UK: Huge ‘immigration health surcharge’ fees paid by foreign NHS workers being reviewed, Priti Patel says

Always was an indefensible policy with the current COVID-19 pandemic highlighting the point (the UK has one of the higher number of deaths due to the pandemic in the EU):

The immigration health surcharge fees paid by foreign healthcare workers– despite working in the NHS themselves – are being reviewed, Priti Patel has said.

The home secretary revealed she had bowed to pressure to look again at the fees, in the light of the “extraordinary contribution” made by medical staff from overseas during the coronavirus pandemic.

Until now, ministers had held firm that the surcharge – due to soar from £400 a year to £624 this October – is a fair way for all migrants to contribute to the likely cost of their NHS care.

At the daily Downing Street press conference, Ms Patel was asked whether it was right to “scrap” the surcharge for overseas NHS staff, “given they too are fighting this pandemic”.

She replied that it was “under review”, adding: “We are looking at everything, including visas and surcharge.

“We are looking at everything now in terms of what we can do to continue to support everyone on the frontline of the NHS.

“We are speaking about the healthcare professionals, the medics, the doctors and nurses and allied healthcare professionals who have come to the UK.”

The possible cut, or removal, of the surcharge was revealed as Ms Patel played down hopes of an early easing of the lockdown as the death toll in hospitals passed 20,000.

She called it a “deeply tragic and moving moment”, warning “we are not out of the woods yet” – and telling people to stick to social distancing instructions.

“Quite frankly that is not right now. It is clear that it is not right now.”

The health surcharge was hugely controversial, even before the current crisis. There is no right of deferral, or ability to pay annually. Instead, it has to be paid in advance for the entire duration of an applicant’s visa or residency permit.

Meanwhile, nurses and junior doctors in training have starting salaries of between £18,000 and £23,000.

They are already paying tax and national insurance, like British nationals, and are therefore being “charged twice” for NHS treatment, campaigners have protested.

Nevertheless, only last month, when he announced his Budget, chancellor Rishi Sunak said it was necessary to ensure that “what people get out, they also put in”.

Once the UK leaves the Brexit transition period – at the end of the year – the government insists it will be paid by all EU citizens, as well as those from the rest of the world.

Around one in every seven NHS workers is foreign-born – a dependence that has attracted growing attention as they have been on the frontline of the fight against coronavirus.

Dame Donna Kinnair, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said it would welcome a U-turn to exempt nurses from the surcharge.

“The current crisis only serves to highlight the unfairness of charging overseas nurses working in the UK for healthcare services,” she said.

The concession comes ahead of Boris Johnson’s expected return to work in Downing Street on Monday, raising Conservative hopes of an end to the refusal to discuss how the UK will escape the lockdown.

The prime minister is expected back, three weeks after being taken to hospital when his coronavirus symptoms worsened – where he needed oxygen in intensive care, to ensure he survived

Conservative backbenchers have laid bare their frustrations at ministers batting away calls to set out options for easing restrictions, claiming it would underline the ‘stay at home’ message.

On Saturday, Philip Hammond, the former Conservative chancellor, asked if such a plan should be “published now”, replied: “Yes, I think that is the next step.

“I understand the prime minister is going to be back in harness in Downing Street at the beginning of next week and I very much hope that will signal a clear step change.”

Source: Huge ‘immigration health surcharge’ fees paid by foreign NHS workers being reviewed, Priti Patel says

The U.K. Needs Immigrants To Work In Its Health Service. The Chancellor Just Gave Them A Reason Not To Come.

Self-defeating move, it would appear:

Immigrants to the U.K. will have to pay more into the National Health Service, whether or not they use its services. By making it more expensive for migrants to come and work, this surcharge may in fact disincentivize the very workers the health service needs at a time of intense labor shortages.

