Census: Our results are sound – Stats Council

2012-11-01 15:24

The SA Statistics Council came out in force at a press conference in Johannesburg this afternoon, against claims that the census results released this week were inaccurate.

Yesterday, Business Day reported eminent University of Cape Town demographers Rob Dorrington and Tom Moultrie, who were consulted on the census, strongly criticised it as “chaotic and rushed” and containing “unresolved anomalies”.

Professor Moultrie said two areas were problematic – the provincial population estimates which he reportedly said “cannot be reconciled” with data on births, deaths and migration, as well as the age distribution of the population.

He said the age distribution data would have involved a rapidly rising and falling fertility rate if it was true.

But the Statistics Council and statistician-general Pali Lehohla came out in defence of their numbers today.

Statistics Council chairperson Howard Gabriels said that the council “seriously considered” Dorrington and Moultrie’s report but the 17 members unanimously agreed the data was sound and should be released.

“We stand by our decision. The census results are accurate, and in fact they are very timely … They are fit for use in policy-making and decision-making,” Gabriels said.

Lehohla agreed, saying: “This data, having looked at it from all angles, is fit for use”.

Explaining the age distribution statistical anomaly, independent international statistical consultant Dr Griffith Feeney from the US said that he checked the census results against a model he compiled using the birth and death registration data as well as the results of the 2001 census – and his findings confirmed the census results.

“It is surprising, and not expected, but it is not uncommon,” he said.

“You tend to see it in countries where the childbearing rates are low.”

Lehohla said Mauritius displayed a similar age pattern in its population.

Professor Eric Udjo, of the University of SA’s bureau of Market Research, who has consulted on other census projects across Africa, said the data gathering for Census 2011 was better than in previous years.

“Yes, there are weaknesses and strengths in the data but this is not unusual. You have that all over the world,” he said. “Despite weaknesses, the 2011 data are very, very valuable information for planning and decision-making.”

One of those weaknesses is the undercount – 14.6% of people were not enumerated by census field workers.

Wits University statistics professor Jackie Galpin, who consulted on the census, said the undercount existed largely in rural areas, and on farms to which field workers had difficulty gaining access.

The post enumeration survey in which she was involved, which is conducted after the counting has been completed, nonetheless confirmed the results of the original census in areas in which they have been disputed, she said.

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