When Nepal conducted its first census in 1911, the country’s population was barely 5.6 million. The 2001 census put the population at 22 million, and the last census in 2011 had shown it to be 26.6 million. Next year’s count will likely total Nepal’s population to have crossed 30 million.
Nearly 110 years ago, when Prime Minister Chandra Shumshere Rana ordered the census, the intention was primarily to find out how many able-bodied men there were who could be conscripted into the military, or offered to the British Army’s Gurkha brigades.
The 2021 census, the first under a federal system, will try to find out how many of the estimated 7 million households in the country today have family members working abroad, gauge their living standard, and probe local conditions.
The Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) is hoping that the Covid-19 crisis will have subsided enough for 43,000 enumerators to fan out across the country from 8-22 June, 2021 interviewing every household and digitally count not just the number of Nepalis, but also find out their socio-economic status.
“We conducted a pilot census this year during the pandemic, and we know what to expect. Even under present conditions we will be able conduct a complete census, observing all necessary precautions,” said Nebin Lal Shrestha of the CBS, speaking at a webinar organised by the Society of Economic Journalists of Nepal on Monday.
With 210 days to go, the countdown has begun. The Bureau has a packed timetable of training events, setting up census offices in all provinces, districts and local municipalities. Unlike in past census, when teachers were deployed as data collectors, this time the CBS put out vacancy notices to select them.
The national census has been held every 10 years, and for the first time this year’s survey will also provide accurate statistics on household property, livestock, profession, migration, income, skilled human resources, access to banking services, health and education status.
Next year’s survey will cost Rs4.5 billion and will have 25 questions in the first part for household data, and the main questionnaire will have 55 questions which will be answered collectively on issues like drinking water supply, electricity, mobile phones, vehicle ownership, property with female ownership, family members abroad and the work they do. The questionnaires will also probe ward-by-ward agricultural statistics about production, markets, income, etc.
The census will also collect data on age, languages spoken, religion, gender, education status, health conditions, and other personal parameters. The 2011 census counted 123 languages spoken in Nepal, including endangered ones like the Kusunda which had only 28 speakers left ten years ago. That number is now down to two.
There will also be a census of buildings, how many are old and new, and differentiate what they are used for. It will include a community survey, one of the first in the world, to access availability of government services, disaster preparedness and access to natural resources.
The census results are expected to show improvements in school enrolment, a lower fertility rate, and population growth rate, and income. The census may also show that Nepal’s ‘youth bulge’ on its population pyramid will be wider. But there may be some indicators, like the sex ratio and migration, that may show lack of progress.
A census is important to update data from the 2011 exercise on the country’s demographic profile so that planners can chart out priorities and a future course. The statistics will also be critical in demarcating electoral constituencies, to determine people’s representatives from the proportional representation quota and to mobilise resources for local development efforts.
Censoring the census, Nepali Times
Counting on Nepal, Indu Nepal
Census 2001, Hemlata Rai