Conservative Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the increase while presenting his first budget to the U.K. House of Commons. Immigrants coming to the U.K. with a visa to work or join family for more than six months will now have to pay, alongside other fees, a surcharge of £624 for every year of their visa, an increase of more than 50% from where it was at £400, which was itself an increase from £200 in late 2018 (under the new system children will be charged a little less than adults, £470 per year). The funds from the surcharge go into the country’s National Health Service, or NHS.

The stated aim of the surcharge is to prevent migrants from burdening the NHS, as the Chancellor made clear in his speech to the commons: “Migrants benefit from our NHS. And we all want them to do so, but it’s right that what people get out, they also put in. There is a surcharge already, but it doesn’t properly reflect the benefits people receive.”

The specific amount of £624 appears linked to previous claims made by the Conservative party that migrants incur costs to the NHS of around £625 per year. The Guardian fact-checked this claim in 2019, and absent any source for the number, declared it unverifiable.

Nonetheless, the perception that migrants burden the NHS is a common one in post-Brexit Britain, with plenty of anecdotal stories of over-full waiting rooms and months-long waiting times. But research into the economic contributions of immigrants to the U.K., particularly those from the European Union (who will soon be subject to the NHS surcharge), suggests they are not the burden people think they are. A comprehensive review of EU immigrants’ contribution to the country’s public finances commissioned by the government in 2018 found that on average those migrants paid more into, and took less out of, the public purse than native Britons.

In any case, framing the issue as how much immigrants take out and put into the NHS is deceptive. Immigrants who work in the U.K. already contribute to the public finances by paying tax and contributing to national insurance, the country’s social security scheme. As the above-mentioned Guardian piece pointed out, immigrants already “pay for the NHS all year round”.

In this light, the NHS surcharge can be seen as double taxation, and it’s worth noting it will soon be extended to EU citizens, who make up a large proportion of the migrants coming to the U.K. Professor Jonathan Portes, senior fellow of the UK in a Changing Europe, said: “The overall impact of immigration on the NHS is positive, as the Government’s own Migration Advisory Committee concluded. Given that, it’s very hard to justify extending the double-charging that already applies to non-EU migrants to those from the EU.”

The surcharge may also work against the Chancellor’s stated intention of bolstering the NHS. By making it more expensive for workers to come, it could put off some of the people the NHS needs most.

For example, a qualified nurse wanting to come to the country under the Tier 2 skilled visa scheme could expect to pay £464 for the visa fee, and £1872 for three years’ worth of NHS surcharge. If they are coming with dependents, that’s an additional £1410 per child and £1872 for a spouse. According to the Royal College of Nursing, the average starting salary a qualified nurse coming to the country could expect to get is around £25,000, well below the national average salary for full-time work.

The issue is that nursing is one of the many NHS jobs that are currently on the U.K. government’s shortage occupation list. That is to say, it’s one of those jobs the U.K. desperately needs people for to prop up its health service. By increasing the price of entry for those nurses, the surcharge gives them less incentive to come to the country.

The Royal College of Nursing released some analysis last year, before this latest increase, showing that, if a nurse from a non-EU country came with two children to take a job at Band 5 (the average starting band for NHS nurses), “they would have to work from the start of the year until 22nd January, or for 116 hours, just to pay the £1,200 they will be billed under the current charge.” That was back when the surcharge was still £400. It is now 50% higher.

“Hard-working nurses from overseas who give their all for patients in the UK must not be penalised in this way any longer,” says Dame Donna Kinnair, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing. “The Government must abolish this cruel and heartless charge for nursing staff”.

It’s not just nurses. There are many NHS role the country badly needs people to fill, not to mention other sectors. Shara Pledger, associate at the specialist immigration law firm Latitude Law, said the combination of the surcharge and regular contributions into the NHS via taxation is an unpalatable one.

“The announcement today of a further increase to £624 is unwelcome. Brexit, the end of free movement, and negative immigration rhetoric already serve to undermine the government message that Britain is ‘open for business’. Increases to the cost of relocation do not encourage migration. This is particularly problematic when a large cohort of workers the U.K. is trying to attract are future NHS staff; they face effective double taxation to pay themselves.”

