Significance of population census in national development planning

Daniel Amateye ANIM

Prior to the commencement of the 2021 Population and Housing Census, the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) and the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) sensitized the citizens about the significance of a population census, and therefore, there is the need for every citizen to be counted in the census exercise. Interesting, according to the Government Statistician, Professor Samuel K. Annim, a section of the population is resisting attempts to be enumerated; a clear violation of the Statistical Service Act 2019 (Act 1003).

In fact, clause 34 of Act 1003 mandates the Ghana Statistical Service to conduct the census. Clause 54 of Act 1003 compels everyone in Ghana to provide credible information to the Census Officials. The critical question is whether or not the education with respect to the census exercise has gone down well with the citizens. If the answer is yes, then, how come others are unwilling to participate in the exercise. It is the considered of the writer that, a more aggressive communication mechanism ought to be employed at future census exercise and any other exercise of national significance. The essence of this article to explore the significance of conducting a population census.

What is a Population?

Population can be defined as the total number of people living in a geographically defined area over a period of time. According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, population is the whole number of people or inhabitants in a country or region or the total individuals occupying an area or making up a whole. Investopedia, however, defined population as a distinct group of individuals, whether that group comprises a nation or a group of people with a common characteristic.

What is a Population and Housing Census?

According to the GSS, a population census is the official enumeration of all persons in a country at a specified time. The enumeration also implies the collection, compilation, evaluation, analysis, publication and dissemination of demographic, social and economic statistics relating to the population. A housing census on other hand is the official enumeration of all living quarters (occupied and vacant) in a country at a specified time. This enumeration also implies the collection, compilation, evaluation, analysis, publication and dissemination of demographic, statistical data pertaining these living quarters and occupants.

The nexus between population growth and economic growth

The correlation between population growth and economic growth has been studied and analyzed by economists and scholars (Heady & Hodge, 2009). Thomas Piketty (2014) stipulates that economic growth always include a purely demographic component and a purely economic component, and only the latter allows for an improvement in the standard of living. In fact, the research on the relationship between population and economic growth has generated a lot of controversy among scholars.

Simon (1990) stipulated that higher population growth rate would result in a larger stock of useful knowledge which would, in turn, facilitate greater per capita economic growth. Jones (1999) indicated there is a positive relationship between population and per capita economic growth. Strulik (2005), however, expressed the view that empirical study conducted by some researchers revealed that population growth is positively correlated with per capita output growth. Per Harrod-Domar Model, population growth forces economies to use their scare resources and savings to undertake capital widening rather capital deepening. The impact, however, is insignificant due to declining marginal return to capital. Mankiw, Roener, and Weil (1992), using Cobb-Douglas economy-wide production function model finds that an increase in the population growth rate of 10% would reduce per capita income in the steady state by 5%. Piketty (2014) noted that, if population growth and per capita GDP growth rate would lead to higher economic growth rates.

It is the considered view of the writer that high population growth could help stimulate economic growth, since there is the high propensity of inducing demand for goods and services. However, without moderate- and sustainable-income levels among the citizens, and also the capacity of local industries to produce goods for consumption, a high population growth will have adverse effect on the government.

Significance of conducting population census

  • Business Purposes.

With a credible and reliable census data, businesses will be in a better position to identify emerging opportunities in the economy. For instance, if at the end of the population and housing census, it reveals that there is a huge housing deficit in the country, firms within the real estates industry can quickly take advantage, more importantly, in the provision of affordable housing units. The banks can equally divert their attention to mortgage financing by designing products to meet demand of clients thereby beefing-up their profits margin. As more profits are made by the banks, it will eventually lead to an increase in government revenue by way of corporate tax. With an increased government revenue, the state will be in a better position to provide essential services leading an improved standard of living of the citizens.

  • Planning Purposes.

Planning is one of the key and critical aspects of development. This is due to the fact that, it aids policymakers to make pragmatic and realistic development plan.  In fact, meaningful planning is largely dependent on reliable and credible available data. The outcome of the census will assist government to be able to ascertain areas of high population density and the kind of essential services such as the provision of pipe-borne water, electricity, construction of roads, schools and hospitals to be provided. It will equally inform government to expand existing facilities at certain areas of the country. It will position government to effectively plan for the “Free SHS” policy currently on going in the country.

  • Socio-economic purposes.

The outcome of population and housing census will assist government to identify the social and economic status of the citizens in the country, more importantly, the identification of vulnerable individuals and households. This will help government to devise interventions necessary to leapfrog the vulnerable in our society from their current socio-economic status. It will equally aid government either to expand the LEAP intervention or increase the amount that is expended to the beneficiaries.

  • Human Capital Development Purposes.

Data on the labour force will assist government to ascertain the kind of skills needed to help the manufacturing and services sectors of the economy. It will as well aid in shaping academic and professional courses at our institutions of higher learning so as to help develop human capital capable of contributing towards productive capacity. The data will equally inform the direction of professionals to be trained. for instance, if the data shows that more hospitals and schools ought to be constructed to augment the health and educational needs of the citizens, then, there will be the need to train more doctors, nurses and teachers.

  • Employment Purposes.

Unemployment is one of the headaches for government. However, it can only be effectively addressed based on accurate and reliable data. The population and housing census will provide data on the unemployed youth in the country. This will aid government to devise realistic strategy to address the employment issue in the country.


The 2021 Population and Housing Census is a very vital exercise in the sense that its overall outcome will aid development planning of the country. However, it is expedient that the Ghana Statistical Service and NCCE should intensify their communication mechanism to ensure that every citizen in the country rally behind the exercise and get counted.

>>>The writer is a Development Economist and Chartered Financial Analyst. Daniel is the Chief Economist at the Policy Initiative for Economic Development. He also the Director of Research and Analysis, B&FT. He can be reached on email: [email protected]

Tel; 0244 476376/ 0201939350

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