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Capture and coding

Capture and coding is about how we collect and record census responses in a consistent way.

Capture is how we collect census information through the questionnaire. Coding is how we give each answer a code to help us with processing.

In 2022, we’ll collect census responses from both online and paper questionnaires. Both formats will have the same set of questions.

See the final 2022 question set.


Every answer to each census question gets a numeric code, which we use to help us produce census results. This is called coding.

For example, the census asks if people are in full-time education. If a person answers 'yes', we will code their answer with the number 1. If a person answers 'no', we will code their answer with the number 2.

We use a document called a coding specification that tells us how to code questionnaire responses in a way that we can analyse.

Online coding

Data capture for online responses is more accurate because coding happens as the user completes the questionnaire.

The online questionnaire has built-in features to improve coding. If a question is not relevant to the person responding, the system will automatically skip it. The online questionnaire also has lists of suggested answers to some questions.

Paper capture and coding

Coding accuracy is lower for paper questionnaires. Sometimes our scanning software cannot make out handwriting, or people may answer questions they did not need to answer.

Manual coding

Some census responses cannot be coded easily. In these cases, a person will look at the response and make a decision about how to code it.

Find out more

Find out more about the census coding solution in our Coding Methodology Paper