The Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) has now decided to hold the 2020 Population and Housing Census (PHC) next year. According to the GSS, the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with the “destabilisation of the population” by the political peak season had necessitated the postponement of the census to next year.
The GSS originally fixed March 15 this year for the conduct of the exercise but it was rescheduled twice to May 15 and then to June 28, this year, with the explanation that the
June 28 date was to allow for the service to conduct a mapping process and build quality data for the main census exercise. Following the upsurge in the COVID-19 cases in the country, the GSS decided that the exercise would be done at a later date within the year.
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At the time the Government Statistician, Professor Samuel Annim, announced the halting of the PHC, he said over 51,000 enumerators were being trained through electronic means in preparation for the exercise when a new date was decided.
But speaking to the Daily Graphic last Monday, the Head of Publicity of the PHC, Mr Francis Nyarko Larbi, said the target now was to conduct the census early next year.
“As of now, the mass voter registration exercise is just ending and immediately after that, there will be political campaigning and that draws us into the December 7 election so we realised that the atmosphere will not be good for a census. We will have to wait until after the election so that we can do it early next year but the only thing is that a date has not been fixed yet,” he added.
Mr Larbi said the steering committee of the PHC was engaging with other key stakeholders after which the date for the exercise would be made known.
He explained that the best time to conduct the census was when the movement of the population was relatively stable which was why the GSS decided that the exercise should be done when the political season was over and by which time the country would have had a better appreciation of the COVID-19 situation.
“There is COVID-19 and so the GSS thought that sending 70,000 people to the field amid the pandemic to go to people’s homes to conduct census would have been disastrous,” he added.
While observing that the postponement of the exercise was unfortunate, he said it was an opportunity for the GSS to prepare adequately to conduct the census at the right time.
“This is not the time to relax and say that there is more time for us. The PHC is a big project so we are still planning and working on other things,” he added.
Mr Larbi said the GSS had already trained officers at the national level through virtual training programmes and the initiative was being replicated at the district levels.
This is not the first time the country has had to postpone the PHC for unforeseen circumstances.
Population census was first undertaken by the British colonial administration in the Gold Coast in 1891. Since then, censuses have been conducted every decade except in 1941 when the 1939-45 World War interrupted the series.
In post-independence Ghana, five population censuses have been conducted — 1960, 1970, 1984, 2000 and 2010.
Per the 10-year interval arrangement, the sixth post-independence census was to be conducted this year.
The main objective of the 2020 PHC is to update the statistical information on the characteristics of the population of Ghana.