Solman: Census questionnaire draft needs additional questions

Minister of Population Affairs Riina Solman (Isamaa).
Minister of Population Affairs Riina Solman (Isamaa). Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Minister of Population Riina Solman (Isamaa) has said she supports the proposal of linguists that the mother tongue or mother tongues could be distinguished in the questionnaire for the census next year but other questions are also needed.

She said, in addition to the issue of mother tongue, the questionnaire recently proposed by Statistics Estonia needs to be supplemented with regard to some other features, such as migration and location, employment and living conditions.

According to the minister, the content and quality of the census questionnaire are of key importance in taking advantage of the full potential of next year's census.

"The compliance of the census result with the expectations of the society largely depends on the structure of the questionnaire. After reviewing the draft census questionnaire recently published by Statistics Estonia, the office of the minister of population is of the opinion that the questionnaire in the proposed form does not enable to use the full potential of the survey and needs to be supplemented. I have already submitted the proposals regarding the questionnaire to Statistics Estonia," Solman said.

She said last week's meeting of the government's census committee, which brings together various agencies, discussed the issue of the census questionnaire and decided that a working group involving various relevant agencies and experts should be set up to supplement the questionnaire. It was also agreed that the working group would be convened and chaired by the minister of population.

According to Solman, preparations are underway for the first meeting of the working group, which should take place in two weeks. "A representative of linguists is very welcome in the working group to discuss how best to reflect the mother tongue in the census questionnaire," the minister said.

The government has already decided at the beginning of this year that the population and housing census of 2021 will use a combined method, so that the data obtained from all people in the survey will be supplemented by the data from various registers. The advantage of a combined census is that the census questionnaire is shorter and faster to fill in, as there is no need to ask many questions.

At the same time, comparability with previous censuses is maintained, as surveys of people still provide the kind of information that is not collected in the registers or that is not sufficiently accurate there. Furthermore, on the basis of the answers received from all people with the survey, it is possible to assess the quality of Statistics Estonia's annual statistics and, if necessary, adjust the statistical models used. Thus, with the census containing a comprehensive survey, our annual statistics will also improve, Solman said.

"When it comes to the census, the participation of all Estonian people is important, because it is not possible to obtain reliable information about some population changes other than through the census. This is particularly the case for small population groups, which are under-represented in conventional sample surveys. Examples of such groups are newly-arrived migrants and commuters, as well as representatives of less represented mother tongues, nationalities and religions," the minister said.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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