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Sunday, 1 July 2012

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Population growth declined to 0.7 percent

Sri Lanka's population as at March 21, 2012 was 20,277,597. This is an increase of 1,480,340 persons or 7.9 percent compared with the 2001 Census which covered only 18 districts and an estimated population in the other seven districts.

The Department of Census and Statistics (DCS) last week released the first report of the 14th population and housing Census. The report reveals vital demographic data covering all provinces in the country after a three-decade lapse and this is the first Census that covered the North and East Provinces. After the 1981 Census.

The Census carried out in February and March 2012 is titled 'Census of Population and Housing 2011'. The 2001 Census excluded the North and East Provinces due to terrorism which prevailed. The latest Census report gives socio-economic and demographic as well as politically important information to decision makers.

The population in the Western Province is reported as 5,837,294 and in the Northern Province it is 1,060,023. A population of over two million is reported from Colombo (2,323,826) and Gampaha (2,298,588) districts while Kurunegala (1,611,407), Kandy (1,368,216), Kalutara (1,214,880), Ratnapura and Galle (1,059,046) districts reported populations of more than one million.

The annual average population growth rate is 0.7 percent which is a further decline compared to 1.0 percent in 2001.

The lowest population growth rate has been reported from the Nuwara Eliya district with 0.05 percent and followed by Colombo with 0.35 percent. The 1.33 percent population growth rate in the Anuradhapura district is the highest in the country.

Although the population is growing, there is a continuous declining trend in the annual average population growth.

According to historical data, a baby boom was reported in the 1950s and an annual average population growth rate reported at the Census held on March 20, 1953 was 2.8 percent and was the highest since the first Census held on March 27,1871. Thereafter,the population growth rate has been continuously on the decline.

Higher population growth rates are reported from the Dry Zone districts. Relatively high population growth rates in districts such as Gampaha and Kalutara may be due to migration people seeking job opportunities in Colombo.

The lowest growth rates were reported from the Nuwara Eliya and Badulla districts which cover the estate sector.

Lack of employment opportunities and the return to the North and the East after the end of terrorism may be the reasons for the trend, the report said.

The Western province is the most populous province in the country where 28.8 percent of the country's population is living while the Northern Province has been ranked as the least populated province with only 5.2 percent.

The total population in the Western Province is 5,837,294 and it is 1,060,023 in the Northern Province. The population density of 3,438 (persons per square km) has been reported from the Colombo district and the lowest from the Mullaitivu district.

This year the Census was conducted using the *de jure* method or by enumerating persons at their place of usual residence. All other 13 Censuses were conducted using the *de facto * method which enumerate persons at the place on the night of the Census. This change of the Census method has created issues when comparing data. The report clarifies this and says that difficulties faced by policy makers and operational issues have compelled the Department to change the Census method. If the *de facto* method was used, the demographic data especially in the North and the East provinces would be changed because security personnel would have to be counted at the location they were on the night of the Census.

In the *de jure* method, the place of usual residence of a person for Census purposes has been defined as " a place where a person has been continuously living for more than six months or intends to stay for more than six months continuously'".

The *de jure* method used this year gives more realistic data for long-term planning, an official of the DCS told the Sunday Observer. However, this report gives only preliminary information of the Census, as proper data processing has not begun due to technical issues.

Officials said that scanning survey questionnaires have not yet commenced and the Department was still looking for premises to begin work.

The second report will also be on demographic information such as age, sex, ethnic and religious distribution of the population will also be released soon. However, it will take some time to release vital economic and social information gathered in the Census unless data processing is speeded-up.

 

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