Statin still unable to say when census will be completed

UNCERTAINTY still surrounds the twice-delayed 2022 Population and Housing Census, with the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (Statin) on Tuesday giving no further indication as to when the exercise, which has been hampered by a lack of census takers and administrative challenges, will be completed.

The census, which commenced last September, was slated to end on March 31, 2023 but the institute subsequently advised that the deadline would not be met and that a new timeline would be set. However, there has been no word on this to date.

Last week when the Jamaica Observer contacted Statin’s Director General Carol Coy for an update on the status of the census, she promised this would be provided on Tuesday.

However, speaking at Statin’s quarterly press briefing on Tuesday, Coy said no timeline can be provided for the data collection phase of the exercise but that efforts are being made to conclude it.

“We know we have overrun what was the original data collection period. The focus now for us is to get the data collection wrapped up, so we will not be releasing a date because our focus is to look at the constituencies and to see the proportion of enumeration districts (EDs) that have been covered. And what we have put in are the things like the short form, the shortened questionnaire, and what this has allowed people to do is to move much faster,” she said, adding that Statin is ensuring that enough information is garnered to provide a credible population count.

Coy also said the institute was not in a position to say what percentage of the country has already been covered and what portion is left.

“Normally at this point, because the percentage varies, what Statin does is, when we have completed the count we will provide the numbers that we have estimated and the numbers that were counted. Statin usually releases information when the data has been analysed and processed,” she said.

The director general was also not able to give a clear picture of how many census takers are in the field, noting that the numbers tend to fluctuate and again stressing that one of the main challenges facing Statin is recruitment issues and the high levels of attrition of census workers.

The agency had previously indicated that the employment target of approximately 7,000 census field workers was not met and that it was not able to recruit more than 4,000 at any given time.

“As unemployment rates decline, persons are less inclined to take up more strenuous and short-term jobs like data collection. In addition to our initial recruitment drive, secondary recruitment efforts were targeted in areas without census workers. A significant number of persons indicated that they were either no longer interested, they found other means of employment, or they deemed that the work would be too hard, and some persons actually failed the minimum training requirements,” she said.

Coy noted that to mitigate the impact caused by the shortage of census field workers, Statin has employed several strategies aimed at increasing the rate of data collection. These include the introduction of teams comprised of experienced and efficient data collectors in targeted areas to quickly canvass an ED, the deployment of web questionnaires, and an abbreviated version or short form of the census questionnaires.

“These measures may impact the level of disaggregation of certain indicators, however, the reliability of the population count will not be compromised. To protect the integrity of the results from this highly important data- gathering activity, the institute, supported by our international development partners, will deploy all available tools in preserving the key indicators. We will also undertake additional data validation exercises using more complex statistical techniques, and additional data sources,” she said.

The national census takes place every 10 years and is a vital source of social and demographic information on Jamaica. It provides data on the population including the demographic structure, socio-economic conditions, and details on the housing stock. Every person who is usually resident in Jamaica must be covered in the census.