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Be prepared to be hassled by Census staff a lot more

WOES: Census' epic fail on August 9 earnt the ire of many.
WOES: Census' epic fail on August 9 earnt the ire of many. Contributed

DESPITE a shambolic start the Australian Bureau of Statistics is telling us nearly 95% of households have completed the national survey.

Ten million households were under the scope of the Census and a Census spokesman said they'd so far identified about 8.7 million households occupied on Census night (August 9).

Of those 8.7 million almost 95% had returned their forms ahead of today's final return date.

The spokesman said that percentage would alter slightly as the number of non-respondents was identified and that data captured, meaning the final figure on just how many households took part will still be some time away from being known.

He said the Bureau didn't factor for responses from unoccupied households.

University of the Sunshine Coast senior lecturer of social science and statistics expert Doctor Peter Innes said the completion rate announced was an impressive figure.

He said typical surveys were lucky to achieve a participation rate higher than 10%.

"Typical response rates (to surveys) can be very low," Dr Innes said.

"In research terms, it's (the Census participation rate) excellent. Anywhere over 90% heading towards 95% of a population ... that's always going to give you fantastic indicators."

But Dr Innes prefaced his comments with a salient point.

If the technical issues and controversy over data being collected had driven a specific group away from completing the survey, the data produced would be skewed.

"If it's (non-participation) systematic (rather than random) it's a problem because it represents a bias," Dr Innes said.

"If non-responses are random it's not going to be a problem, the data indicators will still be okay (as any bias would be washed out).

"If they lose a type of person (from the data) well that's going to be a problem," he said.

In the 2011 Census, 89.3% of dwellings were found to be occupied on Census night, with unoccupied residences having to be accounted for in order to accurately calculate the response rate.

The spokesman said fines were still available to be imposed on those who did not partake, although Census workers can visit households up to five times to try and capture data before a notice is issued and matters are progressed to prosecution.

The Census helpline will stay open until the end of September.

Topics:  australian bureau of statistics, census 2016, data, editors picks, federal government, statistics, sunshine coast


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