TWO of South Africa’s most esteemed demographers, the University of Cape Town’s (UCT’s) Rob Dorrington and Tom Moultrie, director of the centre for actuarial research at UCT, have strongly criticised the quality of the census, the editing of which they say was "chaotic and rushed" and contained unresolved anomalies.
The two professors were part of a slate of experts requested by the Statistics Council of South Africa — the oversight body of Statistics South Africa — to edit the census data.
Prof Moultrie has raised two areas of specific concern.
The first is with population estimates of the provinces, which he says "cannot be reconciled" with data on births, deaths and migration.
The second is with the age distribution of the population, which to be correct, he says, would involve that the fertility rate rose and fell among some population groups with astonishing rapidity.
He points out that for provinces there is a great deal riding on the estimates of population. Provinces receive the equitable share grant from the national Treasury according to a formula heavily influenced by population numbers. "By our reckoning there are big swings and a great deal of circumspection is required before you start saying which provinces will lose and which ones gain."
However, in response to their claims, statistician-general Pali Lehohla and the head of the council, Howard Gabriels, said of the "esteemed list of global and national experts" involved in the editing, there had been no other misgivings.
At least 12 other experts were on the editing panel.
Prof Moultrie said instead of the Statistics Council or Statistics South Africa paying heed to their opinion, which they expressed in a formal letter, Stats South Africa "rushed" the release of the results. Experts were given insufficient time to work with the data. Although, in their contract they were promised the data on June 30, they were given it on October 10 and had to deliver their opinion nine days later.
Mr Lehohla said it had been noted, that while the other experts had based themselves at the processing centre during the nine days of editing, the two professors had chosen to continue to work from Cape Town.
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