20 March 2020
In the context of the COVID-19 Pandemic and the associated public health measures now in force, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) wishes to advise the public how the Office intends to carry out its functions over the coming weeks.
The CSO will endeavour to continue to publish relevant economic and social statistics during this period. However, many of our outputs will be affected in terms of timeliness and data quality.
At the outset we would like to acknowledge and recognise the challenges being faced by our respondents. The priority for all at this time is to stay safe and healthy.
We fully appreciate the worries and concerns of the public and as outlined below all household interviews are now being conducted over the phone.
The CSO also understands the severe difficulties now being faced by respondents to our business/economic surveys and that filling in survey forms may not be a priority at present. However, it is by collecting survey information that we will be able to report on the effects of COVID-19 on our economy and society.
Insofar as possible, we are continuing to collect survey information, so that we can provide statistics that show the changing situation from March 2020 onwards. We appreciate the ongoing support of our household and business survey respondents and understand the difficulties faced by all.
We will communicate in detail any data-related issues as they arise but, in the meantime, we wish to highlight those areas of our work which we anticipate will be impacted:
Consumer Price Index (CPI) & EU Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP)
We intend to publish the CPI & HICP for March 2020 on 9 April, in line with the usual timetable. Collecting prices in shops is likely to be more problematic in April, and we are examining alternative internet-based collection methods to ensure that we can compile the CPI, HICP and all relevant sub-indices. While introducing new collection methods will present methodological challenges, we aim to publish the April 2020 CPI & HICP by 14 May. We will post updates as available.
Labour Force Survey (LFS)
We have suspended direct face-to-face household interviews in the quarterly Labour Force Survey, and CSO interviewers are now conducting all LFS household interviews over the phone. The CSO interviewer sends an introductory letter to the household before the first interview, to explain the purpose of the survey and to arrange a suitable time for a phone call.
Survey of Income and Living Conditions (SILC)
Similarly, the annual Survey of Income and Living Conditions is now being collected by telephone.
Collecting information over the phone rather than face-to-face may have an impact on comparability with previous periods, data quality, and the timeliness of results. We will keep users informed of the timetable for publication of SILC and any impacts on comparability or quality.
Household Budget Survey (HBS)
The Household Budget Survey takes places every five years and, at an early point in collecting the 2020 HBS, we have suspended the survey. Collecting the HBS involves a detailed interview about the household’s income and expenditure; conducting this interview is not compatible with the need for social distancing. This means we will not have data on household expenditure patterns in 2020, which were to be used to provide new weights (the average shopping basket) for the CPI. However, expenditure patterns in 2020 will be atypical and we are considering re-scheduling the HBS.
The Programme for International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) is an OECD-led project conducted across many countries to compare adults’ capabilities in everyday tasks involving literacy and numeracy. The pilot survey for the 2021-22 round of PIAAC was due to take place in April. This has been cancelled and the overall timetable for Ireland’s participation in the 2021-22 round of PIAAC will be reviewed.
Tourism Data Collection
The collection of Tourism Statistics at our air and sea ports has been suspended, to protect CSO enumerators and the travelling public. The Tourism and Travel release for February 2020 will be published on 26 March. However, the release for March 2020 and subsequent months will contain considerably less detail than usual (e.g. on reasons for travel and area of residence). We hope to publish overall passenger totals for March onwards, based on administrative data, and to resume collection of statistics at airports and seaports when conditions permit.
Collection of the monthly Household Travel Survey has been suspended. This postal survey asks households to list the domestic and foreign journeys they have undertaken in the past month. Given the vastly decreased level of travel being undertaken, both domestic and foreign, the CSO has decided it would be insensitive to continue with this survey at present.
The CSO understands the severe difficulties now being faced by business survey respondents and that filling in survey forms may not be top of their list at present. We wish to thank all survey respondents for their support to date. It is by collecting survey information that we will be able to report on the effects of COVID-19 on our economy and society.
Insofar as possible, we are continuing to collect survey information from businesses, so that we can provide statistics that show the changing situation from March 2020 onwards. We intend to publish the Retail Sales Index for February 2020 on 27 March and the February 2020 Industrial Production and Turnover Index on 6 April.
These are key indicators of economic activity. Our priority for business statistics is to continue to compile the retail sales and industrial production figures. However, collecting these indicators for March and subsequent months will be very challenging. We appreciate the ongoing support of the business community and understand the difficulties faced by all.
Supporting the national effort
COVID-19 has already had an impact on many of Ireland’s public services. As part of the Government’s response to the crisis, a Temporary Assignment Scheme has been put in place and the CSO may be asked to divert staff to other essential public services. We will inform data users of any impact on data collection or statistical outputs that may arise from this.
Our statistical priorities
In the event of the crisis continuing for a prolonged period the following have been identified as the critical statistical outputs:
Statistical Release Calendar
We will provide updates on the timetable for statistical releases via the CSO’s statistical release calendar, which is available here Release Calendar
Elaine O'Mahoney (+353) 1 498 4317
or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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