Census surprise
Statin says data collection more difficult uptown than from inner-city communities
Statistical Institute of Jamaica (Statin) Director General Carol Coy (right) gesticulates while speaking about the upcoming census at this week's Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange. Beside her is Statin Deputy Director General Leesha Delatie-Budair. (Photo: Joseph Wellington)

Statistical Institute of Jamaica (Statin) executives have revealed that the entity has a tougher time trying to gather data from upper-income communities than inner-city households, due to problems with access as well as a reluctance by residents to provide the information.

"You know, ironically it is the inner-city communities that are not difficult. Our biggest challenge tends to be upper-income communities. What we find is that at least we are given an opportunity in inner-city communities to explain the purpose of what we are doing and to have conversation and dialogue with the residents, and I find that once there is an understanding of what are doing, and why we are doing it, and of course there is the reassurance that with Statin their data is secure, we don't have a big challenge with inner-city communities typically. But finding persons in upper-income and gated communities, that is where we have the bigger challenge," Statin Deputy Director General Leesha Delatie-Budair explained at this week's Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange ahead of today's official launch of the country's 15th population and housing census at AC Marriott Kingston hotel.

The national census, conducted every 10 years, provides the Government with benchmark estimates about population size and other key socio-demographic information, such as age, sex, education and training, fertility, economic activity, and religion. Data will be collected via house-to-house visits by Statin's more than 7,500 census-takers, beginning on September 13 and concluding in December 2022.

Delatie-Budair said there are multiple strategies to get the work done, even in the tough areas. These include public relations campaigns and cooperation with partners to gain access to these communities to help promote the census messaging.

She said Statin keeps abreast of vital information in its interactions with residents of the communities, to ensure the safety of field officers.

"We obtain information and feedback on if there is an upsurge of violence in an area, for example, [but] we don't go with the police for data collection activities, because it is counter-productive, and although the police force is another government entity, we still have to maintain the confidentiality of the respondents," she said.

Director General Carol Coy added, "We work with people in the community. Because we have been doing household surveys [such as] the labour force, and the SLC (survey of living conditions), these are issues that we would have faced with these surveys …we have persons at Statin, especially our field staff, who know these communities, they know the issues, so it's something that we are working with. Where you have these [security] issues, we would send maybe a group to target during that period; we would try to see how quickly we can go in and move out of these communities".On July 26, 2022, Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke, who has portfolio responsibility for Statin, pleaded with Jamaicans in his statement in Parliament to cooperate with the census takers.

"This national exercise must be supported by all as each and every person living in Jamaica, normally resident in Jamaica, must be counted. The census is not a political activity, the census is for all of Jamaica. The success of the census is for the benefit of all Jamaicans; it is also a message that you count, I count, and all of us matter in Jamaica," he said.

Every person usually resident in the island living here for at least six months at the time of the census is eligible to have personal data collected from them for the purpose of the count.

Coy and Delatie-Budair stressed that the statistics are used to determine not only Government policies and programmes, in order to provide services, but that the private sector also draws on the data.

"We have gotten requests, for example, from major manufacturers looking at a location and they want to know the demographics in that area to see whether they can get labour. We have gotten requests from private sector entities looking to roll out a new programme. So the data is widely used," the deputy director general advised.

Statin has assured that it will be visiting every nook and cranny of Jamaica to find people, including the homeless. Coy said plans for the census started from as early as 2017.

BY ALPHEA SUMNER Senior staff reporter saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

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