Venue: Department Taoiseach
Date: May 5th, 2011 at 10:30
The following members attended: Dr Patricia O’Hara (Chairperson), Mr Ciaran Dolan, Mr Michael McGrath, Professor Philip Lane, Mr Fergal O’Brien, Mr Gerry O’Hanlon
Mr Gerry Brady acted as Secretary. CSO Assistant Directors General Mr Aidan Punch and Mr Padraig Dalton and CSO director Mr Joe Treacy also attended. Mr John Shaw attended on behalf of the Department of the Taoiseach, pending the appointment of a representative from the Department. Apologies were received from Mr Paul Sweeney.
The minutes were accepted.
By Census Day 10th April approximately 2 million dwellings had been visited by enumerators nationwide with 1.7 million forms distributed. Over 90% of the forms were collected by the end of April and the four week collection campaign is on target for completion on Sunday 8th of May. Preliminary results from the census at Electoral Division level are planned to be released before the end of June. Dwelling vacancy rates at county level will also be published.
The timeliness of the earnings and labour costs release was reduced to the target level (t+70 days) with the publication of the Q3 2010 report in December.
The Quarterly National Households Survey modules canvass has been completed. Twenty-five submissions were received. A report will be presented at the next NSB meeting.
A Lean Six Sigma review of the Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (SILC) survey system was undertaken during the period January to April 2011. Significant potential savings in the time taken to produce the final SILC results were identified. These savings will be progressively reflected in the timeliness of the survey results over the next two years.
CSO hosted the 3rd Business Statistics Seminar in Dublin Castle on March 23rd. The theme of this seminar was Innovation Statistics. A brief summary of proceedings and copies of the presentations are available on the CSO website. CSO also hosted an International Workshop on Statistical Consistency in Dublin Castle on April 12thand 13th. Senior personnel from Eurostat will visit CSO on a study trip on May 16th and 17th – they are particularly interested in examining the work of the Large Cases Unit and Administrative Data Centre.
The Administrative Data Centre published the “Job Churn Explorer” on the CSO website in April on an experimental basis. This is a tool that enables dynamic analyses of sectoral changes in the labour force to be made and presented. The results are based on the analysis of P35 administrative data obtained from the Revenue Commissioners. A special workshop will be held on May 12th in Dublin Castle to demonstrate the product.
The CSO's Progress Report on the implementation of its Croke Park Action Plan was submitted to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on 3rd May 2011.
During discussions on staff numbers, it was noted that there is a reduction in the number of interviewers working on the QNHS from 150 to 107, because staff who retire cannot be replaced due to the moratorium on recruitment in the public service, and that this poses a substantial threat to the overall quality of the results. The introduction of significant bias in certain estimates due to imbalances in the implementation of the survey design was of particular concern. Moreover, the overall reduction in sample size was putting the publication of some disaggregated data, such as regional statistics, at risk. The very high rate of attrition in the field force reflects both the age profile of the staff and the nature of the work; the wide geographic dispersal of the staff means that critical vacancies cannot be filled through re-deployment in most cases. The Board expressed concern at these issues and noted that the matter is being pursued with the Department of Finance as a special case. The Board expressed the hope that a solution could be found that would recognise the importance of the QNHS and the need to ensure the integrity of its results.
The CSO will launch a new House Price Index on May 13th with a press conference in Government Buildings. The index is a transaction-based, mix-adjusted hedonic price index, including both new and second-hand houses and apartments, and will be based on Year 2005 = 100. While current plans are not to publish any absolute prices, it was suggested that these would be very useful even if provided with a warning as to the reliability and meaningfulness of any median or average house price.
The household survey data collection area faces a number of new demands over the next three years:
Adult Education Survey (AES)European Safety and Security Survey (SASU – previously C&V)European Health Information Survey (EHIS)European Survey on Health and Social Integration (ESHSI)National Transport Survey (NTS)Wealth Survey
New survey instrumentation is required if the CSO is to meet the ever-growing list of demands. This will require a phased transformation of the present system (QNHS and SILC), including reorganisation of area and household sampling, the use of geographical information systems (GIS) in field organisation, reorganisation of field forces, introduction of computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) systems and introduction of new field/survey management systems and processes.
A list of the questions asked in this module was provided to the Board. The questionnaire is answered by one direct respondent aged 18 years or over answering on behalf of each household. The questions related to spending cuts by households in the last two years as a result of the economic climate in Ireland, and to whether particular actions were taken by households in the last two years in order to be able to pay for essential goods and services.
Following the census pilot carried out in April 2009, it was decided to expand the use of the GeoDirectory for Census 2011. The objective was to ensure that a Census Form could be directly linked to an address point on the GeoDirectory and consequently to a latitude and longitude.
An Enumeration Register was constructed on the basis of the April 2010 version of the GeoDirectory and was subsequently updated in September 2010. The register included all addresses where the building was identified by An Post staff as being residential.
Enumerators were notified to expect that the GeoDirectory could be on average 4 per cent deficient and that it was therefore necessary for them to do a full visual enumeration of their EA. New dwellings discovered by the Enumerator will be identified and limited details containing only location related information will be returned to the GeoDirectory. Preliminary indications are of a 2% additional number of dwellings.
The updating of the GeoDirectory will be very timely if the GeoDirectory is used as the basis for creating a set of unique postcodes. Such a postcode register of dwellings would be a very useful input into future censuses especially if the fieldwork methodology was enhanced to allow mail reply options.
The Chairperson thanked the Minister for coming to the meeting and she gave a short overview of the main strategic issues affecting the development of the Irish Statistical System and pointed to the relevance of this to the Government’s programme for reform of the public service. She drew attention in particular to the following issues.
There is considerable variation in the extent to which Departments and policy makers are able to draw on good quality statistical information – particularly that which can be derived from administrative data holdings under their control – to assist them in their work.The Board believes that some aspects of data protection and statistical legislation may need to be examined with a view to ensuring that they do not unduly inhibit effective analysis and use of administrative data, and that the data collection burden is minimized.There is a need to develop and agree a set of standards and protocols to regulate how the public sector safeguards data and respects data protection legislation.It would be helpful if policy makers took a more active role in promoting the importance of, and need for, availability of good quality data to enable effective and prudent expenditure decisions.Three key items of statistical infrastructure are essential to facilitate data linking and build capacity in data organisation:unique business identifier;wider use of the PPSN under strict protocols; anda unique geocode identifier.
The Minister thanked the Chairperson and the Board for their work and stated that he believed that a direct engagement with Ministers/Ministers of State in relevant areas might be useful in demonstrating the relevance of good quality statistical information, particularly in the promotion of evidence-informed policy-making and implementation. He would be happy to facilitate such engagements. He also noted the draft paper on the Irish Statistical System and suggested that it could be brought to Government when finalised.
The next meeting will be on June 28th, 2011 at 9:30 in CSO Cork. The meeting will include a session with the CSO Partnership Committee.
 In the 2009 Census Pilot our Enumerators found an extra 4% of points which were not listed on the GeoDirectory.