A nationwide population and housing census undertaken last year by the the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in collaboration with the Myanmar government provides a comprehensive insight into the people of Myanmar – though at the exclusion of more than 1.2 million people.
The first of its kind in more than three decade’s The 2014 Myanmar Population and Housing Census provides a wealth of information on Myanmar’s 51.5 million people including population size and growth, age and sex, marital status, migration, births and deaths, education, employment, disability, housing conditions and amenities in each state, region, district and township.
Completed at a cost of about $74 million the 2014 Myanmar Census was conducted over a 12-day period with more than 100,000 enumerators visiting almost 11 million households, or an estimated 98 per cent of the population.
The report highlights substantial disparities in living conditions and infrastructure between those living in Myanmar’s 15 regions and states, as well as highlights a worrying birth rate of just 0.89 per cent per year, less than half the 1970s rate and still falling.
Amongst figures released by UNFPA Myanamar The 2014 Myanmar Population and Housing Census found:
- There are 93 males for every 100 females reflecting significantly lower male life expectancy and higher migration by men; Life expectancy is six years longer for females than males.
- Life expectancy at birth, 66.8 years; one of the lowest in Southeast Asia.
- Half the population is under age 27, but the proportion of children has started to fall.
- The average number of children per woman has declined to 2.3 from 4.7 in 1983.
- At 0.89 per cent per year Myanmar has one of the lowest growth rates in the region.
- Infant and under-5 mortality rates are high nationwide (62 and 72 per 1,000 live births, respectively), and nearly twice as high in some states as in others.
- Almost 90 per cent of adults are literate, but in Shan State only 63 per cent are.
- 85 per cent of adult males and 50 per cent of females are in the workforce; unemployment is 4 per cent, and nearly twice as high for those 15-29.
- Only 32.4 per cent of households have electric lights and a third have mobile phones, but 49.5 per cent have televisions.
- Only 69.5 per cent of homes have improved water and sanitation
- Only 2.1 per cent of homes have a flush toilet
- 4.6 per cent of people have a physical or mental disability
- 85.5 per cent of people own their own home
- Only 3.5 per cent of people own a motor vehicle; 38.7 per cent own a motorbike and 35.9 per cent own a bicycle; 21.6 per cent own an ox cart.
- At 76 per sq.km (0.39sq.mile) Myanmar is one of the least densely populated countries in the region
Speaking at the release of The 2014 Myanmar Population and Housing Census UN Special Adviser for Myanmar, Vijay Nambiar, described the completion of the census as a “monumental achievement”.
“For the first time in three decades, and despite many challenges, Myanmar has a reliable demographic profile of its population. Such a profile will be of immense utility for both the development as well as the democratic process in the country”, he said.
2014 Myanmar Census Shortcomings
“While recognising the achievements of the census, we must not overlook some of its shortcomings,” Mr Nambiar said, noting that the official list of ethnic groups used in the census was a source of disagreement and misgivings.
“In northern Rakhine State, a considerable segment of the population was left out of the exercise amid ongoing communal tensions and the demand of many local people to self-identify as Rohingya, a demand not conceded by the authorities.
“Now that the census is over, an equally complex process must begin: the country must build its capacity to use the data for effective planning and decision making; these efforts should help increase accountability and good governance”, he said.
Describing the 2014 Myanmar Census as “one of the country’s most inclusive development efforts to date”, Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of UNFPA, said the results could help the Government and civil society “address disparities and inequalities across and within Myanmar society.
“This achievement would have been even more remarkable if access had been given to all households to be counted, including in northern Rakhine State. We are encouraged that the Government has said that uncounted areas will be included in sample household surveys to be conducted in the near future”, he added.
Some 1.2 million people in Rakhine state were not included in the census due to the demand of many to self-identify as Rohingya. Also not included in the census were some 200,000 people living in Kachin State and Kayin State.
The inclusion of an ethnicity and race question on the 2014 Myanmar Census was widely criticised by some sections of Myanmar society, though the UNFPA who approved the question say they were told everyone would be allowed to self-identify their ethnicity.
However, on the eve of the census the Myanmar government reneged on its undertaking and announced that anyone who called themselves ‘Rohingya’ would not be included. Only those who identified themselves as ‘Bengalis’ would be included, Ye Htut, a spokesperson for Myanmar president Thein Sein said at the time.
Myanmar’s is home to an estimated 1.3 million Rohingya who are not recognised as a citizens despite many of them being born in Myanmar to families who arrived in the country generations ago. A Muslim minority in a land of Buddhists, the Rohingya are regularly the target of violent attacks bordering on ethnic cleansing, with anti-Islamic sentiment being fuelled by ultra nationalist Buddhist monks.
Myanmar has embarked on a determined effort to forcibly relocate Rohingya to segregated camps where their movements and social interactions are severely regulated and oppressed, while access to facilities such as education, healthcare and clean water and food is severely restricted.
Download a copy of the main points of the 2014 Myanmar Census
- UN concerned Rohingya excluded from Myanmar census (The Jakarta Post)
- Myanmar criticised for excluding Rohingyas from census (AlJazeera)
- Myanmar census reveals huge urban-rural divide (The Interpreter)
She was previously a contributing writer to the now defunct student newspaper Swapter.
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