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Background

Census Transformation in New Zealand

In March 2012 the New Zealand Government agreed to a Census Transformation strategy, which has two strands:

  • a focus in the short-to-medium term on modernising the current census model and making it more efficient
  • a longer-term focus on investigating alternative ways of producing small-area population and social and economic statistics. This includes the possibility of changing the census frequency to every 10 years, and exploring the feasibility of a census based on administrative data (Statistics New Zealand, 2012).

The next census in 2018 will be significantly modernised, including an online completion target of 70 percent and re-use of administrative data to support collection and processing.

Continuing to meet critical information needs must underpin decisions on the future of census. Investigations into the long-term direction for census are focused on developing an understanding of future census information requirements, and the ability of administrative sources to meet those requirements.

Read more about Census Transformation in New Zealand 

About this paper

Previous work by the Census Transformation programme identified information requirements for and about Māori that a census must provide, regardless of how the census is conducted in the future. Essential census requirements that are specific to Māori are: Māori ethnicity, Māori descent, iwi, and te reo Māori (the Māori language).

In this paper we investigate the potential for administrative sources to provide this information. For three of these variables (Māori ethnicity, Māori descent, and iwi) we compare data from the 2013 Census with information from the administrative data sources available in Statistics NZ’s Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI).

For each variable, we describe the main features of each administrative data source and compare the concepts and definitions used with the relevant statistical standard. We describe the coverage of each data source. We also use the 2013 Census data linked to the administrative source to compare consistency between census responses and the values recorded in the administrative sources.

Some administrative sources provide very good information for and about Māori. However, the lack of completeness and lower quality of other sources means that administrative data cannot, at present, replace the essential information needs that the current survey-based census provides. There is some promise that with improvements to data collection, Māori ethnicity could be provided through linked administrative data sources. For Māori descent, better coverage for adults is needed. The feasibility of collecting high-quality iwi information from government agencies or Māori organisations remains uncertain and will require government to work in partnership with iwi. Language proficiency is unlikely to be suitable for collection through administrative sources.

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