Childcare and green energy: census to trial new questions

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Some 15,000 households will be quizzed about their smoking habits, volunteering, use of green energy and childcare arrangements under a new pilot census.

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) is trialling new questions on September 23 next, to help better reflect modern Ireland, with households in seven counties asked to take part.

New topics also include use of smoke alarms in the home, questions around working at home and citizenship, while changes are also being made around use of the Irish language and religion.

Instead of being asked ‘what is your religion, if any’ as applied in Census 2016, participants will be asked if they have a religion and if so, to state their faith.

In all, there will be 12 new questions and revisions to another 26.

“These all arose out of a public consultation we held where we invited submissions from the public and interested stakeholders,” a spokesman said. “The ultimate aim of the census is to collect statistics for Irish society. The questions need to reflect what the users want. Over time, you can chart the differences to reflect the changes in society.”

He added that the CSO usually pilots new questions between census periods, but this did not take place between Census 2011 and Census 2016.

“We have an opportunity to reflect what the users want us to capture. The level of submissions was very high. The previous time we did a pilot was in 2009 and we got around 90 submissions, There were a lot more (in this consultation) from members of the public.”

In all, some 400 submissions were made from various interest groups, which were analysed and discussed by a census advisory group which includes officials from government departments, academia, State agencies, trade unions and business lobby group Ibec.

Households will be given one of two forms – a blue form (Form A) will closely resemble that used in Census 2016, while a pink form (Form B) will be the test form, and include more changed questions.

“We need to see if the questions work, if the public understand them and if people do answer them,” the spokesman added.

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Some 44 staff from the CSO are delivering forms to homes in participating areas, which will be collected after the census is complete. The pilot is being rolled-out in Louth, Dublin, Wicklow, Cork, Tipperary, Offaly and Galway. Households in 36 areas within those counties have been asked to take part, chosen to broadly represent the population of Ireland.

The pilot will take place in urban and rural areas, as well as areas with high and low levels of housing vacancy and deprivation and with higher proportions of non-Irish nationals.

In Dublin, the pilot will take place in Finglas, Ballyfermot, Portobello, Sandymount and Donaghmede.

In Galway, areas include Claregalway, Craughwell and Athenry.

Around half of all census questions must be asked under EU legislation including type of dwelling, water supply, nationality, occupation and level of education.

Irish Independent

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