(JamaicaObserver)The Statistical Institute of Jamaica (Statin) is looking to identify a new date for the completion of the 2022 Population and Housing Census.
The undertaking, which commenced last September, was slated to end on March 31.
However, Statin Director General Carol Coy said several administrative issues that slowed the pace at which the data collection was progressing have since been addressed.
“Given where we are… I know we will not meet that [March 31 deadline],” Coy said. She indicated that Statin has not yet determined a new completion timeline, as the entity is in the process of assessing a newly introduced data collection modality being used.
“We are assessing it… to see how quickly we will complete what we call an enumeration district,” the director general informed.
An enumeration district is a geographic area, ranging from a few blocks in a city to an entire town or county, that can be counted by a census taker within the allotted data collection period.
Coy said it is anticipated that by next week, “we will have a better idea as to what we are doing [in terms of determining the completion timeline].”
She was updating members of the Standing Finance Committee of the House of Representatives, during their meeting at Gordon House on March 1 where they were reviewing the 2023/24 Estimates of Expenditure.
Minister of Finance and the Public Service Dr Nigel Clarke, who has portfolio responsibility for Statin, also provided an update.
Coy said the new modality entailed dispatching teams of persons to each enumeration district instead of one, as initially obtained.
She explained that these teams include persons “who are very efficient [and] experienced” and will be able to assist census takers experiencing challenges, particularly with uncooperative householders.
“So, when we carry in a team, we hope that we’ll be able to get to those persons much better than when you send one census taker into an enumeration district,” Coy told the committee.
Additionally, she said this undertaking will serve to allay fears resonating among individuals about their safety when they go into certain areas.
The director general advised that the concept was introduced approximately two weeks ago.
“So, we are now assessing how quickly they [field workers] will get through, [utilising it],” she added.
Dr Clarke and Coy also noted challenges resulting from a significant turnover of persons recruited and trained as census takers.
The minister pointed out that while Statin targeted 7,000 people, the agency has not been able to recruit more than 4,000 at any given time.
Dr Clarke partly attributed this to “tightness” in the competitive labour market and challenges attracting and/or retaining workers.
“We have since responded with a significant upward adjustment in the fees to census takers. Those rates are per questionnaire and per family [in order] to try and compete in the labour market for the persons [who] are needed,” he told the committee.
The minister emphasised that the labour market tightness is a “real issue” that “as a country, we’re going to have to address.”
Coy said the issue with the turnover was also attributable to some individuals’ inability to articulate and execute the census process.
“So, some persons, when they go in the field, going from home to home [and] persons are not responding… [they] cannot deal with that; it’s not an easy job. So, you’ll have persons, once they have started and they have seen what is required, they would also have dropped out of the system,” the director general pointed out, adding that recruits are also assessed to analyse their suitability.
Dr Clarke advised that Statin also has had to introduce other modalities of data collection, including electronic options, to expedite the process.
Coy pointed out that these are also being used “so that we can move the process much faster, using the current number [of census takers] that we had.
“We are also thinking of using the Web in order to get persons, especially in areas where [individuals don’t] allow [census workers] to access their buildings, or they won’t come out. What we want to see is what the take-up of that will be before we… make that [completion timeline] projection,” she added.
Coy assured, however, that Statin addressed administrative issues that had arisen.