Kenya's census will reveal key data for planners

Monday August 24 2009

President Mwai Kibaki is shown the physical location of State House by the Kenya Population and Housing census enumerator, Collins Opiyo (R) shortly before the enumeration exercise at State House, Nairobi. PHOTO/ PPS

President Mwai Kibaki is shown the physical location of State House by the Kenya Population and Housing census enumerator, Collins Opiyo (R) shortly before the enumeration exercise at State House, Nairobi. PHOTO/ PPS 

By NATION Team

The Kenya national census that kicked off on Monday night is expected to confirm key economic and social trends that will greatly aid development planning for years to come.

It is expected to reveal that the current Kenyan population stands at nearly 40 million, as stated on Monday by Planning minister Wycliffe Oparanya, but ballooning to 60 million in the next 30 years.

President Kibaki on Monday evening kicked off the 2009 Kenya Population and Housing Census.

Vital for planning

The President started off the census, led by Mr Oparanya and Kenya National Bureau of Statistics director-general Anthony Kilele at 6.05 pm.

President Kibaki said he was delighted to participate in the count, and appealed to Kenyans to support it because it was vital for planning and development of the country.

The counting will take place between 6am and 10pm daily until August 31. The census will produce key data vital for planning on education, health, housing, agriculture, food production and other social and economic indicators.

It will reveal, for instance, that free primary education has greatly boosted school enrolment with attendant impact on health, fertility, economic status and other social characteristics.

Latest data before the census shows that primary school enrolment rose from 5.9 million in 2002 to 8.3 million last year.

But on the negative side, the census may also reveal that the number of jobless Kenyans has grown by about five per cent in the past three years.

Labour force

Figures from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics show that from an estimated labour force of 14 million, only 1.9 million were recorded as formally employed in 2008.

However, at least 8 million people are estimated to be in informal employment. The number of unemployed youth in Kenya could rise to 14 million over the next seven years, with the number currently placed at slightly above 2 million.

Kenya’s unemployment nearly trebled from 6.7 percent in 1978 to 19.9 in 2006. It is currently estimated to be standing at 12 per cent.

Depend on others

The census is also expected to confirm a rise in the number of people who depend on others for a living.

Government data shows that the number of people aged below 15 and above 65 — that is outside the working age — is higher than what it was just two years ago.

According to the bureau’s Well-Being in Kenya: A Social Economic Profile prepared last year, Kenya’s overall dependence ratio stands at 80.1 This means that there are 81 people depending on every 100 working-age people.

The census will also confirm that 54 per cent of a total population estimated at nearly 40 million people are aged below 19 years.

With another group of Kenyans — those aged above 65 — unlikely to be in no productive employment, the country is sagging under a high number of dependants who will put heavy pressure on the working class and government efforts to feed the hungry.

Demographic expert Dr Agwanda Otieno says fewer people were having the purchasing power meaning the number of dependants was high.

“Efforts to feed the food-poor people will depend on the government’s ability to stock enough grains in the stores,” he said of ways to tackle increasing dependence.

“We need targeted plans to handle the rising number of dependants.

The Treasury will this financial year spend about Sh24 billion on pensioners, a figure that could swell as the ageing population continues to grow.

Kenya’s youthful population has about 14 million children aged 14 years and under.

However if trends hold, the number of dependant Kenyans will reduce by more than half over the next 30 years.

The US data published in a report titled “An Ageing World” released this week shows that the median age of Kenyans would increase to 21 years in 2020 and to 30 years in 2040 from the current 18 years.

The bureau also predicts that the country’s population will have increased to 40 million by next year and will grow to 60 million in the following 30 years.

On life expectancy, the average lifetime in Kenya as among most other African countries is about 55 years. On average, an individual born in a developed country can expect to outlive his or her counterpart in the developing world by 14 years.

The ageing population will also bring an increase in mortality from cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and various hypertensive diseases. In addition, chronic diseases like diabetes are expected increase as well.

The census may also confirm that after a decline, the fertility rate — the number of children per woman — is rising again to world record levels.

Studies carried out this decade have shown that the average Kenyan woman is getting more children than she was in the previous two decades. Fertility had dropped from 8.1 births per woman in 1978 to 4.7 in 1998 when the Kenya Demographic Health Survey (KDHS) was conducted and noticeably when the last census was carried out.

The fertility level rose to 4.9 in 2003 and is thought to still be rising to around 5 with an unexplained explosion of many young women resorting to unprotected sex.

The government has responded with radical measures such as promoting the emergency contraceptive pill for teenagers girls.

Reported by Gatonye Gathura, Samuel Siringi, Lucas Barasa and Oliver Mathenge