Source: The U.K. Needs Immigrants To Work In Its Health Service. The Chancellor Just Gave Them A Reason Not To Come.

Recent immigrants and non-permanent residents missed in the 2011 Census

May have missed this but important analysis of the data limitations regarding immigrants and non-permanent residents in the 2011 NHS, regarding the characteristics of those missed and plausible explanations.

No discussion as to whether the shift from the mandatory long-form census questionnaire to the voluntary NHS questionnaire made a difference and we will see once an equivalent analysis is done for the 2016 census:

Recent immigrants and NPRs are growing segments of the Canadian population. While censuses strive to provide comprehensive coverage of the population, these groups are less likely to be enumerated. The purpose of this analysis was to examine the factors associated with the propensity for being missed in the 2011 Census for recent immigrants and NPRs using RRC data.

According to the RRC, just under 20% of recent immigrants and more than 40% of NPRs were missed by the 2011 Census, compared with 8.3% of the total population. While missed rates are not a direct reflection of undercoverage but are rather one of the elements of undercoverage, they are still a clear sign that these two populations could have been less covered than the rest of the population in the 2011 Census.

Some characteristics of recent immigrants and NPRs are associated with the propensity for being missed.

First of all, this study highlighted the close links between the year at landing and the propensity of recent immigrants for being missed. More than one-third of immigrants who settled in 2011 and almost a quarter of those who settled in 2010 were missed in the 2011 Census. Immigrants who held a temporary residence permit before being admitted as immigrants were also slightly less likely to be missed, when the effect of other characteristics are accounted for.

About 30% of recent immigrants whose mother tongue was Punjabi were missed in the 2011 Census. The multivariate analysis also highlighted the higher likelihood for immigrants with an Arabic mother tongue to be missed. These results might stem from cultural factors specific to immigrants from certain countries, notably regarding social integration to Canada.

The context in which immigrants are admitted to the country might also affect the likelihood to be missed in the census. While a fifth of immigrants were missed in 2011, 12.3% of refugees were missed. These immigrants fled very difficult situations in their home country and usually maintain contacts with the Canadian government on a regular basis. For these reasons, they may have a better relationship with the government.

Multivariate analysis identified additional correlates of the likelihood for recent immigrants to be missed. Immigrants who were in a couple, who were living in Quebec and who were under the age of 20 were less likely to be missed. These results are similar to the ones observed for the entire Canadian population.

Knowledge of the official languages is a very important marker of integration into a new country. Recent immigrants who reported not speaking English or French at landing seem to be less likely to be missed. This could be because they take language training classes, which might introduce them to the topic of the census, because they learn an official language shortly after landing, and because of differences in concepts and measurement of concepts between census data and IRCC data. It would be very relevant to examine the 2016 RRC data when they become available to see if there is the same finding.

For NPRs, the duration of the permit held by NPRs played a role in being missed in the 2011 Census. For example, more than half of NPRs who received their temporary resident permit no more than six months before the census were missed in 2011. Because they arrived in the country very recently, these NPRs may consider their usual residence to still be in their country of origin, and therefore not consider themselves part of the census universe. Conversely, 36.4% of NPRs who were granted temporary residence two or more years before census day were missed.

Missed rates for NPRs were above 45% for NPRs who were not in a couple. NPRs in their twenties were also more likely to be missed. As with immigrants, these results tend to be similar to the results of the general population.

When accounting for the effect of other factors, NPRs who held their first temporary permit were less likely to be missed than those who already had a permit in the past. This is difficult to interpret and could be studied a second time when the 2016 RRC data become available. It should be noted that the sample from the NPR frame was increased in 2016; as a result, more precise analyses could be conducted for this subpopulation when the data become available.

Refugee status claimants were less likely to be missed than other NPRs. However, the multivariate analysis revealed that much of this difference could come from the specific characteristics of refugee claimants, including their length of stay in the country.

