The key objective of every census is to count every person (man, woman, child) resident in the country on census night, and also collect information on assorted demographic (sex, age, marital status, citizenship) and socio-economic (education/qualifications; labour force and economic activity) information, as well as data pertinent to household and housing characteristics. This count provides a complete picture of the population make-up in each village and town, of each island and region, thus allowing for an assessment of demographic change over time.
With Vanuatu, as many of her Pacific island neighbours increasingly embracing a culture of informed, or evidence-based policy development and decision-making, national census databases, and the possibility to extract complex cross-tabulations as well as a host of important sub-regional and small-area relevant information, are essential to feed a growing demand for data and information in both public and private sectors.
Educational, health and manpower planning, for example, including assessments of future demands for staffing, facilities, and programmed budgets, would not be possible without periodic censuses, and Government efforts to monitor development progress, such as in the context of its Millennium Development Goal (MDG) commitments, would also suffer greatly, if not be outright impossible, without reliable data provided by regular national population counts and updates.
While regular national-level surveys, such as Household Income and Expenditure Surveys, Labour force surveys, agriculture surveys and demographic and health surveys - to name but just a few - provide important data and information across specific sectors, these surveys could not be sustained or managed without a national sampling frame (which a census data provides). And the calculation and measurement of all population-based development indicators, such as most MDG indicators, would not be possible without up-to-date population statistics, which usually come from a census or from projections and estimates that are based on census data.
With most of this information now already 9 years old (and thus quite outdated), and in the absence of reliable population-register type databases, such as those provided from well-functional civil registration (births and deaths) and migration-recording systems, the 2009 Vanuatu census of population and housing, will provide much needed demographic, social and economic statistics that are essential for policy development, national development planning, and the regular monitoring of development progress.
Apart from achieving its general aims and objectives in delivering updated population, social and economic statistics, the 2009 census also represented a major national capacity building exercise, with most Vanuatu National Statistics Office (VNSO) staff who were involved with the census, having no prior census experience. Having been carefully planned and resourced, all 2009 census activities have potentially provided very useful (and desired) on-the-job-training for VNSO staff, right across the spectrum of professional rank and responsibilities. It also provided for short-term overseas training and professional attachments (at SPC or ABS, or elsewhere) for a limited number of professional staff, who subsequently mentored other staff in the Vanuatu National Statistics Office (VNSO).
With some key senior VNSO members involved with the 1999 census, provides a wealth of experience that was available in-house and not to mention the ongoing surveys such HIES and Agriculture Census that the office has conducted before the census proper. The VNSO has also professional officers who have qualified in the fields of Population and Demography who had manned the project, and with this type of resources, we managed to conduct yet another successful project of the 2009 census.
While some short-term census advisory missions were fielded from SPC Demography/ Population programme staff, standard SPC technical assistance policy arrangements could not cater for long-term, or repeated in-country assignments. However, other relevant donors were invited for the longer-term attachments of TA expertise to the VNSO.