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Importance of census to national development

KEN CHAPLIN

Tuesday, April 12, 2011    

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After a few glitches over the first four of days the 2011 Population and Housing Census, it seems to be running relatively well. The census will provide information that is critical to national development. There were delays in some areas which caused the late delivery of census workers' identification to the Statistical Institute of Jamaica by the manufacturers. However, with the intensive public education programme of STATIN, led by director general Sonia Jackson reminding people of the importance of the census and urging them to cooperate in the national interest, the census taking seems to be bearing fruit.

The two main political parties, JLP and PNP, and several national organisations have supported the census. Urging maximum participation by the population, deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade, Dr Kenneth Baugh, says that the issues confronting humanity and the need for accurate information to address these have never been more important than they are now. It is impossible to plan at any level without adequate information, he points out.

The United Nations, emphasising the importance of censuses, recommends that countries should conduct a census every 10 years. This period allows for the capture of changes in structure and movement of population. Jamaica has had a long history of censuses, with the first modern census dating back to 1943. This year's census is being implemented within the framework established and recommended by the United Nations for the world programme which covers the period 2005-2014.

A population and housing census is the total process of collecting, compiling, evaluating, analysing and publishing or other dissemination of data on demographic, economic and social conditions of the people as well as the conditions under which they live at a specific period of time. Censuses are primary sources of basic benchmark statistics on the population and housing characteristics of the nation. They provide information on population size, age and sex composition, geographic distribution and housing characteristics and facilities that have bearing on the social aspects of the housing.

The fundamental purpose of the census is to provide the facts essential to government for policy-making, planning and administration. The characteristics of the population drive the decision-making that facilitates the development of socio-economic policies that will enhance the welfare of the population. Additionally, the population census provides important data for the analysis and appraisal of the changing patterns of rural/urban movement and concentration, the development of urbanised areas, geographical distribution of the population according to such variables as occupation and education, as well as the socio-economic characteristics of the population and the labour force. These variables also provide the basis of questions of scientific interest that are of importance both to pure research and for solving practical problems of industrial and commercial growth and management.

The findings of the census are also critical in the decision-making processes of the private sector. Population size and characteristics influence the location of businesses and services that satisfy the needs of the target population. Population censuses also constitute the principal source of records for use as a sampling frame for the household surveys during the years between censuses.

Ever since the first census in 1943, concerns have been raised about the confidentiality of the information provided during the census-taking process. The Statistics Act requires that information be published in an aggregated format that prevents the publication of information that will identify any individual or business. Accordingly, each employee is required to take the oath of secrecy as prescribed by the Statistics Act.

And here are some important points:

* All census workers carry an official STATIN ID with their names and STATIN's logo. Respondents may ask the census takers to see their ID.

* If you have not received a visit from a census taker, call the Statistical Institute.

* Beginning April 5, approximately 6,000 census takers will visit every neighbourhood in the country to count every member of the household.

* If a person is not at home when the census taker comes, a notice of visit with telephone numbers will be left in the mailbox or under the door in order for an appointment to be made.

Not much opinion is expressed in today's column. I consider the census of such fundamental importance to the people and Jamaica as whole that I have focused mostly on information provided by STATIN.

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