On Friday 19th March, 2021, His Excellency the Vice President of the Republic of Ghana announced 27th June 2021 as the Census Night date for the upcoming Ghana’s 2021 Population and Housing Census (PHC). The day marked exactly 100 days to the enumeration of structures and persons in the country. The 2021 PHC will be the sixth post-independence census and the third PHC which should have been held in 2020 but was postponed because of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The announcement of the census date and the consequent endorsement by all stakeholders is a happy moment for Ghana considering the enormous benefits that the Census offers. The Muslim community, the Christian Community, Civil Society Organisations, the Private Sector United Nations Agencies and Heads of Cooperation were all represented and gave solidarity messages in support of the census.
This is heartwarming for Ghana because, as the Vice President said, “the 2021 Census will provide important data for the formulation of policies to transform Ghana’s economy and spur economic development. Knowing the dynamics of how the population is changing helps us in planning our education needs, where to locate health facilities, how to allocate our social expenditures and identify those who need help the most in our society”.
The first attempt to count the people of Ghana, then Gold Coast Colony, dates back to 1891 under the British colonial administration. The exercise, which was extended to other parts of the present Ghana, was repeated every ten years until the World War II interrupted the series in 1941. Since then there have been 11 national population censuses. After sporadic efforts in Ghana, modern censuses began in 1960 and have continued almost decennially as recommended by the United Nations. In 2000 and 2010, Ghana conducted the fourth and fifth post-independence censuses, which combined a population census and a housing census in one operation.
Thus, the 2021 Census will be the third time that a population census and a housing census will be conducted in one operation. The 2021 PHC is the first fully digital Census to be conducted in the country. It employs increased use of digital technology to enhance data quality and reduce data processing time as recommended by the United Nations.
For years, censuses including the PHC, which we are gearing up to conduct, have been the chief sources for national official statistics, and a cornerstone in any national statistical system. It provides the foundation for our monitoring of the national development processes and programmes, as well as for our international reporting. Because censuses are large and cover every part of the country, they can yield detailed data at national, regional, district, constituency levels as well as for small administrative and other domains.
The Ghana Statistical Service (GSS), the implementing agency of the census has put into the public domain, a document (100 Ways Census Data Will Be Used) that spells out 100 uses to which the Census can be put. A careful review of the document suggests that each and every individual must care about the census and lend our support to it in our own way, however it is.
According to the GSS, there are even more than the 100 uses and that over 2.6 million socio-demographic, economic, housing and sanitation indicators, disaggregated by subgroups such as sex, age, residence type (urban/rural), regional, district, locality, etc. could be derived from the census dataset. These indicators will guide our development plans, implementation, monitoring, evaluation and reporting, particularly with African Union’s Agenda 2063, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), i.e. Agenda 2030 and National development agenda.
The population of Ghana has increased from 6.7 million persons from 1960 to 24.6 million in 2010 and is projected to be 31.6 million. The 2021 Census will provide updated information on the population and will further help us track where we are on many fronts in our development path, including how close we are in pursuing the international, national, regional, and global development goals. The population data will help us know and understand the population size, structure and dynamics – how many are we, what is the gender mix, the age mix, the birth and death and migration, what we do for a living, where we live, etc. The housing conditions and sanitation modules in the 2021 PHC will provide data to assess the adequacy and quality of the housing stock, determine the nature of the housing deficit in the country, as well as measuring sanitation coverage and compliance.
A Population and Housing Census (PHC) commonly referred to the complete count of the persons and housing units found in a country on a fixed date (which is the Census Night). This all-important date will be the reference for all information to be collected on the population and structures during the census and will mark the beginning of the enumeration phase of the census exercise.
Ghana’s Census will use a de facto concept in which people will be counted where they are present on Census Night (27th June 2021) in order to provide a ‘snapshot’ of Ghana’s population on this date. The enumeration will take place within a 14-day period from the 28th June to 11th July 2021. The enumeration will be preceded with the listing of all structures which has been scheduled to start on 13th June 2021. This is an exercise that assigns unique numbers to all structures and identifies all the households and institutional population therein. In this exercise, people are not required to move to their hometowns or some other locations to be counted. Trained Field Officers will visit homes and institutions to elicit the relevant Census information. The Field Officers will enumerate every structure, whether occupied or not and every individual whether a Ghanaian or non-Ghanaian provided he or she spent the Census Night within the borders of Ghana.
The Census is a priority development activity and requires the needed support of all and sundry. The present efforts show that the Government of Ghana remains committed to the conduct of this 2021 Census, as required by Clause 34 of the Statistical Service Act, 2019 (Act 1003). All the other major players have not just pledged their unflinching support to make the census succeed but also assured to sensitise and mobilise their base through education and other efforts. The overarching goal of the 2021 PHC is to collect complete and accurate census data. This will involve correctly identifying, counting and compiling specific information on the characteristics of every structure irrespective of the use to which it is put; every household within the structure; every individual whether within a household or in an institution; every type of accommodation (whether permanent, long-term or transient, such as hotels, hospitals, prayer camps or prisons); in every part of the country.
The objective of complete coverage, aligns perfectly with the “Leave No One Behind” agenda of the SDGs. To this end, the cooperation of all the populace (those who will be called upon to answer the census questions) is paramount. We each have the responsibility to avail ourselves for this listing and enumeration exercise within the one month period.
The conduct of the Census is both a legal obligation and civic responsibility to do so. GSS is obliged in Clause 3 of the Statistical Service Act, 2019 (Act 1003) and the United Nations Principles and Recommendations governing national censuses to provide comprehensive, reliable, quality, relevant, accurate and timely statistical information to guide national development. In the same vein, it is compulsory for all who are called upon to provide their data to do so, whether households, individuals or institutions. On accuracy of data, you can truly help by making yourselves available to answer the questions about yourself and your dependents and eagerly provide accurate information as will be required.
Therefore, I call on everybody to fully rally behind the GSS to provide a more credible and quality data for our dear country. GSS has assured of the confidentiality of the Census data and the fact that the data will be used for only statistical purposes. In the same vein, I urge the general public to also look out for miscreants. No payments is to be made to any person to become a Census Officer and no payment should be made to any individual for providing responses to the Census questions.
The Government Statistician and the Chief Census Officer, Professor Samuel Kobina Annim, giving an update on census implementation, among others said census implementation activities have been ongoing for almost three years and key preparatory activities necessary for the exercise have been completed. These include demarcating the country into smaller geographical areas (enumeration areas), recruitment and training of trainers and district data quality management teams, and procurement of logistics. He also assured that recruitment of enumerators and supervisors, and preparation of tablets for data collection are ongoing and will be completed within the next couple of days. Indeed, a lot of efforts and resources have gone into the preparation of the 2021 Census.
Therefore, the country cannot afford to lose the money invested into the Census, neither can we afford to lose all the preparatory efforts that GSS has performed over the three year period. Rather, we need to reap the full benefits of the efforts gone into the Census preparation by giving the relevant support to GSS to achieve the overall Census goal. In this regard, You Count So Get Counted.
The Writer is Head of Census Methodology Workstream
Works at the Ghana Statistical Service