The Malta Independent 27 January 2022, Thursday

Census of population and housing currently being conducted in Malta & Gozo

Sunday, 21 November 2021, 09:15 Last update: about 3 months ago

Etienne Caruana is director general, National Statistics Office

On 1 October, the National Statistics Office (NSO) officially commenced online data collection for the Census of Population and Housing 2021.

The Census of Population and Housing 2021 is the 18th in a line of national censuses conducted in Malta and Gozo since 1842. The Census is held every 10 years and involves enumerating all residents and dwellings in Malta. Participation in the Census is obligatory by law. The Census is governed by both national and European Framework Regulation - 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 latter requires all European National Statistical Institutions to carry out a Census of Population and Dwellings this year and stipulates a series of harmonised variables to be collected in all countries. Many questions in this year's census questionnaire are in line with the requirements of this regulation and, subsequently, will provide data that is comparable with all the other European censuses. 

Online data collection for this year's Census is a very important milestone reached by the NSO. Apart from being more secure than paper-based collection, it allows for respondents to sit down and fill in the questionnaire at the comfort of their home or any other place where they can access an internet connection securely. Another significant development introduced in this year's Census is spatial geocoding. This involves the recording of the coordinates of each dwelling and eventually studying census results based on a 1km2 grid. This will allow a geospatial element at the analysis stage, resulting in the compilation and publication of first-ever geospatial census results by the NSO.

Toward the end of October, a team of around 1,000 enumerators started canvassing their respective areas taking coordinates of the addresses on their list and recording any developments in their assigned areas in recent years. They are now contacting occupants of all the addresses from which a completed online questionnaire has not yet been submitted. The occupants now have the option to either submit the questionnaire online or provide information through an interview either by phone or a face-to-face interview. When respondents opt for either of the latter two options, the enumerators, geared with tablets, will be submitting the questionnaires as soon as they are answered. Submitted questionnaires are then immediately uploaded on the NSO's servers securely when the enumerator syncs to the system. This electronic submission also allows the NSO to monitor closely how data collection is proceeding.

The Census provides a rich, granular-type of socio-demographic data. The information gathered will eventually provide a detailed picture of family composition, employment, educational attainment and dwelling characteristics. This information will depict how the weave of Maltese society changed during the past 10 years when the last Census was held.

For the first time, the Census will collect data about race, sexual orientation and religious affiliations. These questions were included in the Census questionnaire after the NSO launched a public consultation in May last year. This data is of great interest to non-governmental organisations and will help them in promoting and improving the social and political conditions of the society on a broad scale. When it comes to policymaking, this kind of information is also crucial for ensuring adequate representation of the different groups present in our evolving society.

Providing data based on a 1km2 grid will allow for an in-depth analysis of the concentration of the different migrant communities. This information will enable various government entities to establish more focused and effective policies and infrastructural changes within every locality in Malta and Gozo. In addition to its value as a data source and for policy-making purposes, the Census will serve as a basis for the sampling frame used for many surveys, studies and measures which will be carried out by the NSO in the future. These include statistical domains such as the labour market, education, culture and health as well as dwelling characteristics.

As the drive for data collection intensifies, the NSO would like to remind the public that the enumerators are bound both legally and by an oath of confidentiality. Each enumerator has an identifiable tag bearing the name, surname and photo. Should anyone be in doubt about whether the person calling at the address is an enumerator, one can call our offices on 1710 to verify whether the person in question is in fact our representative. 
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