Population census could be completed before the end of this year
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Acting Director of the Department of Statistics Leona Wilson said yesterday that as statisticians prepare to undertake the population census this fall, it would be “near impossible” to complete a Labour Force Survey until May 2022.
This would make more than two years without statistics on the state of joblessness in the nation.
The Labour Force Survey is usually performed twice annually — traditionally in May and November.
In an interview with Eyewitness News, Wilson said while she understands the concerns surrounding the lack of unemployment statistics amid the ongoing pandemic, especially with claims that joblessness has reached over 40 percent, the resources needed to conduct the population census make it near impossible.
“We know there is interest in the labor force results, but we definitely couldn’t,” she said.
“Because we have limited resources, usually when there is a census year, we usually don’t conduct a Labour Force [Survey] during that year. Now, this has been a particular period because in 2020, we weren’t able to do any one of them.
“We were planning to do the census and at one point we attempted; we said we were going to try to it, but it was no way we would have been able do it. There was no way we could be going to people’s houses trying to do it.
“And even though it’s freer this year, we are preparing for the census and trying to do the two things, it would be practically impossible, given our situation.”
It was pointed out that there has been significant speculation and estimates concerning unemployment without empirical data.
To this, Wilson said: “I understand there is this need for the labor force statistics because you are hearing all kind of stuff. It would’ve been good if we could do a scientific survey…but I don’t see how we’d be able to do it.”
Labour officials have estimated unemployment in the nation is as high as 40 percent, though the substantive minister has asserted that that rate has drastically been reduced since The Bahamas reopened its tourism industry.
Thousands of workers remain furloughed in the hotel sector among the major employers.
While a preliminary Labour Force Survey was released in December 2019 for only New Providence, the last survey for the nation was for the period May 2019.
The December 2019 survey excluded Abaco and Grand Bahama — the two islands hardest hit by Hurricane Dorian in September 2019 — because the population displacement would cause inaccurate data, according to officials.
At the time, New Providence had an unemployment rate of 12.9 percent.
In May 2019, the unemployment rate for The Bahamas stood at 9.5 percent.
Joblessness dropped nationally from 10.7 percent in November 2018 to 9.5 percent in May 2019.
The last census was completed in 2010. The next census was due in 2020.
The extensive survey captures data from each household in the country.
“The hurricane pushed in back a little bit, but we still planned to do it last year,” Wilson said.
“But then, the pandemic wiped out those plans completely. There was no way.
“We would have liked to be in the position where the US is, where they are doing it [by] focusing on the web during the pandemic, but we weren’t quite in that position.
“We were planning to do personal interviews. Now, we’re planning to use three different methods.
“We’re planning to use the personal interview, but we also want to do some web as well, and telephone, primarily because we are still in the pandemic. Hopefully, we’ll be done in the fall of this year. That’s for the census.”
Unemployment nationally rose from 10 percent in May 2018 to 10.7 percent in November 2018.
In January 2019, statisticians said the department intended to change the design of its Labour Force Survey to provide quarterly reports, beginning in 2020.