Population Better off Than Fourteen Years Ago – SLC

Overall, in 2002, the population was better off than it was 14 years ago and there has been a shift in consumer choice of health care facilities, with more persons using public health care facilities, the recently published Jamaica Survey of Living Conditions 2002 (SLC), has reported.
The SLC, which is a joint publication of the Planning Institute of Jamaica and the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN), has found that for the first time since the survey began in 1988, the use of private health care facilities was 12.1 percentage points below 2001 and 21.1 percentage points below 1993.
Also, at 4.8 per cent the Housing Quality Index of the survey was 9.6 percentage points higher than the 1993 index and 1.6 percentage points below 2001.
In 2002, the report says, policy makers had already begun to address many of the concerns raised by the results of the survey. As part of the social safety net reform for which planning started in 1999, a new programme was introduced to improve targeting and effectiveness of social welfare, under the PATH programme. Meanwhile, at the end of 2002, new strategies were introduced to combat the level of crime in the country and the findings of the SLC will influence policy.
Demographic characteristics show improved mortality from better health practices and declining fertility from family planning policies have increasingly reflected in a shift in population structure although the survey turned up minor visible changes between 2001 and 2002.
The age profile of the population remained the same between 2001 and 2002, with ten years of SLC data showing a 1.7 percentage point lower share in the 0 to 14 years population, a 3.0 percentage point higher share in the 35 to 54 age group and a 0.8 percentage point increase in the share of the 55 plus age group.
The report reveals that the working age population in rural areas is bearing a higher burden of caring for children and the elderly than their peers in the Kingston Metropolitan Area and Other Towns. The rural areas have the highest percentage of persons in the 0 to 14 age group and the lowest percentage of persons in the working age population.
The average household size in 2002 was 3.5 persons compared with 4.5 in 1970, comparing steadily with 2001. As with Age Dependency Ratio (ADR), the rural households were again in a more vulnerable position than the KMA and Other Towns as they had the highest absolute household size and the highest average number of children. The national average female headed households stood at 45.5 per cent, 3.4 percentage points higher than in 2000 and these households had a larger average household size of 3.75 persons than male headed households (3.23 per cent).
The report attributes the decline in household consumption to the downturn in tourism after the terrorist attacks on the United States in September 2001 and the decline in agriculture after the May 2002 flood rains. Expenditure on such categories as food, personal and health care, clothing (in the KMA), transportation and recreation, and (in Other Towns), housing and household needs, were curbed to meet the expenditure for education which was up 62.7 per cent in the Rural Areas), fuel and household supplies, and in Other Towns, 49 per cent increase in transportation.
Some 7000 households participated in the survey. The PIOJ and STATIN conclude that the policies and programmes related to the various indicators brought ‘mixed blessings’ to the respondents.

JIS Social