New Zealand’s Statistics Minister James Shaw has blamed “silly answers” for the removal of LGBTI data from the country’s upcoming census.
Last week, Statistics New Zealand announced the questions around sex and gender diversity and sexuality would be left out of the 2018 census, prompting frustration from the country’s LGBTI community.
Mr Shaw said the authority tested adding the question in 2016 and 2017 but the quality of the information received “ruled it out on statistical grounds”.
“The problem is that people put down different answers and they use different language to describe the same thing,” he told The AM Show.
“There’s also a lot of people who, frankly, spoil the result by putting in silly answers.”
Questions around religion and ethnicity went through similar “teething problems” when they were first introduced, he said.
“You see in the questions on religion, for example, something like 51,000 people put down that they followed the Jedi religion,” he said.
Instead, the information on the LGBTI community will be collected through the New Zealand General Social Survey – a smaller-scale face-to-face survey of 8000 people aged 15 and over.
“There is no other country that has managed to crack this in terms of getting this statistical information,” Mr Shaw said.
“They do want to include it in the census, I was really disappointed that they’re not including it in this coming census, so is the government’s Chief Statistician.”
Local LGBTI rights campaigner Steven Oates told The AM Show it’s hugely important to get a record of the community, even if it’s not completely accurate.
“In terms of health providers, social providers, organisations like Rainbow Youth, policy decisions, you’ve got to start somewhere – currently there is no information,” he said.
“There have been lots of organisations that have pitched to the government that this is a good thing to do, especially around gender – there is nothing about how people identify their gender in the census.”
Statistics New Zealand household statistics senior manager Diane Ramsay told Stuff.co.nz there was no agreed-upon international standard for a gender identity question.
“While it is recognised there is a need for this information, more work is required to develop suitable questions that work in the New Zealand context,” Ms Ramsay said.
“Internationally there is a lot of development work being done and Stats NZ are actively engaged in this.
“In addition the sample size of the General Social Survey is relatively small (8000 people) which means that the small number of gender diverse people is unlikely to be well-measured by this survey.”
New Zealand’s next Census will be held in 2023, and Mr Shaw told Stuff.co.nz he was confident that the country would have “much better and more accurate sexual orientation data available in the near future.”
On Australia’s 2016 Census, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) recorded 1,260 “sex and/or gender diverse” people in Australia.
That year’s Census “was the first … to have a response option available on the online form for sex other than male or female, via a special online form with an ‘Other’ response option to the Sex question,” the ABS said last year.
“The count is not considered to be an accurate count, due to limitations around the special procedures and willingness or opportunity to report as sex and/or gender diverse.
“People who have been treated with disrespect, abuse and discrimination because of their sex or gender may be unwilling to reveal their sex in an official document.”
In 2016, the number of same-sex couples in Australia recorded on the Census was found to have increased by 42% in five years, from 33,000 in 2011 to 47,000 in 2016.