Deferral of the 2021 National Population and Housing Census
Published on: Jul 9, 2021

This Public Notification serves to inform everyone in the country that the 2021 National Population & Housing Census (NPHC) has been deferred once gain to 2024. This is an important event slated for this year hence, the National Statistical Office (NSO) is technically ready to complete the roll-out. After a three-year period of preparation, the necessary technical and logistical measures are in place for the census to proceed. However, as responsible state agency we need to adhere and execute necessary Government measures and strategies in the interest of the nation which has been impacted largely by Covid-19 pandemic.

The notable reasons for the deferment of the 2021 NPHC are:

    1. Papua New Guinea is facing an unprecedented surge in the number of COVID-19 In the past weeks, the numbers have risen across the country, prompting the decision by the Government to impose a two-phased isolation strategy over the space of 4-7 weeks in an effort to contain the spread of the infection. This is a necessary and responsible measure taken by the Government in the interest of the nation.

    2. Nationally, the isolation strategy includes efforts to limit inter-provincial travel, the closure of governmental buildings for disinfection and the more stringent policing of “Niupela Pasin”, including social distancing, mask-wearing, and sanitizing.

    3. The isolation measures come at a critical time for the 2021 NPHC which is scheduled to commence this week. At this phase of the census, the NSO, along with the Provincial Authorities are supposed to conduct the roll-out of training of 2,000 trainers and an additional 25,000 enumerators and supervisors who will be tasked to go door-to-door within their respective enumeration areas asking the agreed census questions. While there will be screening and testing available for the enumerators and supervisors, the exercise carries with it a risk to the enumerators/supervisors themselves as well as for the general public under any stage of this upcoming phase. Should any fall ill, it will add to the burden of an already stretched National Health System.

    4. The NSO has been charged with delivering a quality census that meets international standards, and it has prepared diligently to deliver on this task; however, some situations are unquestionably outside the NSO’s control. The unprecedented spike in the COVID-19 cases nationwide and the escalating number of deaths is such a case. The fear, which is already evident across social media, may prompt some households to refuse to participate in the census, thereby undermining the quality of the census.

    5. Should the census proceed under these conditions the following are main consequential implications:
      It will undermine the Government’s efforts to contain the spread and to limit the potential loss of life.
        • It will also undermine the Government’s commitment and intention to conduct a quality census that meets international standards.
        • Furthermore, without ideal conditions, the quality of the census data may be compromised and thus not justify the considerable expense invested in it by the Government.
        • It will increase the funding deficit even more to three to four times as social distancing has to be considered during the training of about 27,000 trainers, enumerators and supervisors.

Many countries have opted to defer decisions on the census until after the COVID pandemic has been contained. Instead, governments in consultation with NSOs are applying interim measures to ensure that the country at minimum has the statistical framework needed for policy planning purposes, pending the conduct of the full census.

This option is available now to the Government of Papua New Guinea in which NSO will utilize the population model used for this exercise is “remote sensing technology” in combination with available data from selected sources such as the Demographic & Health Survey (DHS).

The NSO will provide a representative picture of the socio-demographic indicators of select parts of the country. This limited sampling can help the Government collect some of the information at a national level that is currently missing for reporting on the Sustainable Development Goals and is critical for the new Medium Term Development Plan (MTDP).

For further information, please contact the Acting National Statistician or the Census Director on the deferment of the 2021 NPHC.

In the mean time we thank everyone for their support and understanding.

This public Notice is endorsed by John Aseavu Igitoi, Acting National Statistician



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