South African Statistics Council: Statement on Census in Western Cape

The South African population census of 2022 is nearing the end of mop-up activities, namely chasing down missed appointments, or reminding people to complete their online census, and so on. For the most part, the South African Statistics Council is encouraged by good rates of completion despite rains and flooding, Covid, the lack of rental cars, and the various challenges that have faced Census 2022.

However, Council is especially concerned with low levels of enumeration in the Western Cape. Our concern is heightened by the fact that we are seeing a problem specific to a place, rather than consistently appearing across all our systems and provinces. The risks of a significantly   under-enumerated province is that the Census as a whole will be harmed, and data required by government for new local initiatives – such as District-led development – will simply not be available in places with a low count. If people do not tell us what they need – or what they don’t need or want! – Stats SA cannot advise any government accordingly.

The count in the Western Cape is currently below 70% of households, and if it remains at these levels, it will affect the validity of the census results in the province. While the true coverage error, a measure that mainly occurs when people are not counted (undercount) will be determined by the Post Enumeration Survey (PES) and demographic analysis of the census data, it is inevitable that the current omission of households and individuals in the Western Cape will affect the total count, including demographic, social and economic information, as well as information about the housing conditions of the people who live in the Western Cape.

It is important to note that census results are the basis for budget allocations across local, provincial, and national government. The repercussions of prevailing undercount are worrying for planning and service provision in the province. Stats SA has extended the count period in the Western Cape to reach more households. The web-based service – the ability to complete the census online and in your own time – has been extended for all Western Cape residents to 14th May. Face-to-face enumeration will also continue until the 14th.

We appeal to the population of the province to get counted. It is in your self-interest (let government know your needs), the broader public interest (ensure Western Cape has a robust set of numbers) and the national interest (an accurate census that can accurately inform policy).


David Everatt, Chair, South African Statistics Council

Nompumulelo Ndzimande, Chair, Population and Methodology Committee

Members, South African Statistics Council