A high-level mission of United Nations experts has reviewed the plans and preparations for the upcoming census of Turkmenistan, due to take place on 17-27 December 2022. Working alongside the State Statistics Committee of Turkmenistan, the delegation— a multi-agency team consisting of experts from UNECE, the UN Statistics Division and the UN Population Fund—found that the preparations are on track for an efficient, modern and complete census of Turkmenistan in line with international standards and recommendations.
A census is a count of every person who usually lives in a country, no matter their nationality or status, and it gathers a range of information about the population and their homes. This provides crucial baseline evidence for formulating and monitoring policies in a vast range of areas: education, health, infrastructure development and economic planning, to name a few. Importantly, as many as 109 of the indicators designed to track progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals require population data for their computation, of which 19 are entirely based on census data.
ECOSOC Resolution 2015/10 urges every country in the world to conduct at least one census during the period from 2015-2024, known as the ‘2020 round’. In fact, conducting regular censuses is considered so essential for sustainable development that doing so is tracked as an indicator in its own right in the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development: indicator 17.19.2(a) measures the “proportion of countries that have conducted at least one population and housing census in the last 10 years”. For the first time, all countries of the UNECE region have committed to conduct a census in the 2020 round.
Conducting a census is a massive undertaking, but the payoffs are also huge. Studies in Australia and New Zealand have found that the benefits to society outweigh the costs of conducting a census by 5-6-fold. The costs are often highest when specialist enumerators conduct interviews with every household in the country; but the use of modern technology can bring these costs down considerably, as well as speeding up the tasks of verifying, processing and compiling the data and turning them into useable statistics. In the case of Turkmenistan, domestically-produced electronic tablets loaded with locally-designed software will contribute to streamlined data collection in the first ever ‘electronic census’ in the country.
As with all official statistics, the benefit of a census derives not simply from collecting the data or producing the figures, but from ensuring that they are made available so that they can be put to use. The UN delegation that visited Turkmenistan worked with statisticians, government representatives, journalists and UN agencies in the country to emphasize the importance of timely, complete and user-friendly dissemination of the census results. Indeed, according to the globally-agreed Principles and Recommendations for Population and Housing Censuses, a census includes by definition “the total process of collecting, compiling, evaluating, analyzing and publishing or otherwise disseminating” the data—so a census can only be called complete when all these elements have been fulfilled.
The experts from UNECE confirmed that the census questionnaire to be used in Turkmenistan complies with the regional guidance contained in the Conference of European Statisticians’ Recommendations for the 2020 Censuses of Population and Housing, and committed to continue working closely with the State Statistics Committee and the UNFPA country office to ensure that the census goes ahead efficiently and accurately in December.