National government has spent R3.2 billion on Census 2022 – a population count that was marked by setbacks and forced extensions. The final report is only expected to be released next year, but South Africa’s statistician-general is confident that even the agricultural sector will find worthwhile data in it to inform future decisions.
In an interview with Food For Mzansi, Risenga Maluleke unpacks how the country’s statisticians experienced the last population count, the challenges presented by rural South Africa and the expectations for the final report.
Tiisetso Manoko: What challenges did the farming community send Stats SA’s way?
Risenga Maluleke: Statistics South Africa had put plans in place to ensure that the total population of the country was successfully counted, and this included the farming community.
During the recruitment process, Stats SA adopted an approach of recruiting fieldworkers according to their areas of residence.
This posed a challenge in the farming communities as there was a lack of suitable candidates who had the necessary prerequisites to become fieldworkers. This meant that Stats SA had to bring in fieldworkers from neighbouring locations.
[But] Stats SA is mandated to conduct a total population count every 10 years and, as such, profiling of all the areas to be reached was done in advance to establish the requirements, such as type of vehicles that would be fit for purpose in areas that are difficult to access.
It is critical to count all sectors of society and, therefore, getting information on farmers is vital for future planning and decision-making.
Cooperation from the farming associations contributed to the successful count of the farming population as Stats SA has established good relations with these associations.
What are your overall impressions of the 2022 population count?
The country’s digital population count kicked off on 2 February 2022, as Stats SA counted the homeless, transients, special dwelling institutions, hotels, and populations in communal living structures in the country.
Census 2022 introduced remote data collection methods, which could either be online or by telephone. These platforms added to the traditional method of face-to-face data collection, which was the main mode of data collection.
Data collection challenges, particularly in the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, which was heavily impacted by the floods, led to the decision to extend the census mop-up periods. All provinces were able to take advantage of the extended period to ensure that they counted as many households as possible.
Census remains the only survey that provides data at local level and is used by all sectors of society for planning and evidence-based decision-making.
Whilst challenges remained in the counting of our country, we are actively processing the data and eagerly await the census results by the second quarter of next year.
Census teams had massive challenges in accessing certain communities. What were the reasons?
The Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal were the two major provinces which experienced delays in concluding the population count, due to several factors.
Amongst the reasons were the floods that affected roads, and thereby access to fieldworkers and vehicles and human settlements in KwaZulu-Natal. There were also shortages of field staff in the Western Cape.
Do you think South Africans know the importance of being counted?
Stats SA deployed a massive communication and publicity campaign which targeted all population segments with messages that were translated in all official languages.
Broadcast, digital and print media were extensively utilised to spread the message and educate the public about census. More should be done to create further awareness of census and surveys in general.
Census 2022 cost a lot of money, and many had questions about validity during the counting process. Was it worth the money?
Stats SA has been allocated around R3,2 billion for the census programme over a five-year period. This was the same amount budgeted for the 2011 census and innovative methods and efficiencies in counting the country had to be explored to ensure we fit within the budget.
The census value can never be understated as it is the primary resource for the equitable share of funding by government and determining priority areas where service delivery interventions are needed.
Census data can be used to track and trace development and assist the citizenry to hold the electorate accountable. Participative democracy includes citizens being aware of their society’s dynamics and actively demanding that such be addressed.
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