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Statistics New Zealand Policy (draft) for Managing Respondent Load

Statistics New Zealand
Policy (draft) for Managing Respondent Load


This document presents the Statistics NZ policy on the management of respondent load caused by data collections and includes both the business sector, non-profit making organisations, individual households and people. It outlines the policies and establishes operating rules for the implementation of these policies.


Statistics New Zealand is charged under the Statistics Act with the provision of most official statistics in New Zealand. This covers statistics prepared from central and local government records as well as data collected in surveys of households and businesses. Section 33 of the Act provides the authority to the Statistician to collect information on a compulsory basis. Any person who neglects or refuses to fill in and supply the particulars requested by the Statistician commits an offence (Section 43[1]).

The Statistics Act in providing this compulsory collection authority also requires the Statistician to manage and co-ordinate survey activities so as to minimise the time and effort required of respondents, consistent with the need to collect statistical information. The Statistician is required to consult with users to ensure that official statistics are both relevant and meet their broad needs. Any significant changes to a survey or any new survey must also be approved by the Minister with appropriate justification being provided. The Act also requires the Statistician to co-ordinate the wider statistical needs of the government sector to ensure that any such collections do not duplicate other collections and that sound statistical practices are used.

Statistics New Zealand has a number of practices in place which ensure that "respondent load" is managed in an appropriate manner. The following statement outlines the principles and practices, which when fully adopted by the various units in Statistics NZ, will help reduce the level of demand on respondents and also the associated compliance cost. However, this reduction in load must be balanced against new and evolving data needs which are deemed essential in the production of quality statistics needed for policy formation or as key indicators of the economic or social well being of New Zealand.

It should be noted that Statistics NZ has developed a number of strategies which have and will continue to reduce respondent load by replacing survey questionnaires with suitable business data from administrative sources such as from IRD.


It is SNZ policy
- to minimise respondent load wherever practicable while providing the community with a
high quality statistical service.
- to design collections so that reporting units can provide the information easily.
- to minimise the need for respondent follow-up arising from questionnaire editing.
- to limit the costs and impact on business practices by minimising statistical information needs.
- to endeavour to ensure that these principles are implemented for all collections undertaken by crown agencies


" to minimise respondent load wherever practicable while providing the community with a high quality statistical service."

Operating Rule:

the users' needs for the data justify the collection, its frequency and the range of data items involved;

in determining user's needs for data, the administrative records of central and local government or other data sources must firstly be examined as options prior to placing additional demands on respondents for survey data;

where possible the required data will be produced with less respondent load by modifying an existing collection rather than instituting a new collection;

creating new data requirements by users will be offset by considering shifts in their needs or priorities such that an existing data collection can be eliminated or reduced in size or content;

sampling techniques will be used, where appropriate, rather than a complete enumeration;

statistical techniques or "synthetic" (indirect or pro rating) estimation techniques can be used to produce estimates at a finer level of detail than standard estimation procedures allow or to produce estimates of data items not directly collected;

size cut-offs, or other coverage restrictions can be used, in order to exclude from collections those units which in total do not have a significant effect on the important statistical aggregates produced by the collection, or which can be adequately accounted for in some other way;

where possible, eliminate the collection of a data item because the same or a similar data item is collected in another collection

the full range of data can be collected from a sample of units and a more limited range of data from a larger sample or all the remaining units (i.e. short form/long form approach), or collect non-core variables at less frequent intervals; and

selection techniques can be used which minimise overlap between collections, and in periodic collections respondents can be rotated out after a specified period of inclusion.

to facilitate the management of respondent load, a standard will be developed and implemented. In addition the current "respondent load indicator" will be redeveloped to provide a robust measure of respondent load. Refer ==> The development of the department's new Economic Collection Strategy will fit within the scope of this policy.

a review process will take place annually which examines those businesses which have survey demands exceeding the approved guidelines. All such cases will assess the need or justification for the business continuing in the survey. Only where there are no alternatives will consideration be given to retaining the business in the survey population.


" to design collections so that reporting units can provide the information easily."

Operating Rule:

the statistical units about which requested information refers (eg person, family, business establishment, building site) should be clearly defined;

a collection unit which suits the respondent should be used. Statistics New Zealand will be responsible for mapping these back to the statistical units.

questions should be framed in such a way that the data requirements can be readily understood and answered

(refer to standards for form design);

structured interviews or tailored forms should be used, wherever appropriate, in order to reduce the number of questions that each respondent has to answer;

Data requests will only be for information that is held as readily accessible records in that that type of industry;

a collection method used which suits the respondent should be used. In particular, data should be collected in electronic form if it is already available in that form from respondent's records.

respondents should be informed of the purpose of a survey and the main uses of the data collected.

documentation on a survey should be freely available to respondents and they should have ready access to staff for enquiries.


" to minimise the need for respondent follow-up arising from questionnaire editing."

Operating Rule:

Query action should be in proportion to the potential effects reporting errors may have on the important statistical aggregates produced by the collection.

The editing and processing systems are to be developed in a manner which will minimise the number of follow-up contacts with respondents.

Computer-based estimation of missing data will be considered.


" to limit the costs and impact on business practices by minimising statistical information needs."

Operating Rule:

respondents should be informed in advance of the details and frequency of the data to be requested so that they can implement any changes necessary to their record keeping systems, and they should be provided with assistance to do so.

where possible, the requests for information made of businesses by different collections of the same respondent should be co-ordinated. For large businesses, consideration should be given to combining different requests.

every effort should be made to frame data requests in terms of the kinds of records normally kept by businesses in that industry or type of activity;

the timing of the conduct of, and reference period for, a collection should take into account the likely timing of the availability of the required data;

careful estimates and/or rounded figures and reporting of data presented in ranges may be accepted;

standard data item definitions and classifications should be used, but because these may impact adversely on respondent load, judgement will need to be exercised about how the standards are applied;

registers or lists of statistical units must be maintained up to date so that sample sizes can be kept to a minimum and only operating businesses included in the scope of collections. Accurate information should also be maintained on the structure of businesses and contact information.


"to endeavour to ensure that these principles are implemented for all collections undertaken by crown agencies."

Operating Rule:

The major statistical activities of other government departments and agencies should be monitored, co-ordinated, influenced and assisted, in order to persuade them to adopt, as appropriate, the measures listed above.

Specific policies associated with Managing Respondent Load -

Overlap and rotation in sample surveys
Sampling Validity and Efficiency
Rotation and Overlap Control
Guidelines for implementation in Sample Surveys
Respondent Load - Standards for the Management and Measurement
Monitoring of Policy

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