The Australian Bureau of Statistics is considering asking Australians if they are male, female, intersex or transgender on the next Census after receiving “strong interest” in collecting more specific information on sex and gender identity in the five-yearly national survey.
In a report released on Wednesday, the ABS said it had received more than 450 submissions on various topics as it reviews what questions to include and remove from the Census.
“The consultation process revealed strong interest from a range of sources regarding the collection of information on sex and gender identity through the census,” the ABS said.
“Submissions noted that the current practice of offering only male and female response options does not allow some people to provide accurate responses.
“The complexities of collecting information on sex and gender identity were acknowledged; submissions identified the range of variations possible in sex characteristics and the diversity in gender identity.
“Sex has been considered a critical topic for measuring and projecting the population, so proposed changes in collection will be assessed for potential impacts on data quality.
“While submissions noted a need for data to better understand the characteristics of transgender individuals and people with intersex variations, there were concerns that collecting this data is complex, with the potential for questions to produce data that misrepresent the population.
“Care is needed in the design of potential questions.”
The 2016 Census asked people to answer if they were male or female, but intersex people were able to access an “other” option for the first time.
“Current ABS standards for information on sex and gender recommend collection of ‘male’, ‘female’ and ‘other’ categories,” the report says.
“It was noted by stakeholders that this classification of sex assumes intersex people are not male or female, which is not the case.
“The diversity of gender identity is not easy to define, but is also not well represented by the current standard.
“Stakeholders have encouraged the ABS to be clear about what could be collected and what the data would and would not represent.”
The ABS will recommend the new census topics to the government in the middle of next year, with the final list published in late 2020.
According to data from the 2016 Census released last year, the number of same-sex couples declaring their relationship on the Census had increased by 42% in the past five years, from 33,000 in 2011 to 47,000 in 2016.