Population Censuses In Myanmar
The word “CENSUS” comes from the Latin word “CENSERE” which means to value or tax. The practice of census-taking, in some form or another, is almost as old as civilization itself. Most of population counts were for military, labour or tax purpose.
The modern population census may be defined as the process of collecting, compiling, evaluating, analyzing and publishing demographic social and economic data about the entire population of well defined territory at a specified time.
By international agreement, census consists of an enumeration of population in a given area at a given time. Questions may be asked concerning certain characteristics of each person, such as age, sex, marital status, etc.
Therefore, census usually provides the data on number and composition of a population at a given time. The essential features of census are Simultaeniety i.e. enumerating within the defined territory refering to the same point of time, Regularity that is taking censuses regularly every ten years or five years, Individuality is “every individual is enumerated separately and the characteristics recorded separately,” and Universality is “every individual residing in the defined area are included in the enumeration”.
The most fundamental source of population data comes from the population census (to determine size and composition) In fact, the very purpose of a census in modern times is to produce statistical data on various aspects of a population.
A complete coverage of the entire country at a point of time is the unique feature of a census and portrays a cross-sectional picture of a population
at a given time. Thus, population census is the primary source of basic national population data required for administrative purposes and for many aspects of economic and social planning and research. Census data are used for constructing life-tables and analyzing economic development and also are the basic for estimates of future trends in population growth, future population and its age-sex structure and are extremely useful for national, local and public planning.
In Myanmar, popualtion counts were known to have taken place since 500 BC, during the era of King Thadodipa Mahadamayaza of the Tagaung Dynasty. During the Konboung Dynasty (1752-1885) the Myanmar sit-tans were taken again by King Bodaw.
The first modern population census was carried out for lower Myanmar in 1872 under the British administration, as a part of Indian census. Thereafter censuses were taken every ten years starting from 1881. The 1872 and 1881 censuses covered only lower Myanmar. 1891 census and ubsequence censuses were taken for the whole of the country. Regular decennial census taking was carried on up to 1941. The methodology of taking these censuses was explained by Dr.R.M Sundrum as a combination of three procedures:
(a) in the fully administered areas, defacto method or enumeration of persons who were actually resident in those places as of midnight on the census date,
(b) in the loosely administered and sparsely populated areas, the de-jure method or the enumeration of all people normally resident in those areas; and
(c) for the remaining parts of the country, estimates were made by the administrative officers.
In 1953 there was an attempt to take the first post-independence census by stages, stretching over the period 1953-55. The census of 1953 was successfully conducted in urban areas of that time. The census of 1954 covered only 15 percent of the rural population.
The first stage census was taken in 1953 and covered only 252 towns. The second stage census, taken in 1954, covered 2143 village tracts in Burma Proper and 1016 village tracts in Kachin State mostly adjoining the town area. The third stage planned to be taken in 1955 was abandoned due to unsettled conditions of the country.
The first nation-wide census was conducted in April 1973 on a de-jure basis. The census covered about 85.1 percent of total area and 97.1 percent of the total population. However, neither fertility nor mortality related questions were asked in this census. Exactly ten years after the 1973 census, Myanmar conducted another census.
This census covered 96.6 percent of total population. In this census two types of questionnaires were used, a short form and a long form. The short form, which was asked of 80 percent of the total population, includes only seven basic questions: name, relationship to the head of the household, sex, age, marital status, race and religion.
The long form was administered to the remaining 20 percent, which was selected randomly. The long form questionnaire included, in addition to the seven short form questions, eleven questions concerning demographic, socio-economic and fertility characteristics.
Both the 1973 and 1983 census adopted the de-jure method. The censuses were taken during 1-5 April and the census date was set to be midnight of 31 March of the respective years. Enumeration teams were sent, prior to the enumeration time, to hill tracts and remote areas where communication was difficult. If necessary, extension of period beyond the scheduled date was allowed.
The household population and institution population were enumerated on the first four days and the moving population such as the homeless and the boat dwellers, were enumerated on the last day. The moving population in those areas in 1973 and 1983 censuses were 2.9 percent and 3.4 percent respectively.
During the planning stage of population census, the persons responsible have to;
(1) decide on the system of enumeration to be used,
(2) fix the date of the census and set out the pre-census programme,
(3) decide on the type and content of the questionnaire,
(4) test all forms and procedures including final pretest,
(5) prepare detailed maps and list all dwellings;
(6) recruit and train the field staff,
(7) plan the programme for processing of the data,
(8) inform the public and obtain their co-operation.
Under the provision of the Census Act of 1972, the government was vested with full power to conduct the census and to appoint personel and organization at various administrative levels. Using this power, the government appointed the Central Census Commuttee with the Deputy Minister for Home and Religious Affairs as chairman and the other deputy ministers in the cabinet as members to conduct the 1983 census. Subsequently, Central Census Committee formed census committees at state/ division, township, ward and village tract levels.
Census committees at different administrative levels were given full responsiblity for enumeration, supervision and control of the census work in their respective areas. The census committees had the chairman and secreatary of the people’s councils as chairman and secreatary of the committee respectively. The Department of Immigration and Manpower was charged with the responsibility of taking the census.
Hence, the 1983 consus was conducted with the following objectives;
(a) To obtain reliable population statistics needed for implementing economic and social planning and administrative services for the country;
(b) To provide government institution with important social, economic and demongraphic information required to fulfill their respective functions;
(c) To make basic scientific analysis and research on the current state of population such as size, composition, distribution, growth and changes;
(d) To provide a basic frame for future social, economic and other sample surveys.
Concerning the field work, enumerators were largely drawn from the Lanzin Youth members, with the help of the Lanzin Youth central organizing committee; high school and University students, school teachers and other government employees were recruited as supervisors. Armed services and people’s police force personnel also helped in the enumeration field work.
Each enumerator was assigned to cover a census block consisting of 250 to 400 persons and a supervisor was appointed for every five enumerators on the average. About 170,000 enumerators and 34,000 supervisors were employed in the 1983 census. They all were given intensive training including practical work.
Data processing of the census returns and publication of the results were done at the office of the Census Division, Department of Immigration and Manpower. Some 500 temporary staff were recruited and with their assistance, the filled-in questionnaires were manually edited and coded. The information was then entered into two mini computers: each with one mega byte of memory and 29 Visual Display Units. Captured data was then transfered to the third and more powerful mini computer with two mega byte of main memory for machine editing and tabulation. The mini computers were donated by the United Nations, software packages for editing and tabulation were the courtesy of the U.S Bureau of the Census.
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