Population Censuses In Myanmar

Population Censuses in Myanmar

In Myanmar, population counts were known to have taken place since 500 BC, during the era of King Thadodipa Mahadamayaza of the Tagaung Dynasty. During the Konboung Dynasty (1752-1885) the Myanmar sit-tans were taken again by King Bodaw.

The first modern population census was carried out for lower Myanmar in 1872 under the British administration, as a part of Indian census. Thereafter censuses were taken every ten years starting from 1881. The 1872 and 1881 censuses covered only lower Myanmar. 1891 census and subsequence censuses were taken for the whole of the country. Regular decennial census taking was carried on up to 1941. The methodology of taking these censuses was explained by Dr.R.M Sundrum as a combination of three procedures:

(a)        in the fully administered areas, defacto method or enumeration of persons who were actually resident in those places as of midnight on the census date,

(b)        in the loosely administered and sparsely populated areas, the de-jure method or the enumeration of all people normally resident in those areas; and

(c)        for the remaining parts of the country, estimates were made by the administrative officers.

In 1953 there was an attempt to take the first post-independence census by stages, stretching over the period 1953-55. The census of 1953 was successfully conducted in urban areas of that time. The census of 1954 covered only 15 percent of the rural population.

The first stage census was taken in 1953 and covered only 252 towns. The second stage census, taken in 1954, covered 2143 village tracts in Burma Proper and 1016 village tracts in Kachin State mostly adjoining the town area. The third stage planned to be taken in 1955 was abandoned due to unsettled conditions of the country.

The first nation-wide census was conducted in April 1973 on a de-jure basis. The census covered about 85.1 percent of total area and 97.1 percent of the total population. However, neither fertility nor mortality related questions were asked in this census. Exactly ten years after the 1973 census, Myanmar conducted another census.

This census covered 96.6 percent of total population. In this census two types of questionnaires were used, a short form and a long form. The short form, which was asked of 80 percent of the total population, includes only seven basic questions: name, relationship to the head of the household, sex, age, marital status, race and religion.

The long form was administered to the remaining 20 percent, which was selected randomly. The long form questionnaire included, in addition to the seven short form questions, eleven questions concerning demographic, socio-economic and fertility characteristics.

Both the 1973 and 1983 census adopted the de-jure method. The censuses were taken during 1-5 April and the census date was set to be midnight of 31 March of the respective years. Enumeration teams were sent, prior to the enumeration time, to hill tracts and remote areas where communication was difficult. If necessary, extension of period beyond the scheduled date was allowed.

In April 2014, the Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar conducted its latest census, after three decades without a Population and Housing Census. Despite the absence of censuses, several household based surveys such as Fertility and Reproductive Health Surveys, Family and Youth Surveys, Population Change and Fertility Surveys, among others, were regularly carried out to guide programming and policy development in the country.

Censuses are an important source of benchmark information on the characteristics of the population and households in every country. One unique feature of a census is its ability to provide information down to the lowest administrative level. Such information is vital for planning and evidence based decision-making at every level. Additional data uses include allocation of national resources; the review of administrative boundaries; the positioning of social infrastructures such as schools, health facilities and roads; and research. In addition, a census provides a rich source of data for monitoring national and international development initiatives, including national development plans, the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), and the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). The need for up-to-date and reliable data provided the impetus for Myanmar to conduct the 2014 Population and Housing Census (2014 MPHC).

The Department of Population (DoP) in the Ministry of Immigration and Population (MOIP) is responsible for the management, planning and implementation of the 2014 MPHC. The Population and Housing Census Law No. 19 of 2013 mandated DoP to collect information during censuses from every person, household and/or establishment. Through the Law, census committees and offices were created to facilitate the successful implementation of the planned census activities at every administrative level in the country.

