The Cayman Islands’ Census Day is on October 10. This article outlines some of the key elements of the census; the strategic reasons for taking a census and how is the census data kept confidential and secure.
The only source of population and housing data at the district level
The word ‘census’ was derived from the Romans and described the process of registering and rating Roman citizens and their property. Roman censuses began around 435 B.C. and were conducted every five years.
A census in the modern era is the process of collecting, compiling, analysing and publishing demographic, socio-economic and environmental data pertaining to all persons in a country and the national housing stock, at a specified time. For Cayman, the census is the only source of population and housing data for every district. For purposes of Census 2010, Cayman was subdivided into 277 enumeration areas, where each enumeration area comprises 100 households on average.
A census provides a snapshot of a country’s population at a particular point in time: October 10 – the Census Day. This point in time is called Census Day or Census Night.
Why take a Census?
Many social and economic changes have taken place in the Cayman Islands over the past 11 years; the last Census was taken in 1999. Updates are needed to measure changes in birth rates, death rates, gauge the levels and pattern of migration and assess the level of education and skills among residents to meet the demand for labour in the domestic market.
In short, data from the census will help decision-makers in business, government and the public make objective and informed decisions. Census data could impact the demands for social services in the area of health, infrastructure including water, electricity and transportation systems etc.
Census is also expected to provide a new baseline data for Caymanian’s disaster preparedness plans and post-disaster emergency response programmes. Census data would make it possible for such plans to be prepared for specific areas of the country.
Similarly, census data could provide businesses with population and other socio-economic data at the district level, enabling them to tailor their business plans with the needs of a particular target area within the country.
It is expected that international organisations such as the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, International Labor Organization will be relying on the updated Census data.
Largest statistical activity
A census is the largest data gathering activity in any country. In Cayman, its operation involves three phases:
- pre-enumeration activities;
- census enumeration; and
- post-enumeration activities.
Preparation began in 2008 with Cabinet’s approval for the conduct of the 2010 Census. A pilot census was conducted in October-November 2009 to test a sample questionnaire along with the necessary implementing mechanisms. Enumeration will begin on Census Day, October 10, and is expected to last for six weeks. The post-enumeration activities are expected to take one year.
Face to face interviews
Unlike the US Census which, is basically conducted through dropped-off forms, the Cayman Islands Census uses face-to-face interviews. This method is considered as a best practice in ensuring high coverage and quality response. Based on a survey conducted by the Economics and Statistics Office in 2008, face-to-face interview is preferred by a majority of Cayman’s households.
Confidentiality of census information
A key concern of census respondents is confidentiality. The Statistics Law (1996 Revision) was recently amended to tighten the confidentiality of census and survey returns. The law treats census information as confidential. The Statistics Law stipulates penalties of $5,000 and/or one year imprisonment for breach of confidentiality. All field staff and permanent employees of the ESO are required to sign an oath of secrecy. ESO is not allowed by the law to release to parties outside of ESO including other government departments, any data specific to a respondent. Census results will be released and published at the aggregate level (national and district levels).
The census is compulsory by law and every resident household in Cayman must participate. However, It is preferred that residents respond voluntarily to the census questionnaire.
Census quality control
The quality of census data is key to its effective use. ESO has put in place a number of specific measures to ensure data quality. All census workers must undergo extensive training.
Enumerators are required to edit three times their completed forms before submitting their completed questionnaires. Field supervisors are assigned to conduct systematic and random checks on all enumerator, including re-interviews for a sample of households. Area coordinators check on Field Supervisors’ work. A final check is conducted at the ESO: a questionnaire is checked at least three times by ESO staff before the information is entered into the computer and given the final computer edit.
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