Here’s a snapshot of what the 2020 Census is like

WHEN I sat down to complete the 2020 Census online, I was astonished at the number of questions asked and the details requested – it took me close to two hours to complete as I also needed to check some answers with my wife.

The deadline for filling in the e-census has been extended to Oct 6, and thus far, about 2.9 million people have taken part, said Chief Statistician of Malaysia, Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Uzir Mahidin, when we met on Thursday. From Oct 7 till Oct 24, trained enumerators will conduct door-to-door and face-to- face interviews.

Some people wonder why there are so many questions asked and details requested. “Would it be used against me or used for political purposes?” ask some. The Department of Statistics Malaysia has assured the confidentiality of the data collected and that it will be used for national planning.

In addition, the data is also used to monitor the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which includes a commitment to eradicate poverty and work towards equality and environment sustainability while ensuring that “no one is left behind”.

There are 108 questions divided into nine categories:

> Respondent information.

> Address.

> Living quarters – this is significant, as the kind of facilities available, including if 3R is being implemented for garbage collection, is important; likewise for questions on security in this category.

> Household – this is about the number of people living in the house and their income and sources; significantly, there is also a question on the perception on safety (do they feel safe) and if in the previous month there was a robbery.

> Personal particulars – this is a long section of 28 subparts, all of which have to be filled in on every person living in the house; some interesting details are if they have an IC. While this can be sensitive, it can provide useful data on Malaysians without ICs. Details are requested on education, employment and income, and disability.

> Health and fitness – this is a new section on health status and whether one exercises.

> Social relations – this too is new and asks about social media accounts and Internet access as well as interactions with neighbours.

> Housing – about the living quarters.

> Senior citizens – information on the elderly in the family.

The 2020 Census will give us a comprehensive picture of Malay-sian society and will be useful for development planning.

I was also told that national data can be filtered down to state, district and even neighbourhood levels. While we usually review the data at national and state levels, the ability to review district, local authority and neighbourhood levels will definitely enhance the localising of SDGs. If the data analysis is released and local residents become better aware, there could be some democratising of local development planning, addressing many unresolved issues at the grassroots.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the census team and call for greater transparency of the data, especially at the disaggregated level, to ensure that no one is left behind.

Information on Census 2020 is available at


Associate Research Fellow, Institute of Ethnic Studies; co-chair, Malaysian Civil

Society Organisations for Sustainable Development

Goals (CSO-SDG Alliance)
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