Friday 19 July 2019

Census to have 'time capsule' and ask about internet and smoking

Change: 25 older questions on the census will be updated, including ones on religion, ethnicity and disability. Stock Image
Change: 25 older questions on the census will be updated, including ones on religion, ethnicity and disability. Stock Image

Aine Kenny

The public will be asked questions about their smoking habits, whether they have internet access and about childcare among a raft of new questions in the next census.

And, for the first time, people can write their own message to be included in a census 'time capsule'.

The next census will be held on Sunday, April 18, 2021.

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) has been busy tweaking the usual list of questions and adding new ones.

Eight new questions will appear on the form covering renewable energy sources, smoking, internet access and devices, smoke alarms, working from home, volunteering, childcare and travelling home from work, school or college.

Meanwhile, 25 older questions will also be updated, including those on religion, disability, ethnic group and the Irish language.

For the first time, the census form will also include a 'time capsule'. This will allow members of the public to write a voluntary and confidential message of their choice, which will be securely stored for 100 years.

Senior statistician for the CSO Cormac Halpin said the time-capsule section will be a completely open question, and the CSO is not issuing any guidelines in relation to what people should write.

"The census forms are kept for 100 years and are then published. So in 100 years' time, future genealogists will be able to analyse what messages people write," he told the Irish Independent.

"It's an opportunity for people to add something that doesn't appear in a question on the form. They can write anything they want. It will add a bit of colour."

The Government approved the changes to the census after a public consultation which received more than 400 submissions. A pilot survey was carried out last September in 35 areas across seven counties and more than 10,000 households took part.

Mr Halpin said the new census will "provide a rich source of information on our society and economy".

"I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of those who made submissions, and those who served on the CAG. I also want to record my appreciation for the thousands of people who participated in, and those who worked on, the pilot last year," he added.

"Their combined efforts and support have helped to produce a census form with many changes, that will provide a rich source of information on our society and economy, including important new areas and issues such as renewable energy, smoking and working from home."

The value of the statistical information provided by the census cannot be overestimated, he added.

"It drives policy, targets services where needed and informs our decisions at a time of continuing social change.

"There is an international element to the next census, as every other EU member state will also be required to carry out a census in 2021.

"With less than two years to go, the preparations are well under way and securing Government approval for the date and questionnaire marks a major milestone for Census 2021."

Irish Independent

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