A leading group of Māori statisticians and analysts is calling for a “comprehensive independent review” of the 2018 Census after their analysis showed the results have serious constitutional implications for the country.
They have also raised a 1984-like spectre of government agencies sharing the personal data in that would otherwise be private.
Te Mana Raraunga - the Māori Data Sovereignty Network – has issued an in-depth analysis of the Census 2018 results, stating the Census is the “flagship of the Official Statistics System (OSS) and is essential for many of the functions that underpin democracy”.
They say data from the Census is the basis for a wide range of decisions about the resourcing of national, regional and community services and infrastructure and form the basis of national, sub-national and ethnic population estimates and projections.
The implications of problems coming out of the 2018 Census will, however, be worse for Māori, as it is now estimated that the total Māori response rate was less than 80 per cent at best, and even lower in isolated areas.
Patching up the holes in the Census using statistical methods of imputation in which a “value” was inserted to fill the current gaps where a valid response was not provided to a question raised particular concerns for Māori.
“We have concerns about the extensive imputation that will be needed to deal with missing Māori descent, Māori ethnicity and iwi affiliation data in Census 2018. The statutory importance of Māori descent data calls for a high level of transparency and duty of care, including clarity over what level of imputation is acceptable for electoral purposes.”
Much decision-making in Māori iwi and other agencies was based on the census as the only source of reliable socio-economic and demographic data.
“Te Mana Raraunga supports having a comprehensive external independent review of Census 2018 in order to understand the reasons for the lower than expected response rates, what went wrong, where, for whom and why.”
The use of census results in the development of official statistics as a strategic resource for national and Māori development meant a common interest existed to ensure the census and other official data remained robust, relevant and trustworthy.
The possibility that ad hoc use of data would be used to re-build the Census numbers also raised real concerns about the guaranteed secrecy of personal data across government agencies. This was because Statistics NZ will have to supplement its method of donor household imputation by using use of government administrative data from the Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI) which covers official databases.
Although Statistics NZ had said it would also use individual data from the 2013 census and birth registrations, the problem with this was that it did not take into account how individuals may identify at any time – specifying whether they were Māori or otherwise.
Statistics NZ had announced that: “New Zealanders can be confident the 2018 Census will produce accurate and high-quality data which can be relied on by communities and decision-makers”. However, Te Mana Raraunga said: “We question whether this will be the case for Māori communities, iwi and Māori decision-makers.”
Te Mana Raraunga, the Māori Data Sovereignty Network, brings together more than 100 Māori researchers, practitioners and entrepreneurs across the research, IT, community and NGO sectors. TMR advocates for Māori rights and interests in data and for the development of Māori, iwi and hapū data infrastructure and capability.
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2018 Census: Changes and how they might affect data - Stats NZ
2018 Census: Changes and how they might affect the data describes the changes made to content and operational processes of the 2018 Census of Population and Dwellings to better reflect the needs of customers, and how these changes might affect the comparability of the data over time.
Māori statisticians call for “comprehensive independent review” of Census 2018