World Population Day 2013
Today–July 11–is World Population Day 2013. The International Year of Statistics and its nearly 2,100 participating organizations in 124 countries are spotlighting the important contributions of statistics and statisticians to quantifying the world’s ever-changing population.
Statisticians in every country around the world contribute significantly to providing more, better and timely information about population-related issues and concerns to the appropriate national governments and international organizations, like the United Nations (UN).
Through Sunday the Statistics2013 website will feature several items that will illuminate the role of statistics and statisticians around the world in conducting national censuses that help national governments and international organizations, like the United Nations, plan and develop resources and programs that benefit a countries citizens or more broadly the world.
By the United Nations Statistics Division Census Team
The world’s population currently stands at 7 billion and, according to the United Nations World Population Prospects 2012 Revision, is expected to grow to 8 billion in the next 12 years. These figures point to an unprecedented situation in terms of current occupants of the world as well as expected future growth and resultant number of inhabitants.
We are now, therefore, at a critical point in the history of mankind when population issues are again at the centre stage as the international community is in the last stages of assessing the implementation of the United Nations (UN) Millennium Development Goals while at the same time working to shape a people-centred vision for the post-2015 Development Agenda.
The case for adequate quality population statistics has, therefore, never been stronger. At all levels of society – national, regional and international – there is a convergence of interest in population matters as governments and agencies want to know not just the numbers but also the human capital of their populations. Consequently, population is not just numbers, but about people and their socio-economic characteristics in terms of where they live, their education level, participation in the labour force, fertility and mortality levels, migration trends, living arrangements, living conditions, etc.
Population Explosion: The Concern of All Nations–A young official explaining the census questionnaire to a group of members of a residence committee in the Five Pagoda District in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia. The largest census ever undertaken was conducted in July 1982 in China where about a quarter of the world’s population lives.
Recent decades have witnessed concerted efforts at the international level towards improving social and economic conditions of populations in the world’s poorest countries. Most notable among these efforts is the framework of the Millennium Development Goals through which governments in many developing countries around the globe as well as the international community have monitored achievement of these goals. The success of this monitoring has relied tremendously on availability of the requisite social and economic data on the population concerned.
Assessing the quantity and quality of human capital and of associated future levels and trends requires sustained investment in good, quality statistics on different socio-economic aspects of the population. One of the main sources of data on the population and its characteristics is the population and housing census. The census is vital for generating information, up to the small geographic level, which is useful for presenting a full and reliable picture of the population in a country in terms of its demographic, social and economic characteristics as well as its housing conditions.
On the international front, censuses are an invaluable source of data for monitoring of the Millennium Development Goals and other national poverty-reduction strategies which have created a huge demand for periodic, regular and timely data for the monitoring and evaluation of such programmes.
Recognizing censuses as vital sources of data for effective development planning and objective decision-making, the UN eight years ago adopted the 2010 World Programme on Population and Housing Censuses. It aims at ensuring that each Member State conducts a population and housing census at least once in the period from 2005 to 2014 and disseminates the results. To date, 202 countries have conducted a census for the 2010 round, enumerating an estimated 90% of the world population.
In spite of the noted successful implementation of the 2010 census round, countries still face challenges in conducting censuses for the round. The biggest challenge is in terms of the ever-increasing census costs which have resulted in many countries posting their censuses at least once during the round. This has implications for the timely availability of data on the populations of affected.
It also is recognized, however, that concerns about the cost of the census, as well as the timeliness and quality of the results, has led to countries becoming more innovative in terms of how they compile their census data and also in the technology that is being used in all phases of the process.
As these innovations bear fruit, there is more timely and good, quality data on national populations and their characteristics. It can be anticipated that the successes of the 2010 round, in terms of innovations, will lead to more improvements during the 2020 round and to the availability of more frequent and better quality population data.