South Africa

CENSUS 2022

Deadline extended to 14 May for Western Cape field workers after low provincial tally

Census field workers on 3 March 2022 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Misha Jordaan)

Field workers for Census 2022 should have completed their work in the Western Cape by 30 April. But with only 58% of the province’s population counted, the deadline has shifted to 14 May.

While about 80% of people in the rest of the country have been counted for this year’s census, only 58% of Western Cape residents have been tallied, said Patrick Kelly, chief director for Statistics South Africa (Stats SA). 

That is why the deadline for Western Cape (WC) field workers to complete their work has moved from 30 April to 14 May.

As to why the Western Cape is lagging behind, Kelly said there were a range of factors, including not being able to recruit enough field workers. It has been difficult to recruit workers in affluent areas “because a lot of people in those areas didn’t think it was worth it. It’s also a physically demanding job because you need to move from house to house” according to Kelly. 

It was also hard for field workers to do their jobs in areas with gang violence and in such cases, field workers would be accompanied by police officers, said Kelly. 

To assist the province’s field workers, about 2,000 field workers from Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Free State and the Northern Cape were sent to the Western Cape. “They are trained and experienced since they had completed their work in their provinces, so it was easier to bring them in than to start a new recruitment drive,” Kelly explained. 

In a statement released during the week, WC premier Alan Winde said if more people weren’t counted in WC, the province “will be perceived to have a lower population than we actually have, despite significant population growth, and this will impact budget allocations through the Provincial Equitable Share and other allocations and resources raised nationally”. 

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Lower census, fewer resources

“To put it simply, if we do not get an accurate census count for our province, we may have fewer resources available to deliver services in the future, which could impact each and every resident. This is a major risk, which we must avert,” said Winde.

But residents may also have safety concerns regarding having field workers inside their homes. Kelly said he understood the concern and that people can verify a field worker by asking to see their census-branded ID card. They can then check online to verify field workers. 

There’s also the option to do the questionnaire online if people don’t want field workers in their homes. “I know people may be reluctant to do it online, but the information is 100% confidential so there is no need to worry about that,” said Kelly. 

Furthermore, all Stats SA employees are legally bound through signing an oath of confidentiality, to never disclose information gathered in the course of their duties. This oath still applies even after their employment with Stats SA ceases. Employees who don’t adhere to the Statistics Act could face a fine of R10,000 and/or six months imprisonment.

A Daily Maverick survey found that more than 68% of respondents have yet to be contacted by Census 2022 workers. Of 458 Daily Maverick readers that responded, only 143 (31%) had received a visit from census enumerators. The remaining 315 (68%) survey participants had not been contacted by field workers. 

This year’s census is the fourth since South Africa became a democracy. The first was in 1996, followed by 2001 and 2011. 

A population census is typically held every five years, but due to a lack of capacity within Stats SA, it was decided that the interval would be extended to every 10 years. DM

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