Up to a few months ago, the increase in property prices – whether rental properties or those for sale – was a topic discussed by many. Property affordability started being an issue because – many argued – of the influx of foreign workers who pushed the prices through the roof. Some of those who could not rent or buy, and had no other means of accommodation, started turning to the government for social housing and the NGOs around the island for help.
The Census of Population and Housing aims at capturing such situations. It delves into the type of property one lives in, whether it is owned, rented, or otherwise, also looking into some of the ‘modern day’ facilities available in the particular dwelling. It will definitely be an uphill struggle and a real challenge to capture the homeless, those renting garages, and the couch-surfers.
However, the NSO has employed around 1,000 enumerators to tour the island collecting data. It held meetings with NGOs so that they share their knowledge about the situations they encounter, enabling the NSO to do its best to cover all grounds. Different situations lead individuals to seek shelter elsewhere. Domestic violence, separations, the loss of one’s job, drug addiction, and recent release from a correctional facility are only a few examples one can mention.
It is of utmost importance that everyone recognises the importance of the Census for the country and answer questions in a truthful manner. Data reliability depends on the truthful answers of respondents. This is not a judgmental study and is the only way to ensure that one’s situation is reflected in the country’s statistics, that will eventually lead to long-term policy making. The Census is the only complete count of the population and its living conditions.
Data reliability depends on the truthful answers of respondents
Soon data collection from institutions will also commence. When talking about institutions, we include correctional facilities, rehabilitation centres, hospitals, homes for the elderly, children’s institutes and more. One will be able to better understand the needs of these institutions. Given that the Census also collects information that is health-related, one will be in a better position to see, for example, whether certain children’s institutes need support to help them cope with issues being faced. The same relates to homes for the elderly, rehabilitation centres and correctional facilities. Furthermore, we will be able to extract data as to how many children are living with their parent at particular shelters.
Needless to say, the same, or very similar data can be extracted from respondents living in their own dwelling. Questions that for some may seem too sensitive, if not intrusive, are crucial for the NSO to capture the fabric of society. One has to understand that the NSO’s job is to present data that, as much as possible, reflects the reality of society. The Census will bring out some sad realities, such as the plight of single parents who have children with certain health issues or difficulties. These will help the government understand whether certain benefits are being covered or otherwise. In other instances, one will also understand whether educational attainment is a control factor to living conditions, or otherwise.
As tedious and useless as some may consider it, the Census is actually a very important social measurement. Some may also argue whether it has any use since it is carried out every 10 years. The NSO would like to remind the general public that it carries out various studies on a yearly basis. Two very important studies – among others – that the NSO carries out are the Labour Force Survey and the European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions survey. Going into detail of such studies is beyond the scope of this article, however, one needs to understand that bridging the gap between one Census and another are other strong reliable studies.
Physical and telephone data collection from dwellings has now entered its second week. Our enumerators are doing their utmost to contact the occupants of the respective dwellings on their list. The NSO cannot thank enough those respondents who have cooperated in full. It also reminds the public that participation in the Census is obligatory by law. The Census is governed by national and EU law – the Census Act of 1948, and the EU Census Framework Regulation (EC) No. 763/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council on population and housing Censuses, and its implementing regulations, respectively. The NSO is bound by law to keep all data collected confidential, and this will be used for statistical purposes only.
Etienne Caruana is Director General, National Statistics Office