Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.







**You may contact me by e-mail at livinginbarbados[at]gmail[dot]com**

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Census Time

In case you had not realised, it is Census time in Barbados, and survey teams are trying to establish what was the social and economic profile of the country on the night of May 1, 2010.

When the enumerator and her supervisor arrived at my house this morning at around 8am, I had to ask who they really expected to find at home at that time on a Sunday morning. They took my point. Anyway, they explained what they were planning to do and were making introductions first, but then the enumerator would start surveying from the start of the street and come back later. I suggested that she come back to me after noon. My morning was already planned and much as I was willing to answer questions, I'd like to have some breakfast first and get myself spruced up a little.

Well, after noon was well after noon, as the enumerator returned at around 6pm, as the sun was setting, and the moon was coming up. Had she heard me say "After moon?". She gripped her forms and started with her questions. "Who's the head of household?" Well, that is a tricky one to start with. Traditional roles don't run too strongly in our household, and I looked over at the head of household in my eyes and pointed to her. But, before I did myself out of a prize, I asked if there was a definition. None was offered, so my designated one was left to tackle the first salvo of questions.

We are not a standard household in many ways so I was intrigued how our oddities would get dealt with.

Before we got started, our visitor told us how she had been wary about "coming up in here" with all the dogs that were at the houses. I tried to reassure her that none of the houses had bad dogs that roamed freely outside their homes, but she was concerned that where gates were open dogs may be lurking ready to tear her and her forms to shreds. She had, therefore, come with 'back up' in the form of a friend and a car, in case a hasty exit was needed. I did warn that two dogs roamed the streets but as these were mere puppies I thought they would be harmless or a least less harmful. She was not reassured. She seemed unconcerned that she would also have to be in neighbourhoods with no dogs but with people who might pose more of a threat. She shrugged.

So to questioning. Well, not directly. We heard how in some areas people had indicated that they did not want to answer any questions, or they would answer some if a particular person asked them but not another. I imagined that this Census was going to be a tough task, given that many of the surveyors were employed for the job and not permanent staff.

My savvy head of household asked why the form was not on a hand-held computer so that the data could be recorded more efficiently. She quickly realised the job-creating aspect of not doing that.

The questionnaire has some peculiarities and some of the terms caused our questioner to slip a little. She had trouble describing the various forms of roofing, and with some help we agreed that what covered the house was not 'coral' but 'corrugated' sheeting. We were asked about forms of fuel used for cooking, and were both convinced that we were asked if we used 'natural grass'. We shook off the initial puzzlement, and said that we cooked with 'gas'.

We were asked if we had been the victim of crime. I offered to speak for myself, and hope that I would not get a surprise. I waited for the next question, thinking it may be whether I had committed any crimes, but that did not feature. I guess the Census only wants a certain kind of honesty and only so much information about people is deemed appropriate. But, I wonder how it would be answered if it were asked.

The questioning was first for the head of household, then for or about others in the house. As the surveyor noted, 'Certain questions divert.' I figured that she meant that some questions 'differ' or 'diverge', but some were intriguing enough to really divert.

My head of household (HoH) did her stint, then left me to tackle the rest. I had clearly identified the roles well. I also knew who was really in charge, when my HoH dared to ask if a question was just for her and she got "Yes. I speaking to you!" I did detect a slight raised eyebrow on someone's part.

Our education was hard to describe as we were not educated in Barbados and the form did not seem to suggest that any other educational system mattered; with some of the household residents being educated in the French system there was no matching all. Working at home as a self-employed person also seemed to pose some problems on the form. What about other sources of livelihood? Or, as it was posed, "What are your sources of lively income?" I was really glad that I had to deal with that question without my HoH present. I try to make it seem that my sources of income are quite dull.

By around 7.30pm, our lady was about done, and anyway the youngest 'live born child' needed to be put to bed.

Our gem of a surveyor admitted that "When you start you're a bit rusty so things go slowly." Fortunately, we understand the process she needed to go through so really tried to guide her, but I wonder if many households will be flummoxed and even upset by some of the 'personal' questions.

Well, looking forward, it will be interesting to see how the data come together and show what the population looked like that was living in Barbados on the night of May 1.


Carson C. Cadogan said...

I saw you on tv last night for the first time.

acox said...

Wouldn't it been better if these
forms were mailed to the homes.that
poor lady has to worry about dogs
just to make a living.

Dennis Jones said...


Response rates are much higher by doing door-to-door surveying, and is less problematic in smaller countries.

Dennis Jones said...

@Carson C. Cadogan,

I missed the broadcast, while being enumerated. I'll try to catch it online on the CBC website.

Anonymous said...

In this article, you critique the vocabulary problems of a Bajan census worker. In a previous post, you critiqued the lack of cleaning skills of a Bajan maid you hired from a cleaning service. Why in the world are you in Barbados spending so much time focusing on minor issues when there is so much murder and mayhem going on in your homeland, Jamaica?

Following are some recent headlines coming out of Jamaica: Three Men, One Woman Abjucted, Stabbed, Throats Slashed. Five Year Old's Throat Slashed. Girl 5 (not the same 5 year old previously mentioned), Deacon Among 11 Killed in 24 Hours. I think over 500 people have been murdered so far this year in Jamaica.

In your wife's homeland, the Bahamas, the murder rate is rising. Just days ago, if I am not mistaken, a Bahamian policeman was arrested for stabbing someone to death.

It really bugs me when foreigners move into Barbados, often uninvited, and spend time ridiculing Bajans over minor issues while ignoring the barbarism, thuggery, murder, and mayhem in their homelands.

I almost forgot to mention that I read a couple days ago that Canadian law enforcement is so fed up with Jamaican thugs in Canada that they are advocating that they be deported to Jamaica without trial. Also, you should know that a growing number of Caricom countries are banning Jamaican performers from performing on their soil. Everyone is afraid their country will become like Jamaica.

I don't have a problem with people like you and your wife moving to Barbados legally, but please show some respect.