‘Everyone Matters’: Census 2021

Last Updated on Thursday, 4 November, 2021 at 12:29 pm by Andre Camilleri

Etienne Caruana is Director General at the National Statistics Office

The National Statistics Office (NSO) is currently holding the 18th Census of Population and Housing.

The Census is an official measure of all persons and dwellings in Malta and Gozo, taken at a specific point in time.  For the first time, one can answer the Census through an online questionnaire which was launched on 1 October. The Census will run until

28 November. 

Participation in the Census is obligatory by law. It 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 latter ensures the production of harmonised statistics from this project, which is comparable across the European Union. 

Information is collected on all persons residing in Malta and this allows for the extraction of statistics from the census in deep detail, which goes way beyond what is normally produced from surveys.  For the first time this year, the census is also collecting spatial information of all main dwellings in Malta and Gozo and this will allow for spatial mapping of results on a 1km2 grid.

A vast range of socio-demographic data is collected through the census, which includes family composition, employment, education and main dwelling characteristics. Most of the information covered in the census questionnaire is being collected under European Regulation, while additional questions were included specifically to address national policy needs, following a public consultation in May last year.  

The benefits of the census are myriad for both public policy-making and businesses’ decisions. The results of the Census will help government determine how public funding, including grants, is to be spent for the next decade.

The census slogan, Everyone Matters, was chosen purposely to remind all citizens in Malta and Gozo that everyone’s collaboration is required for a successful outcome of this census.  This slogan is also meant to remind us that all citizens will benefit from the information produced from it. For example, based on detailed population totals by locality and breakdowns by sex, age, race and religion, among other factors, localities can get their fairer share of resources and improvements in the infrastructure to cater for all residents’ needs. 

Population trends, forecasted growth and data by locality, emerging from the Census’ results will also be valuable to businesses as these provide a rich set of data on the society they serve. Apart from being an official measure, Census data is reliable and aids business owners in reaching decisions, such as where to open new stores, restaurants, factories and offices, where to expand operations, where to recruit employees and which products and services to offer. It will also help in estimating potential sales, eventual growth and profitability. Population statistics derived from the census will help businesses improve their market research surveys and generalise their results over the entire population.

The development in presenting results mapped per km2 will facilitate the analysis of current and potential commercial and social needs both for policy-makers and businesses.

For example, if data from a given area suggests a concentration of elderly people, one might want to study the idea of opening a pharmacy or a community centre catering specifically for an elderly age group. One might also think about a home care service or an elderly institution to be set up. One expects that the 2021 Census data will depict a picture of a more diverse, multicultural society than the one we were accustomed to 10 years ago. The Census is expected to show the diversity among the resident population in Malta and Gozo and stress the need for inclusiveness, which characterises contemporary Maltese society. The data gathered is expected to allow analysts to investigate shifts among migrant communities. Such data will, of course, shed light on the concentration of migrant communities in certain areas, implying the need for different goods and services than the existing ones. Without a doubt, major business ideas carry with them a larger element of risk. But reliable data minimises risk, thus increasing confidence.

The Census of Population and Housing will now be entering its next phase. As of 8 November, a 1,000-odd enumerator force will start touring the island visiting all households that did not complete the questionnaire online.

Of importance to note is that the same confidentiality principle that applied to information submitted through the online questionnaire will apply. The enumerators are bound – both legally and by an oath – to confidentiality. They will be carrying an identifiable tag bearing their name and photo. Occupants at any given household still can fill in the questionnaire online, should they wish. They will also have the option of replying to questions face-to-face or ask the enumerator for an appointment to answer the questions over the phone.

The NSO would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for the cooperation shown so far.

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