Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Euro-census cometh

It was bad enough last time, with 41 questions - eight more than ten years previously. For the first time, it included a voluntary question about religion and several questions about ethnic origin, although it omitted "English" as a category.

That was the 2001 census, to which 390,000 responded to the religion question by declaring they were Jedi knights, a classic response to a survey that many people thought went too far.

But there is nothing so bad that Brussels bureaucrats can't make worse – and that certainly applies to the forthcoming 2011 census. If they have their way, it will be the first "harmonised" EU census, with all 27 member states asking the same questions. Plans for this were approved last week by members of the committee on civil liberties, justice and home affairs at the EU parliament.

Furthermore, it will have even more questions, asking about education, occupation, hours worked, and marital status – all of which our caring guardians they say, would result in better quality data on areas such as housing and population. They will also want to know about ethnicity, literacy, size and type of family and religion, plus issues such as computer literacy, number of cars owned, cooking facilities and "durable consumer goods possessed by the household." The more contentious ideas have been dropped though.

As you might expect, the reason for this "Euro-census" is that the EU commission says it needs this information to formulate policies. If ever a good reason was needed for refusing to fill in a census form, this is it. I wonder if the fine for non-completion will be in euros.

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