Why is the national census conducted, and why is responsible participation critical?
Population censuses are conducted every decade in accordance with international standards and generally accepted practice. This ensures the comparability of census dates and also enables the results for the next decade to be summed. The last census took place in 2009; the current one was scheduled to take place in 2019 but was postponed to 2021 due to uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.
The census process is divided into three stages: the preparatory stage, which ran from 2018 to 2020, the main stage, which began in 2021, and the concluding stage, which is scheduled to run from 2022 to 2023. Preliminary work is required before data collection begins. This is followed by equally important and meticulous data processing and analysis, as well as the publication of aggregated data.
According to the Bureau of National Statistics’ press service, as of October 28, the census covered 18,663,838 people, or 98.1% of the country’s population. That is, approximately 361 thousand people, or 1.9% of the population, have remained outside the purview. However, with over 552,000 people interviewed on October 28, the survey of the remaining 361,000 people appears to be well within reach.
In the regional context, the city of Almaty had the highest coverage – 108.9 percent or 2,183,534 people. A similar situation has developed in the Zhambyl (102.2%), Almaty (102.1%), Turkestan (101.5%), and East Kazakhstan (101.1%) regions, as well as in the city of Shymkent (101.4%). However, it is critical to understand that, within the framework of the census methodology, in addition to permanent residents, the survey is conducted by those who temporarily left the country, as well as non-residents who were in the country at the time of the census.
Digital census – a fad or a necessity?
Given the acceleration of state processes’ digitalization over the last two years, it was decided to conduct a census using modern digital technologies. First and foremost, this reduces the risk of coronavirus infection spreading.
The first method is to conduct an online survey on the sanaq.gov.kz website. The site is available 24 hours a day for self-passing the census for individuals and their family members. Automatic data entry reduces the time required to complete the survey and also eliminates filling errors. The online census was accessible from September 1 to October 30.
The second method is the traditional continuous census from October 1 to October 30, conducted among those respondents who did not complete the online census. Notably, interviewers are equipped with electronic tablets with embedded arithmetic and logical controls.
And the third is a control round of 10% of respondents, which will last until November 8. This step is necessary to verify the coverage and accuracy of the data.
Thus, on a technical level, the census is made as accessible as possible, while also minimizing errors and ensuring the safety and security of confidential data.
Unexpected but important questions for the state
The widespread integration of information systems, as well as the shift to a platform-based approach to Govtech development, will enable the conduct of a so-called register census in the future, which is an end-to-end comparison of data stored in various information systems. However, at the moment, a “house-to-house” survey at the source of information is needed, conducted directly with individuals, to fill in the gaps in socio-demographic statistics. For instance, the high level of the shadow economy makes it impossible to estimate the population’s real incomes. Perhaps the results of the proposed universal declaration of income and property will serve as a source of such data in the future. On the other hand, even if state information systems contain separate data, the data collected at this level of detail will enable the updating of statistics and to identify inaccuracies and errors.
The census forms contain 87 questions, 67 of which are mandatory and 20 of which are for clarification. However, as a result of the integration with eGOV, an individual answers 50 questions on average.
In compiling the questions, the Bureau’s experts were guided by both international standards and the “gray areas” of state information systems.
The Conference of European Statisticians on Population and Housing Censuses, the United Nations’ Washington Group on Disability Statistics, and the materials of the CIS’s Interstate Statistical Committee were all considered. In general, the current census includes both standard questions relevant to the state’s study of socio-demographic processes, such as incomes, employment, and migration issues, as well as issues raised by the current agenda, such as the impact of the pandemic on the population’s level of income and ethno-cultural characteristics.
A separate large block of questions is devoted to public health parameters. As such, child and infant mortality remain significant issues in Kazakhstan. Infant mortality, according to various sources, ranges between 6 and 20 children per 1000 births, putting us on par with Nicaragua, Uzbekistan, Ecuador, and Samoa. Specially designed questionnaire questions will enable causal relationships between socioeconomic parameters and infant mortality (occupation/income/place of residence) to be tracked. This enables policymakers to develop sound economic policies.
The preceding section considered only one possible application of census data. Simultaneously, there are numerous pressing issues of state and economic planning. How many schools, kindergartens, and hospitals should be built in any given community? What will the population’s age and gender composition be in a year, five years, ten years? How many employment positions need to be considered? What will be the state’s budget expenditures to meet its social obligations? How many square meters are required for citizens to live comfortably?
With that in mind, the issue of quality questionnaire completion becomes critical. It is important to recognize that each citizen who participates in the national population census makes a significant and valuable contribution to the planning and development of the state’s social programs.
Thus, the value of this census lies in the fact that it will make it possible to find out not only the real situation in the country, but also make it possible to predict the situation in many aspects of demographic, social and political life. Due to its universal coverage and extensive program, the census is a non-alternative source of various information about the population, not only as a whole, but also for each of its administrative-territorial units.