Planning for the Census started in 2011 with assessments of the main components of the entire census taking process. Assessments were undertaken in mapping, data processing, risks associated with census-taking, resource requirements, questionnaire development, communication publicity and advocacy, and lastly, analysis, publication and dissemination of results. These assessments were used to compile the Census Project Document, which guided the implementation of the entire census.

The process of preparing census enumeration area (EA) maps began in June 2012. Township Immigration Officers who prepared the maps were trained on the objectives of the census, the roles of maps in the census process, concepts of sketching maps at Township and ward/village tract levels, and plotting new landmark features on the maps. After merging all topographical sheets that make up the entire country, maps of each of the 330 Townships were printed and distributed to the respective Township Immigration field offices. The Township Immigration Officers then collected information on the total number of households and the population of institutions in each ward and village tract. The collected information was used to delineate census enumeration areas where each enumerator was to be assigned. Maps were drawn for over 16,000 village tracts and wards. In total, 81,750 enumeration areas were created, covering almost the entire country. In a few areas in Shan State, Kachin State and Kayin State, it was not possible to prepare maps using this methodology; instead maps were prepared using satellite imagery.

The development of census questionnaires and field instruction manuals started in July 2012. The process took into account data needs in the country based on consultations with data users, the Principles and Recommendations of the 2010 Round of Population and Housing Censuses, and past experiences of censuses in Myanmar and ASEAN4.

A household questionnaire was designed to ascertain the number of persons in conventional households on 29th March 2014 (Census Night) and to collect demographic, social and economic data. Questions on housing conditions and amenities were also included in the questionnaire. Questions on former household members living outside Myanmar and household members who had died during the 12 months before Census Night were also included. In total, the questionnaire contained 41 questions.

An institution questionnaire containing 11 questions, which were selected from the household questionnaire, was used to collect data on persons in institutions such as hospitals, hotels, prisons, monasteries and boarding schools, as well as the floating population, which included out-door sleepers and those who were at the sea-ports on the Census Night.

Almost all field census personnel were teachers, recruited by the Ministry of Education and Township Census Committees. The assignment of enumerators to the areas where they were to collect data was mostly based on the ability to speak the local language and familiarity with local communities.

Training of field personnel was cascaded at four levels. A team of experts in census and survey implementation was drawn from the DoP, UNFPA, the Australia Bureau of Statistics, the Registrar and Census Commissioner’s Office in India, DRS Ltd and the Department of Social Welfare. The team reviewed the training materials and developed a comprehensive training programme. The team trained core trainers, primarily from the Ministry of Immigration and Population. The core trainers trained the master trainers from universities and other government departments. The master trainers then conducted similar trainings for a team of carefully selected District trainers. These were senior teachers at the State/Region and District levels. The District trainers then proceeded to train supervisors and enumerators at each Township headquarters.

All cadres of personnel were trained for five days. For supervisors, an additional day was added to take them through their roles, field operations, re-interviews, checking for errors in completed questionnaires, and communication and management skills.

The enumerators and supervisors reported to their respective EAs at least two days before the start of the Census. The days before the start of the enumeration were used to identify EA boundaries, check structures and households within each EA, and update information on EA maps and structure listing forms in instances where this was necessary.

The census enumeration aimed to count all persons who were within the borders of Myanmar on the night of 29th March 2014 (Census Night). To achieve this, Township Census Officers, with support from the census committees, made arrangements to ensure that the enumeration of the population in the three key institutions (hotels, hospitals and police/prison cells) was undertaken on census night. The enumeration of the population was satisfactorily completed in almost all States and Regions within the planned 12 days.

Enumeration started in the first week of March, earlier than the rest of the country, in three areas of Puta-O District (Kachin State), Mine Lar Township (Shan State) and Co Co Island (Yangon Region). This was due to a special request from community leaders because of harsh weather conditions, limited access to certain areas and transportation challenges. In Wa Self-Administered Division, the training of personnel was conducted earlier, but data collection took place at the same time as the rest of the country.

The 2014 Myanmar Population and Housing Census was conducted based on the De-facto approach.