6 July 2001
Symposium on Global Review of 2000 Round of
Population and Housing Censuses:
Mid-Decade Assessment and Future Prospects
Department of Economic and Social Affairs
United Nations Secretariat
New York, 7-10 August 2001
Statement from Belize *
Sylvian A. Roberts**
1. Belize conducted a national population and housing census in the months of May and June 2000. Census day was designated as 12 May 2000, and the census slogan adopted was “Every Woman, Every Man, Every Child Counts”. A jingle, bearing the same name and with appropriate lyrics, was prepared for this important event. This jingle was extremely effective in the publicity campaign, arousing the people’s interest and therefore their cooperation to participate in the census activities. This, together with other efforts to fully publicize the census, greatly assisted in maximizing participation. As a consequence, coverage was very high, especially in the areas outside of Belize City.
2. Ensuring maximum cooperation and participation in the 2000 de jure census of Belize was a high priority. From the planning stages, therefore, every effort was directed towards this major goal. It was realized from the start that the best way to achieve this goal was for all the major stakeholders, including the population at large, to be involved in the process as far as was possible. Hence, this underlying theme pervaded all of the census activities. This focus proved to be extremely conducive to the ultimate success that we experienced with the census of 2000. In the current statement an attempt is made to share some of these experiences.
3. We can begin with the experience we had with the National Census Committee (NCC). In past population and housing censuses of Belize, an NCC was established at the preparatory stages. This committee was chaired by the census officer and had a comprehensive mandate, which actually involved assisting with the entire process at every stage of the planning and implementation phases. The committee comprised government agencies, non-government organizations and the private sector. The entire committee met regularly, and the subcommittees, comprising members of the NCC and the Central Statistical Office (CSO), also met as often as was necessary to carry out their specific tasks. Subcommittees included, among others, one for publicity, another for questionnaire design and yet another for training. The work of the subcommittees proved extremely effective. For the national population and housing census of 2000 of Belize, therefore, the National Census Committee was extremely effective. The committee remained active until the preliminary results were compiled. The committee was the first to review and approve these figures before dissemination.
4. Another very good experience Belize had with the census of 2000 involved the strategy to include the population at large, as far as was possible, in all census-related activities. This process of inclusion took the form of information and communication. From the outset, it was realized that the people who would actually provide the information had to be fully sensitized to the usefulness of the census exercise. In this way, they become a part of the process and were therefore more cooperative in all ways. All activities therefore focused on this goal. Hence, concerted efforts were made to “reach out” to the population at large, particularly through the publicity campaign. A variety of strategies were employed here. They included informal presentations by members of the NCC to local authorities and schools, where people were met at the grass-roots level. These presentations proved to be extremely useful, despite the fact that they were time-consuming, especially for the officers involved. In the end, it can be arguably stated that the success of Belize’s national population and housing census of 2000 was a direct function of the efforts to get the population informed and involved in the entire process.
5. Finally, it must be stated that despite all the efforts highlighted above as well as others to maximize the success of the census, Belize did have some sour experiences, particularly in Belize City, which continues to be the largest population centre within the country. A major problem in Belize City related to the calibre of the interviewers. Unfortunately, due to the need to be transparent in the recruitment of interviewers in Belize City, as for other areas, the calibre of the people who applied for these positions left a lot to be desired. Further, the number of applicants in this municipality fell short of the target. Hence, the criteria for selection of interviewers for Belize City were considerably relaxed. As a consequence, many interviewers had to be replaced and the fieldwork in Belize City had to be extended for another six weeks. Post-enumeration checks showed that of all the areas of the country, Belize City had the highest undercount.
6. Nevertheless, the national population and housing census of 2000 in Belize was very successful. By the end of September 2000, preliminary results were released and posted on the CSO’s web site. The address of this website is www.cso.gov.bz. The thorough editing of the database should be completed in July 2001, shortly after which a report on the major findings of the census will be released.