Source: Statistics Canada – Catalogue no. 89-657-X2019008 25 –Recent immigrants and non-permanent residents missed in the 2011 Census (NHS)

Why the 2020 census shouldn’t ask about your citizenship status –

One of the more thoughtful pieces, with valid arguments, primarily the lack of question testing and the current political climate (one of the worst decisions of the Harper government was to replace the Census with the voluntary and less accurate National Household Survey in 2011, resulting is less robust data and comparability problems with previous data):

In December 2017, the Department of Justice formally proposed adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census. This question would ostensibly help to enforce the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

I am a social scientist who studies immigration. I have used census data on immigration and citizenship in my research for over two decades, and I have urged government statistical agencies before to collect more data about immigrants. But I don’t think it’s wise to collect citizenship status in the 2020 census. Doing so would not only raise the risk of collecting inaccurate data, but also reduce public confidence in the census itself.

Tracking citizenship

On the one hand, data on citizenship is valuable. In any modern democracy, statistical data is essential for informing policy debates and guiding the implementation of governmental programs. Without it, decisions would almost certainly be too easily shaped by anecdotal evidence and personal biases.

Citizenship data has been used to track political participation and inclusion of immigrant groups. Citizenship is strongly associated with access to public assistance, health care and jobs. Social scientists and policy analysts rely heavily on survey items on citizenship to understand immigrants’ well-being and their impact on host societies.

What’s more, the U.S. Census Bureau has successfully collected confidential information on citizenship status in the past. The citizenship question was first introduced in the 1870 census and was part of all censuses from 1890 through 1950. It was included in the “long” form of the census — administered to 1 in 6 households — as late as 2000. It’s also asked in the American Community Survey, a survey that Census Bureau conducts every year.

Immigrants tend to be willing survey respondents. In a 2010 study, Hispanic immigrants were more likely than U.S.-born Hispanics to agree that the census is good for the Hispanic community. They were also more likely to correctly understand that the census cannot be used to determine whether a person is in the country legally, and that the bureau must keep their responses confidential.

In another study I published in 2014 with two colleagues, James Bachmeier and Frank Bean, we found that nearly all immigrants answered questions about their immigration and documentation status. These response rates are on par with or better than typical survey questions on health or income. Moreover, immigrants’ responses to these questions appeared to be fairly accurate.

Harming the data

However, the political climate surrounding immigration has changed in the last year.

Not all immigrants have been cooperative respondents in the past. Those who are more likely to be undocumented have been undercounted in past censuses and were more likely to incorrectly report themselves as U.S. citizens.

The Trump administration’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and policy may have increased mistrust among all immigrants, not just those who are undocumented. During focus group interviews conducted by the Census Bureau roughly six months into Trump’s presidency, immigrants appeared anxious and reluctant to cooperate with Census Bureau interviewers. They mentioned fears of deportation, the elimination of DACA, a “Muslim ban” and ICE raids. One respondent walked out when the questionnaire turned to the topic of citizenship, leaving the interviewer alone in his apartment. Respondents even omitted or gave false names on household rosters to avoid “registering” with the Census Bureau. Interviewers remarked that it was much easier to collect data on immigration and citizenship just a few years ago than it is now.

It’s not yet clear whether the fears seen in the focus group interviews are widespread or how such fears would affect response rates if the citizenship question were added to the 2020 census. Additionally, researchers haven’t yet worked out a way to ask the citizenship question so it’s not perceived as threatening.

Unfortunately, there’s not enough time to find out. A finalized questionnaire must be submitted to Congress by the end of March.

What to do in 2020

I served on the Census Advisory Board from 2008 to 2011 and have personally witnessed the time and effort it takes for the Census Bureau to develop questions for the census. Officials must pay meticulous attention to the exact question wording, response categories, ordering and questionnaire layout.

I believe adding a citizenship question without adequate testing could severely reduce participation in the 2020 census among the country’s 44 million immigrants and the additional 32 million U.S.-born people who live with them.

