Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
Hostility makes 2011 census most frustrating in decades
It was no easy going for the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) as its workers trudged from household to household in townships and villages to garner data that has formed the 2011 Population and Housing Census that will serve to guide Jamaica in the years ahead.
Crime and violence, raging hostilities from some ordinary Jamaicans, a fierce tussle with census takers and even attacks from some animals conspired to make the April to August 2011 exercise a particularly challenging endeavour for STATIN.
For Dr Valerie Nam, STATIN's director, censuses, demographics and social statistics, the 2011 census foray was the most frustrating that she had encountered in all her 44 years in the field.
Director General of STATIN Sonia Jackson disclosed that the census takers were hampered by the spectre of crime and violence in some areas.
"Crime and violence prevented the data from being collected at nights," revealed Jackson of the exercise which cost the Government $1.58 billion over a three-year period.
Apart from the age-old challenge of resistance to the census takers, Nam told yesterday's launch of the census data that brand new obstacles surfaced.
Nam said chief among the challenges was a tussle with census takers, who took strike action and slowed the process.
Declaring that the exercise was the most disappointing for her, the veteran statistician complained that many census takers were driven solely by money.
"We were expected to pay for what we did not see," Nam asserted. "There was the frustration in collecting the data, and while we are accustomed to fighting with the public, I am not accustomed to a service with the underpinning not for service, all for money."
Nam conceded that the process of assessing the work took time, a reality to which the workers failed to appreciate.
"It is the most contentious combative relationship
In addition to her assertion that the crime and violence in some communities hampered the exercise, Jackson said the proliferation of gated communities, intended to keep out hoodlums, also created its own forms of challenges for her team.
Jackson also disclosed that some of the workers were attacked by dogs.
"Barriers were erected in spite of the very good public education programme that existed," she said. "Generally, the populace was aware."
Horace Dalley, minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Finance, also noted that the failure of STATIN to pay incentives resulted in an unfortunate industrial action, which was evident in his Northern Clarendon constituency.
Dalley lamented that given the invaluable service being offered by STATIN, the entity should not be subject to any shortage of financial resources.
"That should not be so," he declared.
Dalley also acknowledged that the census takers were subjected to hostilities from some Jamaicans who feared that the information would be forwarded to the tax authorities.
"We will have to reach a stage when all of us must accept that we have to share in the tax burden," he argued.
However, he was quick to stress that at this point, the data garnered in the census exercise are not shared with other government entities.
2.69 - Million people living in Jamaica in 2011