On Sunday, the Lao Statistics Bureau (LSB), Ministry of Planning and Investment, and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), organized a technical consultation on the draft questionnaire of the country’s 5th Population and Housing Census 2025.
Representatives from line ministries, mass organizations, civil society organizations, and development partners actively engaged in the consultation to ensure that the census questionnaire meets the users’ data needs and the data for national development priorities. This year is critical in census preparation, as two essential tools, the draft questionnaire and the geographic information systems (GIS) and attendant mapping will be developed.
Ms. Phonesaly Souksavath, Head of the Lao Statistics Bureau, Ministry of Planning and Investment, said, “the Population and Housing Census has been conducted every ten years by the Lao Statistics Bureau. The past four censuses have provided important data on the living conditions of our citizens, the health and nutrition of women and children, and identified access to various services for ethnic groups throughout the country.
“The census is an important source of information for evaluating and developing the 8th and 9th National Socio-Economic Development Plans and the creation of the government’s 1st and 2nd Voluntary National Reports (VNR1 and VNR2),” he added.
The Population and Housing Census is among the most complex and large peacetime exercises a country undertakes, where every person is counted. In Laos, the upcoming census will collect data from about 1.4 million households in 18 provinces within three to four weeks in March 2025. It will engage over 13,000 field personnel to complete this work! To support the census, USAID has provided USD 500,000 through UNFPA for technical assistance, monitoring, and quality assurance.
Mariam A. Khan, UNFPA Representative, said, “UNFPA is the lead UN agency that supports census across the world so that quality data is collected in a timely manner, and available for stakeholders. UNFPA will genderize the census and capture data for all population groups, especially the vulnerable groups, those with disabilities, and ethnic groups, ensuring everyone is counted.”
The United Nations Principles and Guidelines of Census suggested that the questionnaire should start at a very early preparation stage. The content of the census questionnaire should be determined by the census data users from all sectors. In addition, factors such as the response burden, confidentiality of individual data, costs, and financial resources available at this moment of economic challenge must be considered.
Mr. Michael Ronning, USAID Country Representative to Laos, highlighted the ongoing partnership between the United States and Laos and urged development partners for additional funding support and collaboration.
He said, “USAID is proud to support the census development process. Accurate and reliable census data will allow for informed monitoring of Laos’ 9th National Social and Economic Development Plan and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as well as being critical to decision-making in planning, budgeting, and policy-making.”
He further remarked, “the census also ensures that diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility underpin Laos’s inclusive development agenda.”
Considering the scale and cost, the census requires strictly sequenced and interlinked interventions. A delay in any intervention has a knock-on effect on subsequent ones. Therefore, all sectors and people are encouraged to participate and contribute to the census process in a timely manner. At present, the census funding gap stands at USD 8 million.