The second Population and Housing Census of Bhutan (PHCB), carried out from May 30 to June 1 to collect population data and basic housing information, was an interesting experience for both respondents and enumerators.
Some respondents like Wangdi, a father of two, felt some of the questions were too personal. “I somehow felt some questions were irrelevant like number of rooms and toilets, on whether the family owns a Kyishu Thara and so on,” he said. “It would be best if they focused more on living standard of the household to get the required data.”
Respondent Dorji Wangmo agreed saying that she felt awkward to answer some questions like if she was divorced and the reasons for it. “They even asked if we have wealth and land,” Dorji Wangmo said. “I think their mandate was to know only the number of members in the family and I feel the concerned authority should not be using such questions, which is irrelevant and useless.”
Another respondent Sonam Phuntsho said some enumerators insisted on the presence of every family member although only the family head was to answer all the questionnaires. “I wonder why they asked for our CID number and why they used a pencil to fill the questionnaire,” he said.
Dawa Tshering, an enumerator, said going door to door was difficult being welcomed by aggressive dogs particularly in rural areas and the unfavorable weather didn’t help getting to distant households. “Some of the households were vacant and some people were reluctant to respond and in some cases, children were responding to the questions and it was difficult to get accurate answers.”
He also said that some respondents were of the opinion that few questions were irrelevant and too personal to be answered.
“But it was enriching experiences as for us and it helped in developing interpersonal relationship with the people and it also helped us in developing communication skills,” he said.
Another enumerator, Kalpana Rai, said it took a minimum 45 minutes in each household. “Where the respondents were illiterate it take us so long to explain the question and it was difficult to get accurate answers,” she said. “To make it more flexible and better, it would be good if the concerned authorities provided more practical training.”
She also said that it was very difficult to finish the given number of households, even completing 10 households in a day was difficult.
The census commissioner of National Census Secretariat (NCS), Chhime Tshering, said the 2017 PHCB questionnaire is an outcome of several rounds of consultations with relevant stakeholders.
“The basis for the questions were to gather information on the social, economic and demographic characteristics of the population, which are useful for the policy makers, planners, researchers, academia, civil society organizations and private sector,” he said.
“The information on asset ownership, household characteristics and access to utilities, which are perceived as too personal and private, will be used to determine and assess the asset based wealth index and for estimating poverty and inequality in the country. This information can also be used as a control variable in assessing the effects of variables correlated with wealth.”
On the CID number he said it is a unique number, which will be useful for the NCS to avoid double counting of individuals during the time of compilation and aggregation of the data. On using pencils to enter data he said it allows quick and easy correction when enumerators make mistakes in the field, which would not be possible if using an ink pen. “It is general practice for any survey and census to use pencils for data collection,” he said.
Meanwhile, data collection was extended until 6 June for those households in Thimphu who could not be enumerated during the census period.
The 2017 PHCB report is to be published tentatively in April 2018.