Sunday, 10 October, is Census Day,
the start of a six-week enumeration period to update a portrait of the three
Cayman Islands through statistics.
At its most basic, a census is a
population count; official population figures determined from the census should
be released in April 2011.
But a census can tell so much more.
In fact, the exercise is more properly named the 2010 Population and Housing
Census. Local organisers hope to persuade all residents to take part in the
exercise by providing the information requested. In return, they will make
results available to the public by way of printed material and postings on the
website of the Economics and Statistics Office. That is the entity legally
responsible for carrying out the census, as directed in The Statistics Law.
The Census 2010 Plan, published in
February 2009, predicted that the three stages — preparation, information
gathering, and processing — would in total cost the country $2,150,791.
Details of how that money is spent
and what it will procure were explored in a recent interview with Census
Manager Elizabeth Talbert. She was recruited specifically for Census 2010 after
her extensive experience in Belize and Guyana.
Is a census necessary?
The first topic raised was whether
it is necessary to have a census to find out the Islands’ population. Could an
accurate total not be derived from the Register of Births and Deaths and the
Immigration Department? Definitely not, Talbert said, because there would
inevitably be gaps and overlaps. “Putting it together would be the most tedious
task you could think of — and it would be prone to error.” Even more
important, there is some vital information for which there is no single source.
One example concerns the number of Caymanians leaving the Islands and not
returning. The census can pick up on that data, she pointed out.
For the record, the 1999 Census
reported a population total of 39,410. The government website currently cites
the 2006 figure of 51,992. During a speech in the Legislative Assembly in June,
Premier McKeeva Bush told members that the population had dropped from 57,009
in 2008 to 52,830 in 2009. No less a source than the US Central Intelligence
Agency reports an estimated Cayman population of 50,209 as of July 2010. The
official number coming out of the census is no doubt eagerly awaited by all.
More than a head count
In any event, the census is more
than a head count, Talbert noted. It allows the Economics and Statistics Office
to get a baseline for social indicators and demographics (overall characteristics
of population groups). This information is useful in comparing Cayman with its
own past and in comparing Cayman with other countries.
Some of the 68 questions contained
in the 2010 questionnaire are standard “core” questions that international
organisations such as CARICOM or the United Nations request to have included,
Talbert explained. The information obtained allows for regional and international
comparisons. One example is asking each resident’s country of birth.
Another example is “connectivity”
— how many households have access to the Internet. In the 1999 census, 14,907
households were counted. Of that number, 5,695 (38 per cent) had a computer in
the home. Of these, 4,259 (75 per cent) were hooked up to the Internet. Such
percentages can easily be compared with those in other countries.
Other questions are specific to
Cayman. A Census Advisory Committee was convened in June 2008 to discuss topics
to be included in the 2010 Census. Ronnie Andersson, chief statistician with
the Economic and Statistics Office, was designated chairman. Committee members
and their positions at the time are director, Department of Employment
Relations, Lonny Tibbetts; district commissioner, Sister Islands, Ernie Scott,
JP; deputy permanent secretary, Ministry of District Administration, Planning,
Agriculture and Housing, Jennifer Ahearn; director, Women’s Resource Centre,
Tammy Ebanks-Bishop; chief executive officer, Chamber of Commerce, Wil Pineau;
director, Economics and Statistics Office, Maria Zingapan; director, Children
and Family Services, Deanna Lookloy; Chief Education Officer Shirley Wahler,
and Health Insurance Inspector Sonia Campbell.
Suggestions also came from
consultations outside the committee, from the Department of Human Resources,
the Planning Department and from Cabinet. The wording of the questionnaire was
left to a Document Subcommittee. Talbert said Cabinet received a copy of the
draft questionnaire and vetted it but made no changes. “The census is not
political,” she emphasised. The questions were subsequently tweaked to make
them read more easily.
The topics of the questions will be
listed in a Census Order, which has already been prepared but not yet gazetted.
As soon as it is published with the Cayman Islands Gazette it will be reported
In general, questions will be asked
in the categories of Demographics (age, sex, district of residence); Disability
and illness; School attendance; Educational
attainment (highest grade completed); Union status; Births (to be answered by
females between 15 and 49); Employment (to be answered by individuals 15 and
over); Housing (type of construction); Mortality; Emigration and Immigration.
