The Central Statistics Office has appealed for people to engage with it in greater numbers due to Covid-19 restrictions having taken a toll on its methods of data compilation.
The CSO, which monitors trends in Irish life from the labour market to household spending to crime, said its methods of gathering data have “changed completely” since living restrictions were first instigated by the Government on March 12.
In pre-virus times, the CSO’s data-gathering consisted almost exclusively of face-to-face interviews on doorsteps, with 30,000 people generally interviewed by 100 dedicated staff every three months, a rate of nearly five daily per worker.
Over the past eight weeks however, all data gathered has been done predominantly by letter or phone, leading to an attendant drop in engagement by the public.
“While it is understandable that response rates have fallen at this difficult time, low response rates affect the quality of the information collected,” a spokesperson said.“That is why the CSO is calling on people to play their part in telling Ireland’s story.”
One field worker with the office based in Dublin, Deirdre Hannigan, said the way she works has changed fundamentally. “No more house calls and face-to-face interviews. No more trudging around the city with a heavy bag,” she said. “The work becomes a vast sea of letters, envelopes, stamps and information literature.”
In the present circumstances, CSO data outreach is done by selecting random citizens using the country’s census maps, who subsequently receive an invitation to engage by post. Any follow-on interview is conducted by phone.
“Taking part in our surveys is important because the statistics we collect are used to make policy decisions and to plan for the future,” said Fiona O’Riordan, the CSO’s head of social collection.
“If you are asked, please participate in a confidential CSO survey as they have vital national importance,” she said. “The information you give us means we can create a very accurate picture of Ireland, our lives, our economy, our health and our happiness.”