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Covid-19's impact on Stats NZ data

Sarah Putt, Contributor. 02 June 2020, 4:57 pm

Government data is fundamental to everyday decision making in the public and private sector, so it's important to understand the effect the pandemic has had on its collection. Stats NZ has today published an information paper to help users of its service understand the impact of Covid-19 on its data and statistics.

Social and population insights general manager Jason Attewell says the paper considers how information has been collected during the crisis - where face-to-face interviews were suspended - on a range of subjects. These topics include labour market statistics, business and economic indicators, price statistics, macroeconomic accounts, population and environmental statistics.

"Data collection for some of our social surveys ended early, such as for the 2019/20 household economic survey, or have been temporarily delayed, as is the case with the 2020 general social survey. Trying to collect data by phone or email, instead of face-to-face, is also likely to mean lower response rates, particularly for some harder-to-reach people, like those in their teens or twenties. This could lead to more uncertainty in our statistics, if we are unable to reach a broad cross-section of society."

It is also noted that postal surveys may also be less effective due to Covid-19, especially for tourism and hospitality businesses that may have closed temporarily during the lockdown. Instead, Stats NZ has moved to using emailed forms and responses.

Stats NZ Economic and Environmental Insights General Manager Richard Evans says they "know there are gaps in the information that all decision-makers need right now."

"There has never been a greater need for fast, up-to-date information, nor a more challenging time to collect it. We are now providing weekly travel and trade data to show how exporters and importers fared during the alert level 4 lockdown. Provisional weekly trade estimates have never been provided before in New Zealand and are a world-leading innovation for a statistical agency." 

To help fill information gaps Stats NZ has launched a Covid-19 portal that brings together daily and weekly data from a range of sources. This is helping policymakers make rapid decisions, says Evans.

"Stats NZ remains committed to reliable statistics, but some estimates may be less certain than usual, however there may be new data sources which will enhance our understanding of the impact of COVID-19 - for example, wage subsidy data and tax data may provide new insights into the labour market," he says.

You can check out the report here.


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