The census debate beyond Canada -

The census debate beyond Canada

Turns out government prying isn’t the issue


As the Canadian federal government’s decision to cancel the long version of the census questionnaire turns into an unexpected political fiasco, the gradual demise of traditional census-taking elsewhere in the world continues apace. But in Europe, at least, the reason some countries are abandoning the old-fashioned way of collecting information about their people has nothing to do with claims of government intrusiveness. According to this Economist article, the shift has to do with the availability of massive computerized data bases, which government statisticians can mine more efficiently for the sorts of facts that they used to have to ask citizens to provide directly. Scandinavia leads the trend, with Britain expected to follow soon. The US remains committed to old-school census, as do some historians and statisticians, who are alarmed by the move away from periodically surveying the populace.


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The census debate beyond Canada

  1. That figures – and demonstrates that governments collect far too much information on us since it is mostly used by the politicians to tailor bribes to specific voting blocs.

  2. European countries are hardly comparable in terms of gathering information: they usually have a bigger, more dense population.

    I don't think scrapping the census is necessarily a bad thing, but if it is going to be dismantled the governement should make sure they have other ways to gather the info they need to make sound policy. If the government came out and said "look we're scrapping this but we're going to do this to get the info we need" I'd be fine with that (as long as the alternate method makes sense).

  3. My understanding is that Canadians will still be asked to complete either a long form or a short form census. The only difference is that completion of the long form will now be voluntary rather than mandatory. Why is everyone making such a fuss? I'd bet the mandatory census has been unreliable because certain groups don't reply–particularly the poor, old, handicapped, new immigrants.

    • …and making it voluntary will change this? You answered your own question. That is exactly why we need it to be mandatory. Certain VULNERABLE groups will not respond.

  4. Statscan still has ways to gather the information lifeblood they so badly need. If you become part of the Labour Force Statistics pool, they can ask you any question they wish on any other subject outside of your employment status. These so-called "supplemental questions" may include queries about your income, your retirement, your energy use, household expenditures etcetera. It will be interesting to see if they slip in more "supplemental questions" when they make their monthly phone calls to those they are surveying about labour to take the place of the missing data.

  5. I am American and our census forms this year were shorter than previous years.

  6. Old stuff, but as I found out during a study I did in 1973, many European countries have what is called a Central Registry which records in real time all the data about families and individuals as well as moves from one house to the other, and on and on. If a sample is required a control is run on the Central Registry and then the detail plucked from the government files. Probably the most intensive are Denmark and (non-Europpean) Israel. Even Bologna had a very invasive registry. Of copurse they has a communist government too.

    In my judgement Canadians would never accept that sort of invasiveness and control (want to move? You must get a moving report?).

    • Invasiveness? All those datas they ask are already available through different governmental agencies. It is easier nowadays to consolidate datas through the use of COMPUTERS. Census are just a form for the government to entrap those who are lying.

  7. Making the long form voluntary destroys the randomness of sampling and invalidates the data. This is just a move by Harper to spend our tax dollars and to rearrange riding boundaries to suit his party's political purposes.

  8. So those who screams for mandatory long census forms are actually crying out for entrapment or they just haven't heard about computer connectivity of different governmental agencies?