Census Data Explained at Town Hall Meeting in Hpa-an

Two years after the 2014 census was conducted, government officials are just getting around to explaining the point of all those questions that members of the public were made to answer.

On August 31 and September 1, officials from the Ministry of Immigration and Population met with Karen State local representatives and residents at a town hall information session in Hpa-an.

U Yin Htwe, head of Karen State’s Department of Immigration and Population, said the 2014 Myanmar Population and Housing Census was the first real census to be collected in over 30 years. The census revealed that Myanmar has three million less people than previously anticipated.

U Yin Htwe said data from the census, including population counts, can help translate into more targeted and effective policymaking.

“The representatives who attended the info session should know the population in their own towns and village groups and what kind of jobs the residents there do and how many of them are educated,” he told KIC News.

The two-day discussion on the census was attended by about 100 participants, including department representatives from Hpa-an township, UN representatives, village administrators and local residents.

According to the 2014 census, Hpa-an township has a population of 421,575. Kayin State’s economically productive population between the ages of 15 and 64 is significantly lower compared to the Union average (60.7 percent compared to the Union’s 67 percent). Kayin State had the second highest unemployment rate recorded (7.5%), after Rakhine State (10.4%).

Hpa-an resident Nan Myint Tin raised doubts about the accuracy of some aspects of the census, however, due to limitations on collecting some information. About 70,000 residents of Kayin could not be enumerated at the time due to the state’s security situation.

“We don’t accept the unemployment figures. Some of the [people included as unemployed in the survey] are earning money, but they are working abroad so their parents didn’t dare talk about them,” she said.

According to the officials from the Department of Immigration and Population, similar census awareness-raising sessions will be held throughout Kayin State.

The census was conducted by the government with support from the UN population fund. The main results were published in May 2015, with thematic reports released between then and June this year. Religious and ethnic data from the 2014 census were initially withheld due to fears the results would be controversial. The ethnicity data has still not been released. Prior to the count, many international observers called for the ethnicity question to be removed for fear it could fan religious and ethnic tensions.

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