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UN population agency begins Burma census preparations

Census experts from around the globe met in Burma this week to begin preparations for the country's 2014 Population and Housing census.
Official estimates of Burma's population range from 48 million to 64 million people. (Photo: Hein Htet / Mizzima)
An International Technical Advisory Board (ITAB) has been compiled by the UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund. In a press briefing on Friday, ITAB said the biggest challenges would be in meeting the funding gap and awareness of the census.

“A census has not happened for 30 years so you can see it as a challenge or an opportunity,” said Frederick Okwayo, the chief technical advisor. “All the people under 30 have no sense of what the census is and that is why the group is here.”

Minister Khin Yi said that it was important that people knew that the information “will only be used for statistical purposes—it is supposed to protect our people.”

This will be Burma’s first census of its population for 31 years. Previous figures and registers are notoriously outdated; at the 2010 general election thousands of people complained that they were not allowed to vote because their names did not appear on the register, which is in turn taken from the official database that the census works from.

Estimates to the population of the country vary wildly: according to the World Bank, Burma’s population is 48 million; the Asian Development Bank says it is 60 million; and the International Monetary Fund lists the population at 64 million.

The census is estimated to cost US $58.5 million, of which the Burmese government and UNFPA have committed $20 million, leaving a funding gap of $38.5 million.

A pilot census will take place from March 30 to April 10 this year. The group will convene again in the summer to debate the results of the pilot and advise on the ultimate census.

For more background:
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