Meaning of Population Census
A population census can be defined as process of collection, reception, assessment, analysis, publication and distribution of demographic, economic and social data, which relate, at a given moment in time, to all the residents of a country or of a well-defined partial geographic area.
Censuses are usually taken every 10 years. Population Census provides information about age, sex, occupation, residence etc. of people living in a particular country at a specific time. The census of 1952/53 conducted in Nigeria was given as 31.12 million people. Another one in 1962/63 gave our population a count of 55.67 million people. In 1973, another account gave a population of 79 million people. Nigeria’s population as at 2004 was 120 million people.
Characteristics of a Good Population Census
1. It must be conducted by the Government of the state or country where the census is taking place.
2. It must be conducted at the same time (simultaneously) throughout the country.
3. It must involve regular counting at specific time intervals e.g. Nigeria’s population taken in 1953, 1963, 1973 etc. i.e. at an interval of 10 years.
4. It must reveal the population of a country at a specific period of time, e.g. Nigeria’s population census as of 1963.
5. It must involve the physical counting of people rather than by proxy.
Types of Population Census
There are two types of population census. They are:
- Defacto Population Census
- De jure Population Census
Defacto Population Census: This is the type of population census which involves the counting of only those who are present physically during census. In this group, only those that are present physically are seen and counted.
De jure Population Census: This is the type of population census which involves the counting of people who have been permanent residents of a specific area. It does not matter whether the person is present or not. This is the population census commonly referred to as counting by proxy.
The Importance or Reasons for Population Census
1. Population Size: Population census helps the Government to know the number of people living in the country and the structure of the population.
2. Revenue Estimates: It also helps in the determination of taxable adults so as to know the amount of revenue expected from that sector.
3. Forecasts Future Economic Needs: It enables the country to forecast future her future economic needs e.g. housing, food etc.
4. Determines the Level of Unemployment: Population Census provides Government with statistics to determine the level of unemployment in the country.
5. Number of Immigrants: The number of immigrants can be known through the statistics gotten from population census.
6. Distribution of Resources: It can assist the government in the distribution of resources e.g. areas of high population like Lagos and Kano will get more resources than areas of low population.
7. Provision of Social Amenities: Population Census gives the Government an idea of the different population in various parts of the country and this will help it in the provision of social amenities like housing, water, electricity, roads, schools, and hospitals e.t.c.
8. Determination of Population Density: Population Census helps the Government to know areas in the country where population per land area is low.
9. Reveals Level of Manpower: It helps to reveal the total number of people who are working. When the level of manpower is high, the economic development of the country is assured.
10. Giving of Aids: It assists the international agencies and Governments in giving aids and other assistance to countries.
11. Investment Decisions: Population Census can influence a country’s investment decision making process. Many investors like to invest in Nigeria because of its high population.
Problems associated with Population Census in Nigeria
1. High Level of Illiteracy: As a result of illiteracy, it has become quite difficult to conduct a successful population census as these people do not give relevant, accurate and useful statistics.
2. Political Problem: Since population census is used in many countries to allocate resources to component states, population figures are usually falsified to enable some state gain more resources than others.
3. High Cost: A lot of money is required to conduct population census. West African countries are poor and do not have enough money to conduct a successful population census.
4. Geographical Barriers: Most communities are inaccessible due to mountains, valleys, hills and rivers surrounding them. This makes conducting the census difficult.
5. Lack of Trained Personnel: Trained Personnel like demographers are not easily available hence the use of untrained persons who do not really have information on how a population census is conducted and this leads to inaccurate results.
6. Religious Beliefs: This is a major problem in some areas during census. Muslim women that are in Purdah are not to be seen by men, such people might not be counted during this process.
7. Tax Evasion: As a result of high level of ignorance and illiteracy, people often give fake and false information during census.