The only missing thing for register-based census is the completeness of the registers

It is important that our data is trusted, says Ihor Verner, Chair of the State Statistics Service of Ukraine

Authors:

VoxUkraine spoke with the Chair of the State Statistics Service within the online forum “Census based on registers in Ukraine: challenges, opportunities, the road ahead”, organized by the State Statistics Service of Ukraine together with the United Nations Population Fund in Ukraine. Ihor Verner told how Ukraine is preparing for the next census and whether it is possible to quickly move from a traditional census to a census based on registers.

Experimental statistics

In the new version of the law on official statistics, the State Statistics Service proposes to add an article on experimental statistics, which is designed to study new data sources. Before including them in the established methodology, it is necessary to conduct a pilot project. This requires appropriate legislation.

Last year, the State Statistics Service took part in an experimental estimate of the population in three ways under the leadership of Dmytro Dubilet. The population estimate, according to mobile operators’ data, was close to that provided by the State Statistics Service (excluding the temporarily occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions). However, such an estimate can be accurate only at the level of Ukraine. If you “go down” to the regions, the error will be very significant. Besides, the gender and age structure of the population, which is calculated by the State Statistics Service, coincided with the CEC, the Pension Fund, and the Fiscal Service registers data.

Data quality

The State Statistics Service operates in accordance with the Plan of State Statistical Observations. In fact, for this purpose the state spends budget money for its maintenance. All of these observations have a carefully developed statistical methodology. It is publicly available on the website of the State Statistics Service and has been verified by international experts.

Ukraine has already had two rounds of the adapted global assessment of the State Statistics Service methodology. It was carried out by Eurostat, UN and international experts. After verification, they provide the results of an adapted global assessment, according to which we make a plan to eliminate deficiencies or simply implement the recommendations that they provide us with. It is important that our data is trusted.

The conversation took place within the framework of the online forum “Census based on registers in Ukraine: challenges, opportunities, the road ahead”, organized by the State Statistics Service of Ukraine together with the United Nations Population Fund in Ukraine with the media support of VoxUkraine.

Population size: what’s wrong

The State Statistics Service conducts a monthly population estimate. Why the estimate? Because in Ukraine, as in most countries of the world, the main source of information about the population of both the country and individual regions or settlements is the census. Therefore, the inter-census period is about the result of estimates (calculations).

The previous census in Ukraine was conducted in 2001. Almost 20 years have passed since its holding. During these years, large-scale economic, social, demographic and migration processes have been observed in Ukraine, which significantly affected the quantitative and qualitative composition of the population in regions, districts and settlements. Therefore, an error has been accumulated in the current calculation data.

During the calculations (estimation) of the population, the number of newborns is annually added to the data obtained during the census and the number of those who died is subtracted. The population is also affected by migration, so those who arrived and (importantly!) registered their place of residence are added, and the number of those who deregistered their place of residence is subtracted. With the abolition of the residence permit institution (in 2001 — ed.), a large number of people who do not register at their current place of residence, or do not even have any registration at all, appeared. In order not to “lose” such people at the moment when they deregistered, until they start to be registered at the new place, they are counted at the old one. This is where the error in the distribution of the population “on the map” arises.

The migration error in Ukraine is not investigated and no one can say how many people with an unregistered place of residence live in Ukraine or do not live at the place of official registration. The State Statistics Service did not conduct such an estimate, in part because we do not have a mandate to conduct it.

The current calculations of the population are made by the State Statistics Service only on the basis of administrative data received by the territorial bodies of the State Statistics Service from the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine (birth and deaths records) and registration authorities (information on registration / deregistration at the place of residence). 

That is, when making current estimates, the State Statistics Service includes only those persons who have passed official registration and the relevant documents have been received for processing by the state statistics bodies.

For this reason, there is a problem with taking into account internally displaced persons in the statistics. As the legal acts of Ukraine do not provide for marking the registration of IDPs’ place of residence in their passport document and filling in IDPs’ information on registration / deregistration of residence, as well as marks on a person’s belonging to the category of IDPs in death and birth records. To put it simply, we know where to “add” them, but we can’t “subtract” them because we can’t verify where they actually came from.

