The Papua New Guinea (PNG) National Census has been conducted approximately every ten years since 1971. Previous censuses in PNG have been conducted in 1966, 1971, 1980, 1990 and 2000. The national census is a critical source of information for agricultural planning. In 2000, census units (CUs), were geo-located and their locations recorded as latitudes and longitudes, which enables them to be mapped on digital maps by geographical information systems software. The ability to map CUs and display information about them on computerised maps is a very powerful analytical and planning tool. The National Statistical Office sells census data and digital maps at the census unit and household level.
As well as collecting population counts, the census asks questions of all households included in the census (around one million households were counted in the 2000 census). The questions included:
- A question on ‘ agricultural activity’, which was defined as involvement in growing or raising any of the following either for cash or own use: cocoa, coffee, rubber, oil palm, coconut, betel nut, livestock (cattle, pigs, goats, sheep), poultry, food crops/vegetables/root crops, fish (including crabs and seashells), or any other major crop or livestock.
- A question on ‘economic activity’, which was defined as receiving money from or involvement in any of the following: selling food crops/cooked food at a market/roadside, selling fish (including crabs and seashells), selling meat at a market/roadside, selling manufactured items (such as carvings, bilums, mats), selling betel nut/mustard, running a Public Motor Vehicle, hiring boats, running a trade store, or any other major income-generating activity.
The national census, acknowledging problems with some of the data, remains a critical resource for agricultural and rural development planning. It provides standards for data collection, definitions, codes and identification of places (CUs). It also provides a national frame for sample surveys and the denominator in the calculation of rates that allows comparisons between different parts of the country.