I recently heard the Australia Census labelled as the People’s Olympics.
I think that is a good description, as it is us self-reporting, standing up and being counted. It is an important event, not only for folks like me who use the information to help make a crust but also because we are telling the government who we are, where we live and what we do.
This Census will be a bit different – given all the Covid stuff – and some longer terms trends, well established from previous counts, might appear to be broken when the 2021 results come out sometime in late 2022/early 2023.
I do think that the 2021 Census will throw up a fair bit of ‘noise’ in relation to many of these trends, but future counts are likely to see many of these tendencies snapback to their longer range leanings.
For example, one thing the 2021 Census is likely to find is that the proportion of people renting across Australia has declined since 2016. This goes against the longer term trend.
Recent survey work by the ABS shows that during calendar 2020 the proportion of Australians renting fell from 32% in late 2019 to 27% in late 2020 and the ratio of owners with a mortgage rose from 33% to 38% over the same period.
On one hand this isn’t that surprising given record low interest rates and several government incentives – like HomeBuilder – to encourage first home buyers, in particular, to borrow and build a new home.
Yet on the other mitt, this is somewhat strange stuff when you think that during 2020 Australia experienced its first recession in yonks – forced as it was – and that business and consumer confidence was low.
I also believe that many of these new first home owners once they have lived in their new home – which more often than not is located in the outer suburbs – for the required time period as specified in the relevant government stipend will then rent that dwelling out and move back either with mum and dad or go back to renting closer to town.
Why? Because builders and land developers tell me that a quite a few of these new home owners, on settlement, start asking questions about mandatory occupation time frames and how much rent their new home would achieve.
A few Australian home builders have insinuated to me that this percentage is a high as 50%.
The latest ABS data suggests that one quarter of Australians live alone. Past censuses indicate a similar proportion. This census will most likely show a similar result.
Yet I believe that this is an overcount, as a lot of people designate that they live ‘alone’ but really, they live ‘independently’ from others in a household. They don’t have a binding relationship with others in their abode at the time of the official count.
On the flip side the proportion of multi-generational households and group living is undercounted. This is especially the case when it comes to rental accommodation.
The number of cars parked in city streets suggests that there are more people per household than the official statistics suggest.
For mine, we are more crowded house than an empty one.
I do fear that 2021 will be one of our last census counts. Other countries have dropped their official counts and replaced the data set with other measures.
True these other measures are often timelier, sometimes more accurate (take household and personal income as an example) and appear less expensive that doing a full domestic count.
The 2021 census is estimated to cost $300 million.
But the alternative to doing a count – remember it is us telling the government who we are, where we live and what we do – is the government sampling us and then telling the electorate who we are and what best to do.
The census is transparent and mostly accurate whilst any replacement is very likely to be opaque at best and stacked sky high with hidden agendas.
As a case in point, just look at Palaszczuk’s use of focus groups to help determine Queensland’s Covid reaction and extent of restrictions rather than qualified medical advice. Moreover, despite footing some $528,000 for such research (to date) the public cannot view these results.
The Queensland premier of course isn’ Robinson Crusoe when it comes to such spurious acts.
Surely, we have enough fake news and marketing spin without adding more fuel to this fire.
Also, such action sets a dangerous precedent – if we replace counts with sampling or target focus groups – then why have elections if a sample of voter intentions is cheaper, timelier and more deemed more accurate than actually going to the polls.
We should insist that Australia keeps the People’s Olympics. They should be held every five years too. For mine they are one government expense worth their weight in gold. Well silver maybe.