The Census is one of Australia’s largest peacetime operations. The COVID-19 pandemic and 2020 bushfires are reminders that the Census needs to be ready to change when unexpected events happen.
To make sure we can still deliver the highest quality Census, we are getting ready to use administrative data to fill any significant gaps that unexpected events might cause.
A bushfire, for example, might make it hard for people in an affected town or area to complete the Census. A national emergency, such as the outbreak of a pandemic, could affect how the whole country responds.
Administrative data can help improve the population counts and fill in the gaps in some of the other information collected on Census forms.
Other countries have successfully used administrative data to fill in gaps in their censuses. For example:
- The US Census Bureau used administrative data to achieve a high response in their 2020 Census. Early results show that it helped count people in about 6% of houses. It needed to do this even after it increased the time for collecting Census forms from three to six months because of COVID-19.
- Stats NZ used administrative data to fill gaps in its 2018 Census after it got a lower response than expected. Data for 89% of people in its Census came from the 2018 Census form and 11% from administrative data. This meant Stats NZ got higher quality counts compared to previous censuses, but it couldn't fill all the gaps in Census information.
- In Canada, a large bushfire at Fort McMurray interrupted the nation's 2016 Census, with about 100,000 people needing to be evacuated from the area. If Statistics Canada didn't receive a response from a home in the evacuated area, it used administrative data to fill in basic information.