Wednesday, March 07, 2018

We were counted

The deadline for completing the New Zealand Census was midnight last night, though millions were done in the days leading up to the deadline. Yesterday evening, the TV ads promoting the census became more and more frequent, eventually alternating with other ads on at least one channel. And, then it was all over.

We did our Census last night (final screen above), mainly because we kept forgetting to do it or were busy with projects in the days after we got our online code. We filled-out the census online, just as we did with the 2013 Census. This year, however, instead of using a computer, we used my iPad; to be honest, part of me wanted to test whether their site really was “device friendly” as they promised (it was).

First, I filled out the form for the dwelling. Mostly, it was pretty standard questions: How many storeys? How many bedrooms? Is there kitchen? Is there running water? Electricity? How many lounges/living rooms? (the trend in modern homes is to have two, a more formal lounge and an informal rumpus or family room).

One dwelling question unleashed the mocking powers of social media: It asked how many conservatories we had “that you can sit it”. I read that and instantly though, “WTF?!” I’m a potty-mouthed thinker, apparently. The thing is, New Zealand houses aren’t known for having conservatories, certainly not like British houses seem to be, and I haven’t seen any sudden trend to add them. So, like everyone else, I wondered what the heck they were on about.

There were technology questions, too, asking whether we had available for our personal use (and not exclusively for work): A phone, a mobile phone, an Internet connection. I noticed that they no longer ask if we have a fax machine, probably because hardly anyone does anymore (we got rid of ours a decade or more ago).

The dwelling section seemed much shorter than in previous years—until I saw the personal form, which was fairly miniscule. Most of the questions were about work, health, language(s) spoken, etc., and the religion question:

This Census or the next one in 2023 will probably show New Zealand as majority “No religion”, however, as I always point out, “no religion” doesn’t necessarily mean literally no religion: It often simply means no particular religion. The census doesn’t drill down any further to see what people mean when they answer “no religion”, as I did, and some commentators have taken that to mean New Zealand is mainly an atheist nation. But the census results cannot be used to make that determination—ALL we know is that the category chosen by the largest segment of New Zealand by far is “no religion”, though Christians of all sorts combined together made up more (I talked about that in more detail in a 2013 post).

So, sooner or later, the clear majority of New Zealanders will identify as having “no religion”. I can already hear the inevitable wailing and gnashing of teeth about that will be coming from the usual suspects, but after a short time (maybe 10 minutes…) New Zealanders will move on and it won’t be a topic anymore. When most New Zealanders choose to identify as having “no religion” it will mean they won’t care that most New Zealanders identify as having no religion. And, once an issue is settled, we always move on pretty quickly.

There was one final thing that struck me as potentially interesting. Our individual forms asked how we're related to each other, and our option was "husband/wife, civil union partner, defacto". When you consider it already asked us our gender, and we'd said we were "legally married", it would be possible to work out how many same-sex couples there are, and in what sort of relationship formalisation (if any). However, it didn't ask specifically about sexual orientation, and the gender question was binary, so the chance to find out more details about New Zealanders was missing. Even so, it will be possible to get some of the missing information.

And that was pretty much the Census this year. Shorter than it has been, easy to do, and, now, over. Can’t wait to hear the results!

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