Why do we need a census

Usually a census is associated only with measuring population. But it is not so. The census also assesses the living conditions and socio-demographic characteristics of the population: how many people live, where they live, where they work and whether they work at all, what is their education, marital status, ethnic origin, language characteristics, etc. Do they have amenities, gas, water, heating in the house.

Author: Ukrinform  

 

Then these data can be compared by regions and settlements and thus we can understand not only the size of population, but also its needs and characteristics. What policies should be implemented by the Ministry of Regional Development and the Ministry of Economy given the location of the workforce? Where should trade be developed, where should schools be built? And even how to arrange the administrative-territorial structure of the country? Census data are needed for reasonable decision-making.

By the way, the census is the only way to determine the number of people who do not work in Ukraine, but work seasonally abroad.

Thus, census data is an important information resource necessary for the implementation of tasks assigned to public authorities, development of forecasts and programs of socio-economic development and informing society about the current socio-demographic situation in the country.

When the census will take place in Ukraine

The UN recommendation is to conduct a census at least once every 10 years. This is needed to understand and regularly monitor global demographic trends. Ukraine has conducted only one census since the independence, in the 2000 census round. Unfortunately, Ukraine has missed the 2010 round.

In December 2019, we conducted a pilot census (in Obolonskyi district of Kyiv and Piskivska ATC in Borodyanskyi district of Kyiv region), which was held for the first time using innovative data collection technologies: the Internet and electronic tablet devices.

We still need to prepare for a full-fledged census. We have developed a tool for collecting data on the Internet and for tablets, but we also need to create software for data processing, because we will have a lot of source tables and data sections.

We hoped to conduct an All-Ukrainian census in 2020, but it was postponed in part due to the Covid-19 pandemic. At the same time, the Government is currently considering a proposal from the State Statistics Service to postpone the census conduction date. We are still making it for the 2020 census round (it lasts until 2024 — ed.).

We plan to conduct the future census by the traditional method using modern technologies. The State Statistics Committee has built a complex system of information protection and received a positive conclusion of the state examination for this system. The first stage of the census will be the respondent’s opportunity to fill out a questionnaire about themselves on the Internet by verifying it with a qualified electronic signature. The second stage is to visit the premises where the population lives, by the enumerators with tablets (if you have already filled out the questionnaire on the Internet, it can be confirmed by a code phrase).

What will they ask you

Census issues are regulated by the Law of Ukraine “On the All-Ukrainian Census” and have not changed since 2001. By the way, the Law “On the All-Ukrainian Population Census” is the only normative act in Ukraine that allows collecting data on the ethnic origin of the population of Ukraine and understanding the places of compact residence of ethnic groups. 

Due to the fact that much has changed in the legislative field since the last census, difficulties may arise during the census conduction. For example, 30 years ago a person graduated from college and believes that he/she has a secondary special education. Now there is no such educational level. Therefore, the enumerator should explain to the person how to correctly indicate their level of education, as well as the specifics of answers to other questions of the census paper. Enumerators go through special training to be able to explain this correctly.

Must be noted that the filling in of census questionnaires is carried out on the basis of messages received from respondents, without their documentary confirmation.

Cathedral of the Bulgarians in Melitopol. Source: Our Melitopol 

 

The cost of the census

According to our calculations, the cost of the next traditional All-Ukrainian census, if it took place in 2020, would be UAH 5.4 billion. The main expense item is the salary. We planned to pay the enumerators not the minimum wage, but the average monthly salary (about UAH 12,000 — October 2020 — ed.). It takes about 60% of the pledged money. This money will go to our citizens, who will work as enumerators, and then to the economy of Ukraine.

In addition, about 98,000 tablets need to be purchased for the second stage of the census. After the conduction of census, they can be transferred to schools, social workers, medical institutions, and the police. For example, back in 2018, the Deputy Minister of Social Policy said that they have a project for social workers, but do not have the resources to buy these tablets. The final decision on the transfer of equipment will be made by the interdepartmental commission on assistance in conducting the All-Ukrainian census, established under the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine. And this is also an investment in Ukraine, an investment in its development. 

