The Forthcoming Census


    THE Census Act of 1920 will have one great advantage over previous Census Acts that it will be a permanent measure, and not, as they have been, limited to the operation of taking the one census that was at the time in contemplation. We have travelled far from the days when the numbering of the people was considered to be an offence that would provoke Divine anger, and it is quite time that the old hesitating policy of passing a new enactment and creating a new staff and machinery every ten years, which doubtless had its origin in consideration for those superstitious scruples, should be definitely abandoned. The system had one indirect advantage while it lasted. For the eleven decenniums since 1801 the eleven separate Acts that have had to be passed have been gradually strengthened and made more workable, as experience has shown what improvements it has been possible to introduce into the practice, and thus have ripened into the materials for a permanent statute. All the same, the necessity for organising a scratch staff of new men every ten years, and dismissing it as soon as the census work was over, has been a great drawback to the efficiency of the Department, and it is to be hoped that one result of the new Act will be to enable the Census Office so to distribute its work over the whole decennium as usefully to retain the services of an experienced and competent staff of permanent officials. Much credit is due to the successive controllers of the census for the good work they have done under all disadvantages, and it is no disparagement to them to say that they have been hampered by circumstances.

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    The Forthcoming Census. Nature 105, 797–798 (1920).

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