The social and economic consequences of a low response rate for the 2020 census would be severe. Even small errors in coverage could shift the distribution of political power and federal funds, as well as reduce the effectiveness of public health systemsand other government functions.

Perhaps even worse, high coverage error in the 2020 census could undermine the public’s trust in the census as the nation’s source of information on the size, growth and geographic distribution of the U.S. population.

This occurred a century ago, as historian Margo Anderson described in her book, “The American Census.” The 1920 census revealed dramatic shifts in population from rural to urban areas, as large waves of Eastern and Southern European immigrants settled predominantly in American cities. Congress, fearing the political ramifications of these changes, rejected the results of the 1920 census and voted not to redistribute the seatsof the House according to the most recent census data. A similar rejection of the results of the 2020 census would likely result in a constitutional crisis today.

Citizenship data would be valuable. But the risks of poor data quality — or the erosion of public trust in the census and other governmental institutions — far outweigh the potential benefits. Given that there are other current data available on citizenship, why take unnecessary risks when the stakes are so high?

via Why the 2020 census shouldn’t ask about your citizenship status –

Long-form census could be reinstated for 2016, experts say

An early test  of the incoming Liberal government, one that looks like it could be done:

The return of the long form, promised by Justin Trudeau during the election campaign, would yield vastly more reliable data and cost less than running another national household survey, the former heads of the agency say.

“It should be possible. I am certainly very hopeful. But [the decision] needs to be done very soon. It’s an enormous logistical operation,” said Ivan Fellegi, chief statistician from 1985 to 2008.

It’s “no problem” to reintroduce the long form in time for the 2016 census, said Munir Sheikh, head of the agency from 2008 to 2010. The questions needn’t change, he said – just the instructions at the top. “All they need to do is put on the front page that this is mandatory.”

The other step is for “cabinet to approve it as a census, which they can do at any time – it would take a matter of seconds.”

Researchers are already pressing for action. “Undoing these mistakes cannot wait; the time for action is now as Statistics Canada is on the cusp of launching the 2016 census,” says a letter signed this week by 61 academics and directors of research centres, including Statscan’s former assistant director Alain Bélanger.

Issuing an immediate order in council “is the only way to implement the long form in time for the census six months from now,” they said. “This must be one of the first moves made ​​by the Liberal government of Mr. Trudeau. It would mark a clear break with the previous government and ensure that future social policies can be made on scientific grounds rather than ideological dogmatism.”

….The Liberal platform pledges to “immediately” restore the mandatory long form – and make Statistics Canada “fully independent.”

Mr. Sheikh, who resigned over the controversy in 2010, said having the agency operate at arm’s length to the government is an even more crucial step. “I would say that is more important than restoring the long-form census, because that really was the cause of the problem, that the government can interfere with Statscan on issues like this.If you have an independent agency, the census in the future wouldn’t be the cabinet or minister’s problem, it would be the chief statistician’s problem.”

Mr. Sheikh said “anyone who uses data” will benefit from the return of the census. The biggest beneficiaries would be governments at all levels, “which have to base their policies on reliable data. And then of course researchers, who use this data to determine social outcomes, the condition of households in terms of income, poverty, unemployment, the state of housing, transportation needs, the needs of ethnic minorities, language, the employment equity act. Any kind of social and economic policy issues you can think of really are related to the census.”

As well, “the census provides an anchor to all other surveys, will have much more reliable data to check all other survey results against that.”

Both former chief statisticians said the switch could save money by reducing printing costs and expenditures associated with the labour required to administer and analyze the separate household survey. The NHS was sent to about 4.5 million Canadian households while the 2006 long-form census was sent to 2.5 million dwellings. Running any census is a massive undertaking that typically takes years to plan. The total projected budget for the 2016 census – which had been planned as a mandatory short form and voluntary NHS – is $701.8-million.

Statistics Canada wouldn’t comment on whether it’s possible to make the changes in time for the 2016 census. “It’s a policy matter, and we can’t comment,” said spokesman Peter Frayne.

