The 2016 Census taking place on Sunday week could be the last ever paper-only one, under proposals being drafted by the Central Statistics Office.
The census takes place on April 24 when every household in the country will be expected to complete the forms provided to them by enumerators. The data will then be used to capture vital statistics and to plan for the future of the country.
However, Deirdre Cullen of the Central Statistics Office’s Census Division said it is expected that this year’s Census will be the last one done purely by paper, with the CSO to bring proposals to government on allowing an online option for the next one in five year’s time.
It will be up to the next government to decide on the actual format of the 2021 Census, but Ms Cullen said the CSO would be watching Census processes in Australia this year, where a ‘no paper’ option is afforded.
Australian authorities will be posting online PIN numbers to every household, whereas in its last Census in 2011 it also provided paper forms.
“Australia is abandoning the paper,” Ms Cullen said, referring to the “big cost involved” and the use instead of “extensive non-response follow-up”.
Ms Cullen, senior statistician in the CSO, said the level of follow-up would need to be comprehensive, citing the 2011 Census in Britain in which just 15% of those in the North used the online option and just 18% of those in the UK overall.
She said by 2021 she hoped the CSO would be able to offer an internet option and said: “We will be putting that forward as a proposal this year.”
On the eve of the Census she stressed the importance of households completing the forms, adding that after the last Census five years ago 20 people were prosecuted for failing to do so, with five people convicted.
Just last week the CSO called on apartment management companies to provide census enumerators with access to apartment blocks as it had experienced difficulty in ensuring each household received a Census 2016 package.
Since then it is understood there has been greater levels of access, but Ms Cullen said some people were still reluctant to answer the door, adding that preparations for this Census were “much more difficult” than was the case in 2011.
It is understood formal warnings will be posted next week to households that have so far not engaged with enumerators. Every household is legally required to complete a census form and should take hand delivery of a form.
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