Stats NZ defends hosting 'Check Your Privilege Bingo' game

Statistics NZ is defending having officials and attendees play 'Check Your Privilege Bingo' at a workshop for its Indicator Aotearoa initiative.

The game had a five-by-five board, with squares including 'white', 'Christian', 'able-bodied', 'no speech impediment', 'male' and 'heterosexual'.

"Officials at a Stats NZ technical workshop today spent an hour having participants singing, hand-clapping and playing 'Check Your Privilege Bingo'," said National finance spokesperson Amy Adams.

According to the event schedule the game only ran for 15 minutes. 

"Yet at the same time New Zealand continues to wait for the 2018 Census results after a shambolic process that resulted in significant data gaps and we're yet to see anything on the last two years of child poverty statistics."

Check Your Privilege Bingo.
Check Your Privilege Bingo. Photo credit: File

ACT criticised the game and other activities at the workshop on its Facebook page.

"Your tax dollars hard at work," the party wrote, with a screenshot from a Twitter thread in which the game, singing and handclaps were being discussed.

If there's a silver lining for ACT, it appears the bingo game wasn't developed by anyone on the taxpayer dime - it's literally the first result if you do a Google image search for 'Check Your Privilege Bingo'.

Other squares in the bingo game include 'native English speaker', 'no criminal record', 'first-world', 'not a redhead' and 'cis' (having a gender identity that matches the sex you were born with, essentially the opposite of transgender).

Ms Adams said the "narrow view of life" portrayed in the bingo game was "troubling", blaming the Government.

"It's another example of the Government misdirecting the public sector on vital tasks and shows the reality of the Government's social engineering ambitions. National will remain steadfastly focused on what matters to New Zealanders - growing incomes, lowering the cost of living and keeping families safe."

But Stats NZ told Newshub only a "few minutes" were spent on the game, intended as a "light-hearted conference ice-breaker".

"The card aims to get people thinking about their own privilege in New Zealand society, when considering how to measure the wellbeing of New Zealanders from all walks of life," said Eleisha Hawkins, project executive for Indicators Aotearoa.

Neither Ms Adams nor Mr Seymour attended the event. 

According to a 2014 article in The Atlantic, the phrase 'check your privilege' is the "closest thing we have to a racial slur against straight white men". It went mainstream about a decade ago after appearing on a number of blogs dedicated to social justice, according to internet meme tracking site Know Your Meme.

Indicators Aotearoa is the Government's attempt to develop a way of measuring Kiwis' wellbeing that isn't purely focused on economics, like gross domestic product.

The first release of 2018 census data has been delayed until next year due to the "complex nature of the task", Stats NZ said in November, following a census which had a shockingly low turnout.

It's illegal not to take part, yet 10 percent of Kiwis failed to fill their forms in. Dozens were prosecuted following the 2013 census, which had a 94.5 percent participation rate.