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Do we really count?

Updated: Mar 6, 2023

Suzanne Levy, February 2023


In the 2023 census, Stats NZ will be collecting data on Gender. This is part of their new “Gender by Default” reporting standard.

This new Gender category will be used as the default category for sorting most of the other data - so despite also collecting data on Sex, they are absolutely desperate to know your Gender. So desperate in fact that if you don’t answer or don’t know, they will answer the question for you.

Stats NZ themselves define Gender as a person's social and personal identity. When they are asking you for your Gender, they actually mean your Gender Identity. They are asking you to answer an ideological question under the guise of a factual and definable concept.

Your Gender Identity is so important to them that they ask for it in two places - it's on both the Dwelling form and the Personal form. The person who fills in the Dwelling form for your household might have totally different ideas on Gender Identity than you.

We asked Stats what happens if the answer on the two forms is different. They said that the Personal form takes priority - but they have also said that the gender answer on the Dwelling form can be used as an "alternative source" if the Gender answer on the Personal form is left blank.

How is any different to asking the person who fills in your Dwelling form to provide your religion?

Gender is not the same as biological sex, but for a long while the two terms have been virtually interchangeable, and Stats NZ know this.

They know that if they put the Gender question BEFORE the Sex question that most people will think they mean sex, not realising that the next question covers that.

They also use biological sex terms ( female, male) to categorise Gender, creating even more confusion between Sex and Gender.

So why create all this confusion?

Here is an insight into Stats NZ approach - it is nothing less than stealth.

  • "We will produce a complete time series for gender. The gender variable must be complete for all people. Where the response is not complete, we must fill in or impute that variable in some way.

  • Gender is a priority one topic. Priority one topics, explained in the 2023 Census: Final content report, are those that make up the core reason for conducting a census and have the highest output quality need.

  • Where gender cannot be obtained from the 2023 Census individual form, gender will be obtained from the paper dwelling form or online household summary form. If gender is not available from either of those sources, we will use a combination of the 2023 Census sex at birth response, historic census responses or admin data to source gender information."


Why is this such a problem?

It's a problem because Sex Matters.

Women need to be counted and this data collection method is prioritising the needs of one group over the needs of another.

The new data standard is advertised as being necessary for the rainbow community to be visible - but how does it create visibility for women? We are a distinct sex class, not a "social or personal identity".

Over the past few months supporters of Speak Up for Women have been busy emailing Stats NZ seeking clarification on the Gender question and the way that various responses will be recorded. We are concerned because we don’t believe in gender, it’s not that we have no gender, it’s not that we would rather not say, it’s that we don’t believe that anyone has a gender and we object to the question. It’s like being asked whether we prefer blue or pink unicorns and being unable to answer that we don’t believe in unicorns.

We are concerned because Sex Matters. We want to be counted as a sex class. The issues that impact the day to day lives of women - health, safety, working conditions and pay rates etc are because we are women, not because we identify as women. How will we assess the pay gap between men and women if some of the "women" are men? How will we target funding for women's health if some of the "women" require prostate checks?

We have needs that are nothing to do with how we identify. We have needs that are tied to the reality of our sex.



Every piece of data collected by Stats has a gender standard, researched and established by statisticians and other clever people.

The concept of Gender is described as follows - they are describing Gender Identity.


Gender refers to a person’s social and personal identity as male, female, or another gender or genders that may be non-binary. Gender may include gender identity and/or gender expression. A person’s current gender may differ from the sex recorded at their birth and may differ from what is indicated on their current legal documents. A person’s gender may change over time. Some people may not identify with any gender.

The interesting thing about the data standard for gender is that it includes some options that are not shown on the census form.

The actual data standard looks like this:

The actual census question looks like this:

There is an important option missing and for those of us who don't believe in gender and it is the difference between being able to complete the 2023 Census accurately and honestly or not.

Stats NZ refer to these additional options in the data standard as Residual Categories, we still don't understand why they collect data differently across different questions.

A good comparison is the religion data standard and census question.

The data standard for religion looks like this - note the residual categories:

The actual census question looks like this - note the option to object.


So where are we at?

After much correspondence with Stats NZ we have the following answers to three scenarios that we decided were the most likely.

Scenario One:
I answer the Sex question but I don't answer the Gender question at all.

The value will be “alternatively sourced”. The most likely source will be your answer to the Sex question, though all Stats NZ will confirm is that your answer to the Sex question is one of the alternative sources able to be used.

This means they are answering the question for you!

Scenario Two:
I answer the Sex question and I select “Another Gender” then type “None” or "no gender" as my answer to the Gender question.

This is recorded as "Another Gender"

There is a list of synonyms that can be coded - these are basically “other genders” that have made the list (and what a list it is!). There are 47 of them and if your answer matches one of them it will be recorded as "Another gender"

If you have no gender it is impossible to have this recorded, it will be recorded as "Another Gender". So they are changing what you write!

If you answer with something that doesn’t match one of the 47 options then Scenario One applies and the value will be alternatively sourced.

Scenario Three:
I don't answer the Sex question and I don't answer the Gender question.

The values for Sex and gender will be alternatively sourced.

This means they are answering BOTH questions for you!


How can I help?

When it comes to answering the Census (or not) we can't tell you what to do, ultimately that is up to you - but there is one thing we want all of you to do.

Contact Stats NZ!!!

There are several ways to contact them - use as many as possible and ask them the same thing each time:

"I object to the Gender question, what happens if I don't answer it?"

Obviously we know the answer to this question - but it is important that they are forced to say, again and again, that they will answer the question for you. Ideally ring them and email them using their online form. We want the people involved in running this census to have a sense that the question on Gender is confusing and unwanted by a reasonable section of the population. Because it is!

If they don't answer the question then ask again!

The next thing to do is to order paper forms. Whatever you decide to do - it's going to be easier on paper.

You can write to your MP, the Minister for Stats, the Leader of the Opposition or the Opposition spokesperson for Stats - check out this post for writing tips.


What are my options?

Force Stats NZ to populate both the Sex and Gender answers.

To do this, you must request the paper forms and simply leave the Sex and Gender answers completely blank on all forms (the gender question is on the Dwelling form too).

If enough people do this it will be noted that it had to be sourced elsewhere and it is disruptive.

Record yourself as "Another Gender".

Request the paper forms and choose "Another Gender" and write or type "None". It's nonsense but it avoids having someone else answer the question for you.

"None" is also a disruptive answer. If half the population have "Another Gender" then Stats NZ may find that the Gender by Default reporting method is unworkable and revert to Sex by Default.

Refuse to complete the census on the basis that you are unable to do so truthfully.

Check out our article on this type of refusal here. It's a matter of passing the problem back to Stats NZ and you can take it as far as you like.

The simple addition of an objection option would bring the question in line with other ideological questions such as religion.



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