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By Marizka Coetzer

Journalist


‘Sums don’t add up’ – Census 2022 faces undercounting concerns and funding implications

Some South Africans have taken to social media claiming they were not counted.


With many South Africans not having seen a census enumerator during last year’s count and an estimated population undercount of 31%, the exercise was more like a survey than a census and it will be difficult for the government to use the 2022 numbers for planning. A development economist from Stellenbosch University, Anja Smit, said the results of the census formed the backbone of government funding allocations and all population-level planning for the next 10 years. ALSO READ: Census: 62 million people ‘stretch coffers’ – Expert warns of economic pressure “It forms the basis of funding allocations to provinces via…

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With many South Africans not having seen a census enumerator during last year’s count and an estimated population undercount of 31%, the exercise was more like a survey than a census and it will be difficult for the government to use the 2022 numbers for planning.

A development economist from Stellenbosch University, Anja Smit, said the results of the census formed the backbone of government funding allocations and all population-level planning for the next 10 years.

ALSO READ: Census: 62 million people ‘stretch coffers’ – Expert warns of economic pressure

“It forms the basis of funding allocations to provinces via the provincial equitable share (PES) allocation,” she said.

Because of this, it was essential to get the count as close to 100% of the population as possible. On social and other media this week, after the results of census 2022 were made public, many people expressed concern about the process.

‘I was not counted’

They have taken to social media to question the census process claiming they were not counted. One of those was Kobus Rossouw from Hoopstad, Free State, who said he didn’t recall being counted.

“I also don’t remember seeing any census volunteers because many people work during the day,” he said.

Rossouw said he didn’t think the census figures were accurate because he didn’t know anyone close to him who was counted.

ALSO READ: 2022 Census: Job loss and family conflict major factors in SA’s homelessness crisis

Marina van Tonder from the Eastern Cape agreed, saying she had also been skipped during the census count last year.

“I don’t even know when the census happened, because if it did, I was definitely not part of it,” she said.

Sharon Nagel from Maokeng in the Free State said: “Nobody here was counted. We didn’t see a single soul.”

Smit said the information released by Statistics SA shows an undercount of 31%.

“It’s then almost closer to a survey than a true census and means it will be hard to use the numbers for government planning,” she said.

“I am unsure how the quality issues around the census will be resolved. It potentially opens up the PES process to contestation.”

ALSO READ: Census 2022: City of Tshwane reports highest homeless population

Smit said there will certainly be provinces that may feel they are getting less than their fair share of money, given the size of their populations.

“The census was done at an extraordinary time during the Covid pandemic and it therefore faced more challenges than usual,” she said. “However, I think more should have been done to reach a larger percentage of the population, given the central importance of statistics collected for all government planning and funding allocations.”

Census results ‘should be accurate’

Economist Dawie Roodt said the results of the census should be very accurate.

“It’s usually very accurate. One does not have to be physicallycounted to form part of the bigger picture,” he said.

Roodt said statisticians had techniques and means that they could use to make certain determinations, for example, to determine what the rest of the population looks like.

“You don’t have to count them all, but you have to count as many people as possible because the more people you count, the more accurate your information is,” he said.

ALSO READ: Census 2022: 37.6% of population completed matric

Roodt said the statistics were used to determine where to build schools, hospitals or new roads, according to population growth.

“Another example would be the minister of finance using this to determine how many funds were allocated to which province,” he said.

But other experts said not everybody had to be counted in the census process for the figures to be accurate.

62 million South Africans

The country’s statistician-general Risenga Maluleke said there were 62 million South Africans last year versus 51.7 million in the last census survey in 2011.

University of South Africa senior researcher Dr Sibusiso Mkwananzi, who has a PhD in demography and population studies, said no census in the world could count every single person. That’s why the census included a figure referred to as undercounting.

ALSO READ: Population increases to 62 027 503

“To account and adjust the census results for this is something called a post-enumeration survey (PES) after the census,” she said.

Mkwananzi said the PES findings were done in places x, y and z. The original census results were compared to the survey results and adjusted accordingly.

– marizkac@citizen.co.za

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