Statistics in Focus: Trinidad and Tobago’s National Population and Housing Census

Sunday 26th July, 2020.
Source: Sunday Business Guardian
Author: Central Statistical Office

A national population and housing census is the complete count of the population and living quarters in any given area, territory or country. The census is conducted on a decennial basis – every ten years – and is the most complex and costly activity that a statistical office can undertake.  The data collected are essential to developmental planning, crisis response and improved governance.  The purpose of the national population and housing census is to serve as the primary source of data on a broad range of demographics about the national population and the housing stock (type, composition and access to amenities).

In this article, we will discuss the history of census taking, the benefits to residents of Trinidad and Tobago and the advances in the technological approach to be undertaken in the conduct of the census.

In 1844, a mere six years after the official end of the slave trade and right before the arrival of indentured laborers from India, the very first census was taken in Trinidad and Tobago. It was repeated in 1851, before it began to be conducted on a decennial basis.  Two events disrupted the decennial conduct of the census:

  • World War II
  • The Trinidad and Tobago general elections of 2010.

Trinidad and Tobago has a longer history  of the of census taking than most Caribbean countries and as a member of the British West Indies, was often responsible for the preparation and disbursement of census guidelines for other countries in the English-speaking Caribbean through the Regional Group Census Coordinating Committee.

Over the years, the data collected via the national censuses have been extended to include data on the living conditions of individuals and households. It is therefore important that all residents cooperate fully when called upon to provide census data to facilitate the informed development of economic and social policies that meet the needs of the population.   

The next national and population census is scheduled to occur in 2022.

Data collected via a national census have a broad range of applications. The government will use the data to inform budgetary allocations for developmental areas such as education, infrastructure, social security, health and national security.  On a national policy decision-making level, for example, changes in population growth, age and gender demographics will directly impact upon specific policies related to National Insurance, roadway construction, the building and outfitting of schools and health facilities. At the local level decision making can also be more finely catered to the needs of communities such as the provision of health clinics, libraries, recreation facilities and much more.

The census is also a good tool to inform businesses on investment decisions as it relates to opening new factories, storage and re-distribution facilities, shopping centres, offices and branches. This will, in turn, facilitate the creation of more jobs and services.  Community organizations may also use census data to better plan their outreach programs and provide assistance for the disenfranchised.

It is important to understand that all data collected are confidential and anonymous so individuals should not hesitate to answer honestly and accurately as this information will benefit both you and your community for the next decade.

In 2011 the national census, was administered using:-

  • face to face interviews conducted by two thousand five hundred enumerators with paper based data collection (Paper Assisted Personal Interview style {PAPI})
  • emailed survey instruments
  • telephone interviews, and
  • self-enumeration

Altogether this resulted in an 89% response rate.  

The data collected from this exercise was then scanned using Teleform Software by the CSO to improve processing time and enhance turnaround time for the release of the census data.

In 2022, an updated census enumeration system will be utilised to facilitate greater efficiency and maximise response rates. This will be achieved through the application of a Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI) approach whereby the interviewer uses an electronic device such as a laptop, tablet or phone to enter the data which can then be immediately and securely transmitted (real time data collection) for storage and further processing.  The CAPI approach is now increasingly being used for data collection by national statistical offices worldwide. The use of CAPI will enhance the efficiency of the collection, processing and analysis of data. CAPI will further enhance processing by geo-referencing the addresses to the CSO Geographic Information Systems (GIS), which will significantly improve census mapping and therefore improve the overall quality of data collected.

The CSO is cognizant of the current impact of COVID19 and is therefore taking measures to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on its staff and residents of Trinidad and Tobago.

The CSO wishes to assure the population of Trinidad and Tobago that all census data will be collected stored, processed, analysed and disseminated in a manner that protects the security and confidentiality of the data.    The CSO looks forward to your cooperation to ensure that the 2022 national and population census is a success for the benefit of all.

Central Statistical Office

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