COVID-19 places uncertainty over next population census

The COVID-19 pandemic has left the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) uncertain about its plan to conduct a population census in 2021.

“Our pilot, which we were hoping to go in the field July 2020, we suspect it might be impacted by COVID,” director general of the institute Carol Coy said during a digital press briefing yesterday.

According to Coy, STATIN had been telling Jamaicans that it would have been using tablets for the first time in the census. However, the institute has had issues in trying to order tablets for the pilot.

“There seems to be an issue with the supply chain. Those are the areas we think will impact our work,” she indicated.

“We are still going ahead planning for it, but we cannot say for certain that it will take place, given what is happening with COVID-19,” Coy stated.

In the meantime, STATIN indicated that the novel coronavirus outbreak has resulted in the cancellation of a number of its survey activities and programmes for this year.

Coy said the spread of the virus has impacted STATIN’s “ability to engage in primary data collection activities, specifically as it relates to the conduct of the institute’s regular household surveys”.

She said the programmes that will be affected include the April 2020 Labour Force Survey (LFS), for which data collection was scheduled for six weeks commencing April 1. That has been cancelled.

She said the decision was taken in an effort to minimise the risk to STATIN’s data collection staff and the householders with whom they would interact. As a result, the director general said labour market indicators from the LFS will not be available for April 2020.

She said the institute was, however, exploring the possibility of adding a COVID-19 module in the July 2020 LFS, if circumstances allow.

In the meantime, STATIN is indicating that the 2020 Survey of Living Conditions data collection exercise scheduled for June 2020 will be postponed, as preparatory work has been affected by COVID-19. The institute, however, said it will explore all options to have the successful execution of this survey this year.

Coy said the effects of COVID-19 on the production of statistical products has impacted STATIN and other statistical offices across the region. She said many national statistical offices across the Caribbean that were prepared to execute population and housing censuses and other surveys this year have postponed those activities.

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