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Australia & China both mistaken in PNG

The poverty of PNG’s 6-question census



WEWAK - The national population census has begun in Papua New Guinea, with the entire process scheduled to be completed in two weeks by 30 June.

From what I heard from PNG’s development partners during a briefing at the World Bank office in Port Moresby, a census questionnaire usually has 70-80 questions.

This year’s PNG census has only six questions.

A census is a fundamental exercise in governance and development, aimed at counting every individual in a given area to understand demographic trends, allocate resources effectively, and inform political decisions.

However, I am concerned this truncated approach will fall short of capturing the data necessary for the government to plan effectively for the nation’s future and work towards achieving its development goals.

The six questions included in the census are straightforward:

  1. Name
  2. Relationship to head of household
  3. Gender
  4. Date of Birth
  5. Marital Status
  6. Citizenship

While these questions provide a basic snapshot of the population, they are insufficient for a thorough critical analysis and planning effort.

To understand the shortcomings of the census, it’s useful to look at the array of information typically gathered and how this data can be used.

Comparing multiple censuses for the same location enables planners to determine how areas are changing, aiding resource allocation, infrastructure development and urban planning.

Collecting data on their educational attainment and literacy are crucial for tailoring education and training.

The World Bank report on the standard of education in PNG was alarming, and this census would have been an opportunity to verify its findings and plan accordingly.

The census questionnaire also failed to capture important information that could assess changes in rural and urban areas, essential for regional development and infrastructure planning.

It also neglects data on people’s jobs and labour force participation, crucial in informing economic strategy and identifying skill shortages.

Also missing is information about living quarter characteristics to aid in planning housing and community facilities.  

This is especially important in cities like Port Moresby where settlements are popping up like mushrooms.

The exclusion of questions on educational attainment, occupation and migration patterns also leave significant gaps in the data.

PNG's last demographic and health survey (2016-18) was instrumental in formulating government policies and plans.

Its limited scope of the current census will not capture the depth of information required for effective decision-making and planning.

Without comprehensive demographic data, the government’s ability to allocate resources, design policies and implement programs is severely hampered.


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Ross Wilkinson

Duncan's concerns appear to be confirmed by news about the problems arising from the actual conduct of the National Census.

The following article from the ABC indicates the problems occurring with its rollout, including technology and logistical issues casting severe doubt on its success.


Ross Wilkinson

This looks suspiciously like the precursor to the preparation of an electoral roll except the location details are missing unless otherwise identified on the form by the Census Officer

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