Other experts say it can be done. “It is inherently easier to return to a well-tested methodology” such as the traditional census, said Ian McKinnon, chair of the National Statistics Council. “If any statistical agency in the world can do it, Statistics Canada can.”

Reinstating the census “soon, both sends a signal of change of policy, and interest in basing policy on evidence – evidence-based decision-making, which I think is very healthy,” said Charles Beach, professor emeritus at Queen’s University and head of the Canadian Economics Association. Moreover, “doing something that is both cost effective and more useful, it’s an economic no-brainer.”

Source: Long-form census could be reinstated for 2016, experts say – The Globe and Mail

Reviving the census debate

I would expect any change of government to result in a restoration of the long-form census given the widespread support across different groups.

However, the extent that this change could be made in time for 2016 is unclear (expect that this issue will figure in any transition briefings by Industry Canada/StatsCan).

In Multiculturalism in Canada: Evidence and Anecdote, I was advised by a number of experts not to compare 2011 NHS data with 2006 data given the issues flagged below:

Canadian researchers Daniel Wilson and David Macdonald say they are facing enormous stumbling blocks due to the federal government’s elimination of the mandatory long-form census in 2010.

The pair, doing work for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), a non-partisan research body that focuses on social, economic and environmental issues, is struggling to reconcile trends they’re now seeing in child poverty rates among native children.

The problem: they’re comparing data between the 2006 mandatory long-form census and the new — optional — long-form National Household Survey (NHS) that the federal government introduced in 2011.

Because the data from 2006 and 2011 came from two different processes, the researchers say they can’t tell if the latest trends they’re seeing are real or due to the fact so many fewer people filled in the optional long form in 2011.

“The practical challenge with working with the NHS is doubt — doubt that what you’ve found isn’t what’s actually happening in the world, but rather is a statistical artifact,” says Macdonald, who is also an economist.

Researchers, public policy advocates, statisticians, business groups, economists — and the Liberal and NDP parties — continue to call for the mandatory long-form questionnaire to be brought back, arguing that important statistical data is getting lost.

In a package of recently proposed reforms on transparency, the Liberals are promising to immediately restore the mandatory long form if they form government in the Oct. 19 federal election.

And Jean Ong, a spokesperson for the NDP, said in a statement that the party has long advocated for the restoration of the long-form census and continues to do so.

The lost data has massive implications for public policy decisions, business planning and a host of other areas, proponents of the mandatory long survey say.

Yet so far, the census hasn’t been in the spotlight on the campaign trail. But could it become an election issue?

Paul Jacobson, a Toronto economics consultant who relies heavily on census data for his work, believes it should. He says business planning is being seriously harmed by the new census data collection system.

“All the money in the world given to business surveyors could not replace the (mandatory) long form, period. You need a mandatory survey to get the quality of data you need to make good comparisons in small areas. That’s how you do business planning,” Jacobson says.

Stephen Toope, president of the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, a national public policy advocate for Canada’s scholars, students and practitioners in the humanities and social sciences, says the “essence of the concern” about not having the mandatory long-form census is the impact on public policy.

“Thinking about questions around immigration, social service, children’s health and what kind of investments need to be made and where they need to be made — if we don’t know who is where, it’s very difficult to make informed policy decisions,” Toope says.

Canadian research study hits snag over lousy population data – The Globe and Mail

Good piece on some of the limitations of the National Household Survey, particularly at the Census Tract level.

Nice comment on the irony between more corporate big data, with all the related privacy implications, and less effective government big data (although linking the NHS to CRA income information will improve quality and is appropriate use of big data):

The project, produced with the financial backing of the Maytree Foundation, used 2010 to 2013 data from the Canadian Community Health Survey, a voluntary annual survey with a sample size of 65,000. The project didn’t use the last voluntary national household survey due to difficulties in comparability and in assessing data quality for smaller communities.

