice on how to respond to questions related to study and work impacted by the change of circumstances.

Most people were able to complete the Census online, with no in-person contact from us. They either got instructions in the mail or had a paper form dropped off outside their household without any contact.

Census and people experiencing homelessness

We worked and planned with people who are in the homelessness sector to make sure we could count everyone in the 2021 Census.

For example, our Census staff visited areas over a week-long period where people were known to sleep rough. They interviewed and recorded people’s responses on a shortened version of the Census form.

In areas where this was not possible due to COVID-19, we worked with service providers to identify the best option to ensure people experiencing homelessness were counted in the Census.

Providing alternative support

In locations where the ABS was unable to provide face-to-face support, alternative assistance was offered, including through our website, chatbot, online video guides in multiple languages and assistance over the phone.

When will this data be released?

The majority of COVID-19 insights from the data will be available from October 2022.  You can currently access statistics already available related to COVID-19.