In March 2020 Statistics Indonesia (BPS) kicked off the largest, most expensive and innovative population census in the country’s history. Within weeks the Covid-19 pandemic brought on office lockdowns, mass infections, and a scramble to redesign the plans for data collection. Nonetheless, the digital data gathering relying on families entering their own details on the BPS website proved to be successful, with nearly one in five families submitting their information during an extended collection period. According to the original plans interviewers were to go house to house in July to both verify the digital data and complete the full count of the remainder of the population. That plan was scuppered after the Department of Finance decimated the budget commitment for census work, moving the funds to Covid-19 treatment.
In January 2021 the preliminary results of the 2020 Census were released, including a table of total population by age and sex. Simple analysis of this table indicated a total fertility rate (TFR) of 1.4 children per woman. This result shocked demographers. Later in the year the BPS revised the table based on internal analysis of the age structure. The revised TFR came out at 2.1 – a more sensible but still questionable result.
This seminar reviews some of the key issues arising from the impact of the pandemic on government statistics in Indonesia, with emphasis on the census. It asks, what are the long-term consequences of Covid-19 on the population census, and will long-Covid undermine government policies and programs as officials struggle to understand population changes.
Terence (Terry) Hull is Emeritus Professor of Demography at The ANU. He was President of the Asian Population Association for the period 2013-2015 and from 2015-2018, served on the APA Council as the Immediate Past President. Since 2001 he has been on the International Steering Committee of the biennial Asia Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights.
Before retirement in 2013 he was Professor of Demography in the Australian Demographic and Social Research Institute (ADSRI - now the School of Demography) and Adjunct Professor of the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health (NCREPH). In the latter position, he held the JC Caldwell Chair in Population, Health and Development. In his position as Emeritus Professsor he is attached to the School of Demography in the Research School of Social Sciences, ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences.