Data on religious affiliation has various uses. It is used to trace the changes in values and belief systems in New Zealand society and to assess the need for various types of religion-related or religion-sponsored services. Māori, Pacific peoples, and other ethnic groups also use the data as this information is an important aspect of their culture.
However, religious affiliation is frequently identified as a variable of decreasing relevance, most recently in consultations with key census users for the 2013 Census.
There are several reasons why people question the ongoing relevance and inclusion of religious affiliation in the New Zealand Census. Firstly, census data on religious affiliation is not widely used by government agencies or deemed highly important for policy development, evaluation, or monitoring. Secondly, New Zealand is becoming increasingly secular, with just under half of the population either stating they have no religion or that they object to answering the question.
However there is a continuing demand for this data from religious organisations, academic researchers, Māori and Pacific communities, and the media. Without census data on religion, any changes in this significant cultural area would be difficult to monitor.
Our current recommendations relating to religious affiliation
- We recommend that religious affiliation be included with no changes in the 2018 Census.
See our preliminary view of 2018 Census content (pages 25-26) for a more detailed discussion on religious affiliation information
See 2013 Census information by variable for information on the religious affiliation variable