KINGSTON — The Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) has assured householders that the 2011 Population and Housing Census is not aimed at invading their privacy, but at collecting data for national development.
This year’s census, being undertaken under the theme, ‘Everyone Counts – You, Me, All a Wi’, is Jamaica’s 14th dating back to 1943, a year before the country’s first elections under Universal Adult Suffrage.
A census is defined as a count. In this regard, the Population and Housing Census is a total process comprising the collection, compilation, evaluation, analyzing and publishing or, otherwise, dissemination of data on demographic, economic and social conditions of the people; as well as analyzing the conditions under which they live, at a specific period of time.
This information, which may relate to the entire country or a well defined area, provides facts pivotal to Government’s policymaking, planning and administrative programmes.
The United Nations (UN) recommends that countries conduct a census every 10 years, to facilitate the capturing of changes in the structure and movement of their population. Against this background, Census 2011, which commenced on April 5, is being implemented within the framework established and recommended by the UN for the 2010 World Programme, covering the period 2005 to 2014.
This year’s census will take place over a four-month period, at cost of over $1.4 billion. The last census was undertaken in 2001, when the population was numbered 2,607,632.
STATIN’s Director General, Sonia Jackson, told JIS News that among the challenges facing the agency is public apathy and distrust, and concerns about security, privacy, and confidentiality of personal and household information.
She points out that, while persons were within their Constitutional rights, in this regard, the collection of the data is to advance national development, not to meddle in private matters.
“We are not invading your privacy. We are coming to you and we are asking you to let us into your house, we are not coming there to search your house, we’re not coming in there to look at what you have. We’re coming in there, to a point, where you can provide us with data,” she assures.
“If we don’t have the data, then we won’t know what our country looks like. Human beings are our greatest asset, and if we don’t have the information on whom or what our people look like, then we can’t plan,” she argues.
Citing the provision of housing, Ms. Jackson says data from the census will be key in determining and understanding what issues impact on this sector, the linkages by the relevant agencies dealing with the sector and the input of stakeholders.
“The time has come when we are going to have to look at where housing (is developed), the impact of housing on the environment, or environmental conditions associated with housing. So these are some of the issues that we are going to have to look at,” she outlined.
Speaking at last month’s launch of the census at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston, STATIN's Chairman, Professor Gordon Shirley, also assured that the data provided by residents is kept strictly confidential.
“The data appears only as statistical summaries, and it is not possible to identify the persons or businesses whose details were recorded in the questionnaires. STATIN is prevented, by law, from transmitting to any other party, government, public, commercial, or private, information which would make it possible to identify the explicit source,” he assures.
Ms. Jackson says that in order to ensure that the collection process runs as smooth as possible, efforts were made to recruit census takers and other field staff residing in or familiar with respective communities.
“Census takers must know the communities in which they are going to work. Usually, (we) try to get somebody from the community, but you may get somebody from a neighbouring community to work in (the targeted) community. But, the person must know the area in which they are going to work and will, therefore, know the people,” she emphasizes.
Efforts at heightening awareness of the importance of the census were significantly enhanced through a public education programme, which started last year and continued into this year, she said. The activities incorporated radio, television and print ads, as well as the distribution of brochures.
“We have been getting (positive) feedback that people are aware of it (census). We (distributed) the brochures, so people (would) have something they can look at and recognize,” she states.
Regarding appointment schedules for interviews, Ms. Jackson says the census takers are directed to do so at their discretion, and at the disposal of householders.
“We are not telling them to collect the data Monday, Sunday or Friday. We advise them and we recommend that…they (would) know (and should) determine the best time; they know when to go and visit the homes. So, if you are working in an urban centre, it would hardly be sensible for you to go during the course of the day (as most persons would likely be at work or school). So the time is not something that we are going to dictate, it has to be situational,” she advises.
Ms. Jackson says where a home may be visited and no member of the household is present, census takers have been directed to leave a note with the relevant contact information for householders to call back and advise of a date to reschedule the appointment.
“We’re (also) going to be asking persons to contact the office so that,…somebody can make a visit,” she adds, while pointing out that the officers are being equipped with phones, “so there will be contact , and we can…(establish) the contact with them (householders).”
Ms. Jackson says that, on completion of the census, the data will processed for analysis and thereafter made available to anybody who needs it.
The primary users are the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), which is responsible for planning; the University of the West Indies, which uses the data for research, especially in their Demography Department, and all of the social sector ministries will need it, she says. Agencies such as the Water Resources Authority (WRA) utilize the population projections to plan water projects.
By DOUGLAS McINTOSH, JIS Reporter