BY CONRAD HAMILTON Sunday Observer senior reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
AS the country's social and economic planners continue to leaf through the 2011 Population and Housing Census, there is clear indication that the Government will need to put more emphasis on social provisions for people living in urban areas.
This, against the background of the continued increase in the number of people living in places classified as urban. Based on the explanation of the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN), a place is considered urban if it has a population of 2,000 or more and provides a number of amenities and facilities which indicate modern living.
According to the census, which was released last week, approximately 39 per cent of the population live in parish capitals, with the Kingston Metropolitan Area (KMA) accounting for 584,627 or 88 per cent of the parishes of Kingston and St Andrew. The total population of the KMA and all parish capitals is 1,041,084, which STATIN says is five per cent more than the 999,581 recorded in the 2001 census.
According to the document also, the largest capital town outside the KMA is Spanish Town in St Catherine, with 147,152 people, followed by Montego Bay with 110,115 and May Pen with 61,548. Mandeville is next in line with 49,695 residents.
In their analysis of the data, the demographers concluded that more than half (54 per cent) of the population live in areas classified as urban, accounting for a 1.9 percentage point increase over 2001, when the last population and housing census was conducted.
The census gives the country's population as 2,697,983, a 3.5 per cent increase over the 2,607,632 recorded in 2001. STATIN explains that the figure represents an average annual growth rate of .36 per cent and continues the reduction in annual growth rates since the 1970s, when the Government kick-started efforts to encourage Jamaicans to have fewer children.
In accounting for the marginal increase in the population, the institute explained that birth rates over the period fell from an average 24.2 per 1,000 between 1991 and 2001 to 17.4 per 1,000 between 2001 and 2011.
"At the time, there has been a small upturn in death rates from 6.4 between 1991 and 2001 to 7.1 in the most recent period," STATIN explained.
The census takers also noted as "considerable" the number of women whose husbands have died. "The sex differential for widowed persons was considerable, with the number of women in the state of widowhood (55,390) more than tripling the number of men (18,462).
Another development the census highlighted was a decline in the number of Jamaicans claiming to be members of traditional churches.
"With respect to changes over the two censuses, the declines are largest for Anglicans (20 per cent), Roman Catholic and United Church (14 per cent), Methodists and Moravians (13 per cent). The Baptists, which have remained the largest traditional denomination with over 180,000 persons at census 2011, experienced a decline of five per cent," STATIN said in its interpretation of the data.
Meanwhile, the Seventh-day Adventist Church remains the largest denominational group with 322,228 persons, followed by Pentecostals with 295,195.
According to STATIN, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of persons claiming to be Muslims, moving from just above 1,000 in 2001 to over 1,500 in the last census, representing a 47.75 per cent increase. Meanwhile, the number of persons practising Judaism climbed by 41 per cent, from 357 in 2001, to 506 in 2011.
STATIN also noted an increase in the number of Jamaicans who say they have no religious affiliation. The figure has climbed from just under 544,000 in 2001 to more than 572,000 in 2011.
The population census is lifted every 10 years.