Every ten years, the Statistical Institute of Belize (SIB) conducts a Population and Housing Census, and the next of these is right around the corner in 2020. Today, SIB held a launch at the Radisson Fort George Hotel and Marina to speak about the importance of the census, as well as what Belizeans should expect. Miriam Willoughby, the Census and Surveys Manager at SIB, gave the media a breakdown of the process and the type of data collected.

The census will commence on May 12, 2020, and it should end either in the middle or at the end of July. Enumeration will be carried out across the country by approximately 1,000 field staff, who the SIB will start to recruit as early as next year. The staff will be provided with SIB IDís and T-shirts so that the public can be aware of who they are.

The data for the census will be collected on a face-to-face basis but the collection of information will be conducted with the use of electronic questionnaires which the field staff will have on tablets, rather than the paper questionnaires that have previously been used.

The preliminary count should be available by the end of 2020 and the final report by the end of 2021.

The content of the questionnaires will include demographic information, as well as questions geared at gathering data about migration, disabilities, crime, education, training, employment, marital and union status, fertility, access to information, communication and technology, income, health, housing quality, home and land ownership, water and sanitation, household assets, mortality, emigration, and agriculture.

There will also be a new topic included, demographic participation. This will cover information on the number of registered voters and the electoral division that they are in.

A Population and Housing Census, as defined by SIB, is a count of all persons and housing units in a country at a specified time. This activity involves recording every living person in the country, regardless of their age.

The 2010 census showed that there were 322,453 people living in Belize, and that 161,227 of these persons were males and 161,226 were females. 30% of the population ó the largest percentage of the population ó resided in the Belize District. For 2020, SIB estimates the population will be somewhere around 419,000 people, based on the 5% rate at which they observed the population growing.

The census provides data on several topics including size and location of the population, the gender and age of members of the population, as well as the ethnicity, educational attainment, economic activity, health, and housing and household activities of persons living in the country.

SIB encourages all Belizeans to participate because the information collected, which is confidential, is very important. This information is used for policy, planning, and administrative purposes, as well as for research purposes; and is also used in business, industry and labor and for electoral boundary demarcation.

Willoughby also provided some history on census-taking in Belize. The first recorded population census was in December 1816, meaning that the census has been around for over 200 years. From 1820 to 1835 the census was conducted every 3 years, but after the 1835 census, the next census was not conducted until 26 years later in 1861.
From 1861 to 1960, the census was conducted at irregular intervals; somewhere between 11 to 15 years. Since 1960, however, the census has been conducted every 10 years, except in 1991.