Census co-operation is a civic duty

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 August, 2011, 12:00am


Keeping abreast of the changes in a dynamic city like Hong Kong is not easy. This is particularly challenging for the government in that it needs up-to-date demographics and socio-economic data to formulate short- and long-term policies for seven million residents. Such information is also important for business strategies and academic research. A regular population census is therefore essential. But the success of a census depends on public support.

The two month-long census on all 2.4 million households has just been completed. Some 300,000 families, or 12.5 per cent, had not responded. The rate is slightly higher than the previous one conducted a decade ago. There may be many reasons for people not to co-operate. Some may be out of town. Some might not feel comfortable enough to provide confidential information, despite legal provisions protecting the data collected. Many could just ignore it without any valid reason, even though non-compliance is liable to a fine of HK$2,000.

That one in every eight households has shunned the survey is indeed regrettable. The Census and Statistics Department has already provided the choice of answering the questions on the internet or by post. Only those who do not respond are followed up with home visits. It probably takes a few minutes to half an hour to answer the questions, depending on whether the household has been randomly chosen to answer a brief or a detailed survey. But still, people do not appreciate the importance of providing accurate data.

The census has been an important tool to collect updated information for policy formulation. It is also an important source of information for academic research and businesses to adjust strategies. The HK$520 million exercise would become useless if the government obtained inaccurate or misleading information. Community support is vital for a successful census. Refusal to co-operate is not just an offence but a breach of civic duties.