Tuesday 22 October 2019

Revealed: The eight new questions added to Census 2021 - and the new 'Time Capsule' feature

  • The next census will take place on Sunday April 18, 2021

  • There are eight new questions on the environment, smoking, childcare and volunteering

  • 'Time Capsule' option will allow people to write a message which is stored for 100 years

Census form (Stock photo)
Census form (Stock photo)

Áine Kenny

The next Census, due to take place on Sunday April 18 2021, will feature a variety of new questions.

Eight new questions will appear on the form in total. These will be on topics such as renewable energy sources, smoking, internet access and devices, smoke alarms, working from home, volunteering, childcare and travelling home from work, school or college.

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 that the time capsule section will be a completely open question, and the CSO are 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 Independent.ie.

"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," Mr Halpin said.

The government approved these Census changes after an extended public consultation period.

Between October and November 2017, the Central Statistics Office held a public consultation and invited submissions on what should appear on the 2021 Census form.

Members of the public, interest groups, Government Departments, local authorities and other public bodies all made contributions. Research and academic communities also made submissions. In total over 400 submissions were made to the CSO.

The submissions were considered by the Census Advisory Group (CAG). The Group then agreed on questions to be tested in the Census Pilot Survey.

The Pilot survey was carried out in September 2018 in 35 Enumeration Areas across seven counties. These areas were chosen to be representative of the national population, and over 10,000 households participated in the pilot.

Mr Halpin said that today’s announcement brings an end to a phase of work that commenced almost two years ago with the public consultation.

"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," said Mr Halpin.

"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," Mr Halpin said.

The value of the statistical information provided by the census cannot be overestimated, according to the senior statistician.

"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 underway and securing government approval for the date and questionnaire marks a major milestone for Census 2021."

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