Talbert appealed to all residents
for cooperation when enumerators come to their homes.
“Open your doors and be counted,”
she urged. “And if you are not counted and we’re in the second or third week,
give us a call and let us know. I want people to want to be counted.” A
resident is anyone living in the Cayman Islands for at least six months, or
having intentions to stay for at least six months.
She emphasised the confidentiality
of the questionnaires and the fact that no names need be given. For purposes of
distinguishing between individuals
within a household, members may refer to themselves as A, B, C or 1, 2 3
if they wish.
“We are not there for legal
immigration status or building codes or anything like that. We just want the
count,” she said.
The recently amended Statistics Law
does provide for a penalty for anyone who refuses to supply the information
required. But in all her years of experience, Talbert said, she has never known
of anyone being prosecuted for refusal to take part in a census.
“We as census takers try as much as
possible to use tact and persuasion. We don’t want to push anybody. To use the
law as a force could bring negative effects. If we insist they tell us
something, they might tell us anything. It makes more sense to use tact rather
than get information that might not be reliable.”
The census workers will be trained
in September on how to administer the questionnaire and develop tactful skills.
In addition, they will have a field supervisor to fall back on. Each will earn
$3,000 on successful completion of their work
All information confidential
Their training will include their
own responsibility to keep all census matters confidential. The same law that
prescribes a penalty for people who refuse to answer census questions also
provides penalties for breaches by the census workers. A worker who uses any
census information for personal gain, or who communicates it without authority
is liable on conviction to a fine of $5,000 or to imprisonment for one year or to
So the preparation stage of Census
2010 is coming to a close. Census workers have been recruited and those
selected should received their invitation to training by this Friday, 20
August. Training manuals have been written; 250 enumeration areas of approximately
100 households each have been defined; the census questionnaires have been
printed. Posters, banners and media announcements have been raising public awareness.
After the data-gathering stage,
which ends in November, the first results published will be the total
population, by district and by gender.
The full census report will take
time, Talbert explained, because the data has to be edited, coded, scanned,
placed on a data base and put in a statistical programme for generating tables
of information. She predicted completion by October 2011.
THE CENSUS IN HISTORY
The New Standard Encyclopaedia
states that the first census was taken by the Babylonians around 8,000 years
ago. Other sources argue that it was only 4,000 years ago.
It’s not clear what the Babylonians
called their exercise, since the word “census” comes from the Latin “censere”,
to assess, referring to the registration of citizens and their property in
One of the most widely-read
references to a census is probably the Bible, Chapter Two of the Gospel of St.
Luke: “Now it happened that at this time Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a
census should be made of the whole inhabited world”, which prompted Joseph and
Mary to travel to Bethlehem, where Baby Jesus was born.
The Domesday (or Doomsday) Book was
compiled in 1086. The oldest surviving public record in England, it was more of
a survey than a census, for as History Magazine (October/November 2001) reports,
“women rarely appear.” Still, from
information about land holdings, buildings, tenants, villagers and so on, the
population of England was estimated as 1.5 million. The article states that the
detail of Domesday was not surpassed until the introduction of censuses in the
early 19th century.
The first census in the United
States took place in 1790. A major purpose was to determine how many
representatives each state would have in the lower house of the national Congress.
Article I of the US Constitution mandates a census every 10 years, referring to
it as an enumeration.
The first census in Cayman is
accepted to be the count made by Edward Corbet in 1802 at the request of
General George Nugent, governor of Jamaica. Mr. Corbet reported the number of
inhabitants, whether White or Coloured, the number of slaves owned, and the
area of residence. Total population of Grand Cayman was 933, of whom 545 were
reported to be slaves. Mr. Corbet advised that the Islands of “Little Cayman
and Cayman Brack” were altogether uninhabited and almost inaccessible.
Cayman’s most recent census was
conducted in October 1999, when the population was determined to be 39,410,
with 1,822 of those residents in Cayman Brac and 115 in Little Cayman. The
usual 10-year interval between population counts was not followed because of
General Elections in May 2009. The Census Plan put forward by the Economics and
Statistics Office in 2009 explained that it is “considered best practice not to
conduct a statistical survey as large as a census in the same year of a
significant socio-political event.”