The researchers want to see the mandatory long-form census not only reinstated, but expanded to include more questions on wealth and health. They recommend more sharing of information between federal government departments and more tools, such as online searchable databases, to make data more accessible and useable.

The irony is that the lack of data on the public side comes as Big Data is giving private firms unprecedented access to rich details about customers’ lives.

“The trend in the private sector, for companies like Google and Uber, they’re making brilliant decisions, strategically, because they’re collecting more and more information, mining it and refining their services and products,” said Mr. Johal.

“And what we’re seeing in Canada is governments stepping away actively from getting that information – so that makes it really hard for us to make those smart decisions and invest in our future.”

Canadian research study hits snag over lousy population data – The Globe and Mail.

Something of a compromise on the census?

This is a significant improvement, given that income reporting through tax returns should be more accurate than self-reporting. Of course, the broader issues related to the NHS versus Census remain:

But StatsCan has made one notable change to the process.

. . . in order to reduce the time required and to make it easier for Canadians to respond to the National Household Survey, income questions will be replaced with more precise tax and benefit data that have been available to Statistics Canada since 1985. As this will be done for all Canadians, income information for 2016 will be the most accurate in the history of the census.

What does this mean?

Within the 2011 national household survey were various questions about income. But respondents were also given the option to skip those, if they agreed to let Statistics Canada access information already provided in their tax filings.

… In addition to saving respondents time, StatsCan says it will save the agency money. In the case of 2016, income data will be linked to census responses.

Liberal MP Ted Hsu had proposed a private member’s bill to, among other things, reinstate the long-form census. That bill was defeated in February, but, at the time, he told me about a possible compromise: adding some number of questions to the short-form census to provide a better statistical basis. UBC economist Kevin Milligan dubbed this the “medium-form census” and Milligan says he’s somewhat pleased with the change. “I think it is a step toward a medium-form census,” he says. “If I couldn’t have a long-form census, and I was asked for one change to the short form, this is what I would have asked for.”

Hsu would still rather have the long-form census—something the Liberals are committed to reinstating if they form government—and notes that the voluntary nature of the NHS will still create problems. Hsu also thinks it would be useful to link tax and benefit data to the NHS so that income could be correlated with dwelling, education and labour market information. Milligan would also rather have income data linked to the NHS, but says, “Having it for short form gets you pretty close to the tools you need to make some decent weights that make all the other surveys (like NHS) more useful.”

And though Hsu doesn’t think the use of tax and benefit information is a big deal, he does think there needs to be a conversation about possible privacy implications if the government moves further to use administrative data that it already possesses. Back in 2010, when debate arose over the government’s decision to eliminate the long-form census, the Scandinavian model of data collection and use raised as a possible alternative, but the databases maintained by those countries might raise questions for Canadians about the handling of personal information.

Something of a compromise on the census? –

Did losing the long-form census weaken Canada’s jobs data?

toronto-census-nhs-756x1024More on the Census and National Household Survey, and Kevin Milligan’s analysis of how the shift has degraded the quality of the Labour Force Survey:

I say ‘presumably’ because the most recent complete methodology document I can find is from 2008. In that 2008 methodology document, it is very clear that the Census plays a very important role in the methodology of the Labour Force Survey. In fact, a quick ‘control F’ search of the document reveals the word ‘census’ to appear 127 times. Looking through these instances, you can see the Long-Form Census was used in a variety of ways. Sometimes, it was to cross-check an assumption or a decision they made in designing the Labour Force Survey. In other places, it is clear they used the Long-Form Census explicitly to pick which households get surveyed. To give one precise example, page 19 of the methodology document explicitly references income taken from the 2001 Census—and income is not available on the Short-Form Census.

In short, I think Mr. Smith’s ‘myth’ is a miss.

I have complete confidence in Mr. Smith’s claim that the 2015 Labour Force Survey methodology now uses only the Short-Form Census for selecting and weighting households. However, it is equally clear that until now the Labour Force Survey relied on the Long-Form Census. This change raises several important questions: Why make a change? Why was the National Household Survey discarded? Is the Labour Force Survey improved by ignoring the National Household Survey? Why and how?

