The Population and Housing Census is a vital national exercise linked with provision of data for key policy making matters regarding development programmes, political representation and resource allocation which has far reaching impact.
A national census is mandated by the Constitution of Pakistan to be held every 10 years. After the independence of Pakistan in 1947, the first census took place in 1951.
Since 1951, there have been only 6 nationwide censuses (1951, 1961, 1972, 1981, 1998 and 2017). The first census was conducted from 9th February to 28th February, 1951.
The Dominion of Pakistan (both West and East Pakistan) had a population of 75.7 million, in which West Pakistan had a population of 33.7 million and East Pakistan (today Bangladesh) had a population of 42 million.
The second population census was conducted from 12th January to 31st January, 1961. The population was 93 million, with 42.9 million residing in West Pakistan and 50 million residing in East Pakistan.
The third census of Pakistan was held in 1972. According to the 1972 census, the population of Pakistan was 65.3 million. The fourth decennial Population Census of Pakistan was conducted in March, 1981.
According to the 1981 census, the population of Pakistan was 84.3 million. The 1998 Census of Pakistan was the fifth Pakistan national census and the population of Pakistan was 132.4 million.
The sixth census was conducted in two phases in 2017. According to Census-2017, the country’s total population was 207.7 million, with an annual growth rate of 2.4 per cent.
Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) has started preparatory work to conduct first ever Digital Population and Housing Census.
The main recommendations of the Census Advisory Committee are as follows:
Census must be conducted Digitally with real-time online monitoring & geo-tagging of all structures.
Ensure Universality: Counting of whole population residing in country at the time of the census irrespective of its Status/ Holder of CNIC or not.
De-jure Method of enumeration is recommended (person is enumerated at usual place of residence).
Single Census questionnaire may be administered which should be strictly in relevance to the objectives of Census.
Law enforcement agencies may be used for security but not for enumeration/verification.
Field data collection / monitoring may be carried out by Provincial Governments staff. Comprehensive trainings and involvement of graduate students in the enumeration process is recommended.
Involvement of stakeholders (especially provinces / political parties) from start to end (planning to finalization of results).
Establishment of National Census Coordination Center (N3C) with representation of Provincial Governments for effective monitoring, coordination and policy decisions.
Effective publicity campaign with effective use of social media for clarity regarding the primary objective of census which may begin early and extend right up to the release of the first initial results.
Conduct of Pilot Census for checking the whole process and conduct of Post Enumeration Survey for assessing reliability of data and coverage.
The Census process was to be completed in 18 months/ 540 days. Now, after the completion of country’s first digital pilot census, Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) and National Database Registration Authority (NADRA) have been directed to prepare a draft so that a summary could be sent to Council of Common Interest (CII) and Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for holding digital census in the country for 2023 general elections.
As per recommendations of the Census Advisory Committee, the census questionnaire has been finalized and “Census Monitoring Committee” has also been proposed for monitoring, coordination and policy decisions for smooth conduct of 7th Population & Housing Census.
The Government has been allocated Rs 5 billion in FY-2021-22; the maximum budget will be spent for procurement of hardware for 7th Population and Housing Census-2022.
According to news reports, Director General NADRA said first shipment of devices to be used for the census will land in Pakistan from China on August 20. Subsequently, training of the staff for the census will start.
In this regard, Federal Minister for Planning Development & Special Initiatives Ahsan Iqbal directed the officials to conduct independent verification of the training. He asked them to engage academia and university students in the training process so that students of statistics could learn something. The minister further directed that fresh voters list should be ready by July 1, 2023 for the ECP to hold elections on the list.