Liberia’s ‘Younger Population’ Declining?

.... LISGIS Mock Census Reveals

Liberia's population for children under 15 years of age is said to have declined, according to preliminary data from the Liberia Institute for Geo-Information Services (LISGIS). 

The data was gathered as part of a test-run of the LISGIS 2022 Population and National Housing Census (PHC), which has now been postponed to October instead of June 19, 2022. 

However, the mock census data revealed that while the country's young population rate of children under 15 years of age appears lesser, the working population from ages 15 through 64 is higher.

A country's younger population is defined as those people less than age 15 and the share of the dependent population is calculated as the total elderly and young population expressed as a ratio of the total population.

The dependency ratio relates the number of young persons that are likely to be dependent on the support of others for their daily needs to the number of those who are capable of providing such support. 

LISGIS mock census data indicates that in the long term, the country may not have lots of potential workers for the future. 

But as things stand, the country would have a limited dependency rate in the long term, which means that there are not enough children reliant on a few adults to provide for their needs.  

According to the LISGIS, the ‘young population’  indicates a ‘lower birth rate’ over some time and it is a sign that the population may be shrinking.

The reason, LISGIS said, might be down to the lower number of children being born per woman of child-bearing age: 15 - 45 years old on average. Or worse, the country's statistics house noted, might be the death rate of children being more than the fertility rate, thus making the young population less than the working population.

The LISGIS pre-test census exercise was held in December 2021, and it is a critical study for the census planning process, thus providing the opportunity to test all aspects of the census program in advance of the main census activities, to ensure the smooth operation and success of the census. 

When asked about the situation, LISGIS Deputy Director-General for Information and Coordination, Mr. Wilmot F. Smith, Jr., said data speaks to what lies ahead when the full census is conducted later this year.  

He added that a lower fertility rate would be a result of the country's social and economic development. 

“As countries become more developed, birth rates tend to fall due to education or other priorities such as careers," he said. 

Smith, who recently returned from attending a regional workshop in Zambia under the theme, ‘improving the use and impact of census results’, said the workshop allowed them to learn some of the trending issues in the conduct of the census, especially data collection, analysis and presentation to the public who are end-users, as well as to the relevant government institutions for crafting out and implementation of development projects.

Since the last population Census in 2008, Liberia has not had another Census. The 2018 National Population and Housing Census was delayed to March 2022, due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the coronavirus, the census was regularly postponed on grounds that LISGIS was having financial issues and, as such, it needed more time.

The first four modern censuses were held in 1962, 1974, 1984, and 2008 and revealed how the population had increased differently beginning at 1.1 million, 1.5, 2.1, and 3.5 million, respectively. Since 2008, Liberia has not held another census. By law, the national population tally is supposed to take place every ten years. 

The June 19 postponement will be the fifth deferment since the exercise was initially scheduled to take place in January 2018.

The extension, according to LISGIS, was triggered by the statistics house’s inability to complete the much-needed geographical mappings of all enumerator areas (EAs) in the 15 counties.

The lack of updated census data means Liberia has been operating on a population estimated at five million people — missing out on data that would help policymakers more accurately understand the prevailing economic and social conditions and more efficiently appropriate already limited national resources.