Stats NZ giving Kiwis option to 'provide own description of their gender'

New Zealanders will be given the option of providing their own description of their gender in Stats NZ's upcoming household survey. 

Jason Attwell, general manager at the government department, said giving Kiwis the option should better reflect gender diversity in New Zealand. 

"Until now, we've been mostly relying on our survey interviewers to describe a person as being male or female," he said on Monday. "The responses will help us show New Zealanders who we really are."

Starting this year, the Household Economic Survey will ask people in more than 28,000 Kiwi households to describe their gender: male, female, or "one of many non-binary genders". 

Attwell said the information collected is strictly confidential, and that individuals are never identified in published statistics and research. 

The survey will also ask people how they describe their sexual identity, whether heterosexual or straight, gay or lesbian, bisexual, or "another term that best describes them". 

The question will be combined with one about sex at birth. 

Attwell said combining the question about gender and sex at birth is an approach that's recognised as international best practice for collecting information about sex and gender. 

"This information will also help government policymakers and other decision-makers when they consider funding which affects minority groups," he said. 

"It will also provide important insights for communities who have not yet seen themselves reflected in our data."

It's not the first time the survey has questioned New Zealanders about their sexual identity. The 2018 General Social Survey did, and the initial results are set to be released on Wednesday. 

Most questions in the upcoming household survey will be asked face-to-face by Stats NZ interviewers, who record the responses on a laptop. They'll ask other identity questions around ethnicity. 

Attwell said the agency understands that some of the questions are sensitive for Kiwis. Therefore, the interviewers will "simply turn the computer around" so interviewees can answer the questions privately. 

"Stats NZ intends to include these questions as part of the core demographics collected in all household surveys."

Gender diversity is a contentious topic in New Zealand. More than 30,000 people signed a parliamentary petition earlier this year calling to scrap references to it in the New Zealand teaching curriculum. 

Newshub revealed in March that the Department of Internal Affairs received 32 requests in 2018 from people wanting to change their gender on their birth certificate. 


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