Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) is mandated by law, in terms of the Stats Act No. 6 of 1999, to collect reliable statistical information from the public, which informs development and democracy in the country. Stats SA conducts the Population Census, and several other household-based surveys such as the Labour Force Survey (LFS) and the General Household Survey (GHS) on an ongoing basis.
Until recently, South Africa collected census information from the public every five years. As such, the previous two censuses undertaken in 1996 and 2001 generated diverse demographic and socio-economic information that provided insight into the performance of government programmes. The provision of information collected through these two censuses has also inspired high expectations from data users regarding the availability of statistics at a high geographical resolution.
However, the magnitude of carrying out censuses previously weighed heavily on the capacity of the organisation to deliver on other core areas, as key personnel were being drawn to assist during the census peak time.
Key lessons from Census 1996 and 2001 had pointed out at a lack of proper planning and lack of time to implement key activities as major blocks towards a successful census.
In terms of planning, it requires at least five years lead time to plan for a proper census. There was no lead time for Census 1996 and 2001 as well as for a census which could be held in 2006.
A series of discussions were therefore held in Parliament to discuss the above matter. As a result, Cabinet took a decision to have census on a ten-year cycle with a large-scale household survey being undertaken in 2007. This move by Cabinet meant that the country will have its next Census in 2011.
Following Cabinet’s decision to introduce a mini census in the country, it meant that Stats SA had to come up with a new survey that will collect demographic, economic and social data at municipal level across the country. It is envisaged that the data collected through this new survey will assist different spheres of society and government with better planning, policy evaluation and monitoring.
Community Survey 2007 is the name of the mini census. It is the first of its kind in the country. While the main survey (Community Survey) gets underway early next year, a pilot project to test the instruments and the methodology was conducted earlier this year. Part of the plan is that Community Survey 2007 will also be used as a springboard to Census 2011.
Community Survey 2007 is not only a measure of development trajectory that South Africa has undertaken since 1994, it is also intended to elevate difficult questions around the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of the United Nations for which South Africa has committed itself to achieving since the 1990s.