I have a pretty good guess why Statistics Canada discarded its own expensive National Household Survey for designing the Labour Force Survey. The reason: the response rate from the National Household Survey is low, and varies strongly within regions. As one example, above is a map made by Dwight Follick that compares the response rate at the ‘dissemination area’ level for Toronto from the 2006 Long-Form Census and the 2011 National Household Survey. Similar maps are available from Mr. Follick for Montreal, Ottawa, London, Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver. The pictures aren’t pretty—the response rate fell dramatically, rendering the results of the National Household Survey much less reliable.

Mr. Smith might be correct that the Labour Force Survey methodology changes aren’t large enough to make much difference. But we will never actually know, since we can’t compare the new results to the previous methodology because the 2011 Long-Form Census doesn’t exist so we can’t check.

I will continue to use and trust the Labour Force Survey, myself. However, the switch to the National Household Survey has degraded some of the tools that Statistics Canada has used until now to make the Labour Force Survey—and other Statistics Canada products—reliable.

Did losing the long-form census weaken Canada’s jobs data? –

Cities to weigh loss of long-form census for community planning

Yet another group weighing in on the ongoing implications and costs associated with replacing the Census with the National Household Survey:

Across the country, cities are feeling the impact of the census changes, said Brad Woodside, president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and mayor of Fredericton.

“We’ve heard from our members that the change to the new National Household Survey is impacting their ability to effectively plan and monitor the changing needs of their communities,” he said in an e-mailed statement to The Globe. “We support all efforts to increase the reliability of the data from the census.”

Local governments rely on this information to understand the changing needs of communities, and make a range of decisions, “from where to establish new bus routes, build affordable housing and provide programs for new Canadians, he said. “We continue to call on Statistics Canada to work with municipalities to provide communities of all sizes the most reliable information from the available data.”

Mr. Tory said he will raise the issue with the mayors of the country’s largest cities when they meet in Toronto later this week. The topic is not on the agenda for the gathering, which begins Wednesday evening, but he said he can bring it up in informal discussions.

“I believe you really should try to have the best possible evidence in front of you when you are making important decisions,” he said Tuesday. “I can ask if this is a problem they are facing.”

Cities to weigh loss of long-form census for community planning – The Globe and Mail.

Globe editorial makes the same point but equally unlikely to have much effect:

There is now incontrovertible evidence the Conservative government’s 2010 decision to scrap the mandatory census questionnaire, which quantified everything from family income to ethnicity to regional demographics, was an unalloyed catastrophe.

Opposition has come from think-tanks of every political persuasion, business leaders, charities, public administrators and basically anyone with a PhD. Thanks to a deliberately sabotaged census, we know less about Canada in 2011 than we did about Canada in 2006. Who thinks that’s a good idea?

What’s more, conducting a halfwitted census turned out to be more expensive. The 2011 voluntary household survey increased errors, reduced accuracy, chopped the response rate by 30 per cent – and cost an extra $22-million. Congratulations: The Harper government figured out how to spend more for less.

The decision to kneecap the census was transparently ideological, a rash exercise in partisan narrow-casting, and was quickly exposed as such.

Dozens of experts predicted the damage that would be wrought. It’s time for the Conservative government to finally acknowledge how right they were.

The next opportunity for the House to revisit the Census Act will come next month via another private member’s bill – this one tabled by Conservative backbencher Joe Preston.

It would remove two aspects that are problematic to some Conservatives: jail for refusal to complete the form, and automatic public disclosure after 92 years.

There is still resistance in Mr. Preston’s party to bringing back the mandatory long form. We hope that removing the central justifications for killing it represents an evolving mindset.

Some mistakes are easy to reverse. It may be too late to restore a proper census in 2016, but a return in 2021 should be inevitable.

The census: Little knowledge is a dangerous thing – The Globe and Mail