Occupied territories

Together with the United Nations Population Fund, we are working to gain the support of international organizations that would conduct an independent assessment of the population in the occupied territories of Ukraine (parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea). Similar technologies have been tested by our colleagues in Afghanistan and other countries where there is a war and where it is impossible to conduct a continuous census throughout the country.

But first it is necessary to conduct a census in the territory that is not occupied. And already on the basis of these data it is possible to compare the corresponding temporarily occupied territories with the territories controlled by the government of Ukraine, for example, by means of satellite pictures. In this way, it is possible to obtain fairly accurate quantitative estimates of the population.

Source: NASA GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER 

 

Involvement

Elderly and lonely people are especially welcoming to visit enumerators. At the same time, according to the results of a pilot census, about 4% of people refused to participate in the census. But during the pilot census, there were also cases when a person initially refused to participate in the pilot census, and later came to the instructor station and asked to be re-registered.

Verification

It is planned that some people (those with a qualified electronic signature) will be able to take the census online by filling out a questionnaire online. Usually, at the end of such a questionnaire, a numerical code is indicated, which should be told to the enumerator, who will go around the homes so that he understands that the person has already filled out the questionnaire. However, in Ukraine, some people, due to their beliefs, avoid the use of numerical codes, so for the verification phrase we picked the lines from the works of famous Ukrainian poets, which are much easier to remember and then to tell the enumerator. For example: “And the yellowed leaves were blown away by the winds” by Taras Shevchenko. Or “Beat this rock, let neither heat nor cold stop you” — this is Ivan Franko.

What is missing for the census conduction

Unfortunately, there is currently no Address Register in Ukraine. And the principle of the census is such that during the Internet round a person uses their qualified electronic signature, enters a password, chooses a residence address from the list. At the same time, the identifiers of this particular house and premises (coordinates, year of construction, wall material, etc.) appear, so a personal account is created, where the respondent has the opportunity to enter information about themselves and their household. There is no time limit of filling out the questionnaire and it has a very user-friendly interface, in particular, a “tree” of the household is built, family ties are shown, etc. The same use of the address applies to the second round of the census.

It should be noted that in accordance with the decree of the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky from 2019, such an Address Register must be created. However, it still does not exist — there is a list of addresses in the CEC, there is in Ukrposhta, but it is impossible to use them for the needs of the census. So we decided to make an address directory by ourselves. Now it holds more than 10 million addresses, and we fill in and update it every day. It is planned that in the future, each address and building will receive a GPS link on the map. 

Work on linking addresses to GPS coordinates was scheduled for October 2019, but was not completed due to the lack of funding. Even tablets have already been purchased, but, unfortunately, we could not just recruit people and give them this task at their discretion. Why? Because the terms of this work, namely the compilation of quarterly lists of buildings, the establishment of the relevant powers of specific performers should be determined by the relevant regulations of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine. 

Linking addresses to GPS coordinates on a map is needed to assess and distribute the workload of temporary census staff: the number of residents in the buildings, the distance between the buildings, and to monitor the work of enumerators and the progress of the census. In particular, to control that during the census the enumerators could not “conduct the census” while sitting in their kitchen. They must come to the building. Then the GPS sensor responds, and a questionnaire for the census opens. And the relevant information about the fact of visiting the building comes to the instructor-controller or to the head of the census department. 

About the census according to the registers

Only one thing is missing for the All-Ukrainian population census — the completeness of the registers. We have a large number of them in the country, but they have a key drawback — the lack of the required number of records and a single identifier, which is needed to conduct a census by registers. 

The Unified State Demographic Register (USDR) contains a unique record number. But so far there is no information about a significant number of people who have not yet received a new foreign passport, passport of a citizen of Ukraine in the form of a card or other documents that are issued using the tools of the Register. 

In some registers there is no geographic distribution of the population, that is, we know how many of us there are, but where Ukrainians live, we can not say. In addition to data from the register of buildings and addresses and the USDR, the census requires relevant data from the registers of the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Pension Fund, and the State Register of Taxpayers, to understand the movement and number of people, and to be able to connect and verify data.

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The authors do not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have no relevant affiliations