Without warning, the census of 28 February 1971 turned out to be the last. It was a success – generating 4,500 pages of tables, explanatory notes and analyses in 38 volumes, including 18 census monographs and 87 thousand phototypes. However, CBS was disillusioned by the realisation that the ‘autonomy of CBS in relation to all other government registrations and administrations was not acknowledged’. It was affected by ‘an extremist anti-establishment mentality’ among pressure groups, an attitude that was reinforced by the uneasy feeling among the public that there were no legal guarantees against invasion of privacy though misuse of data held in government registrations. It proved impossible to organise a new census in 1981. Pilot surveys resulted in non-response rates of 26 percent. This high non-response was not unwelcome for CBS. Following the commotion in the 1970s, the bureau was not really looking forward to organising a new census.

Disastrous for researchers

Researchers were resentful of CBS for giving in to the criticism so quickly. They called it a disaster for scientific debate. Sociologist Herman Vuijsje opined that it was a ‘careless termination of time series data so valuable for scientific analysis’. The author placed the CBS’ reaction in the context of the longstanding Dutch tradition of ‘retreating before the rebellious mob before one shot has been fired’. Others thought that central data registration had become a taboo subject. Without comprehensive censuses it would now never be possible to get a complete picture of the target groups of minority policies. Added to this, in the end it had been unnecessary to give in: it later turned out that only 7 percent of non-respondents in the 1981 pilot census had refused because of privacy concerns and fear of misuse of information. By far most had given the reason ‘No interest in surveys’ when declining to take part.