Had migration in the period between the 2002 and 2012 censuses been “normal”, Guyana’s population should have fallen in a range of 790,000 to 1,009,000 persons, economist Dr. Clive Thomas says.
According to figures released by the Bureau of Statistics (BoS) on June 30, the 2012 census determined that Guyana’s population stood at 747,884 persons, down from 751,223 persons in 2002. The resulting difference is 3,339 and Chief Statistician Lennox Benjamin described the drop as marginal, a description several analysts disagree with.
In his Sunday Stabroek column, Thomas said that it is impossible to establish to a significant degree of accuracy, a figure that represents what would have been the population size in 2012, if “normal” population events had occurred. He proffered six population growth rate estimates for the period between the 2002 and 2012 censuses.
According to Dr. Thomas, if Guyana’s population growth rate was 0.5% during that period, the population in 2012 would have been 789 640 persons. If the growth rate was 1%, the 2012 population figure would be at 829 817 persons and if the rate was 1.2%, the population would have been at 846 396 in 2012. Had the growth rate been 1.5%, the population in 2012 would have stood at 871 824 persons and at a rate of 2%, the population would have been at 915 736 persons while had the population grown at a rate of 3%, in 2012, Guyana’s population would have stood at 1 009 580 persons.
Thomas pointed out that the six population growth rate estimates are higher than the revealed growth rate for the period between 2002 and 2012 which is (minus) -0.04 per cent. He also noted that the estimates are higher than the population growth rate of 0.03 per cent for the years of the PPP/C administration, 1991-2012, a rate that would require, he pointed out, about two and one-third centuries for Guyana’s population to double.
Further, because the simulation is based on the period between the 2002 and 2012 censuses, this does not reflect population events before then, which might have resulted in a larger estimated size for the 2012 population, the economics professor said.
He further explained that the six growth rates were chosen because firstly, worldwide information suggests the population growth rate without exceptional migration for Guyana-type countries falls between a minimum of 0.5 – 1.0 per cent and a maximum of 3.0 – 4.0 per cent. “Second, the rate of 1.2 per cent is based on two considerations. One is that this rate is conservative in that Guyana’s long-term population growth rate (between the end of World War II and the New Millennia 1946-2002) was 1.2 per cent…The other is that the world population growth rate is presently 1.2 per cent,” Dr. Thomas said.
He also pointed out that the 1.5 per cent falls on the mid-point and median rate from among those figures he selected and fourthly, the choice of 2.0 per cent reflects the typical rate for most small states. “Finally, the choice of 3.0 per cent represents a conservative upper limit of historically recorded population growth rates. Sustained rates in excess of 3.0 per cent are relatively rare,” the economist said.
“Based on these considerations the simulations suggest that exceptional population events (primarily emigration) account for a shortfall of between 42 thousand and 262 thousand persons at the time of the 2012 Census.
This represents a percentage shortfall in the range of 6 to 35 per cent of the Preliminary Census population,” he asserted.
“Put another way, the census population should have fallen in a range of 790,000 to 1,009,000 persons without exceptional emigration,” Thomas said.
He had noted that many had attributed the population decline to outward emigration in the decade of the 2000s and said that he found this plausible although the 2012 Preliminary Report does not examine fertility, mortality or death rates. “When a similar decline in the population was identified for the first time in Guyana’s census history in the 1991 Census, the BoS indicated that this outcome was ‘consistent with the peak emigration flows recorded during the decade of the 1980s’,” he noted.
Thomas also cautioned that the 2012 Report is preliminary and changes in the information presented in the Final Report could differ, as has happened before.
Shortly after the Preliminary Report of the 2012 Census was revealed, an analysis of population trends since the 1980s by chartered accountant Christopher Ram suggested that Guyana’s population would have been between 1.2 million and 1.5 million by now but he said that nothing is being done to counter migration.
“If Guyana had maintained growth rates experienced during the decade of the turbulent 60s, or even at the lower rates of growth per decade of 20% and 15%, our population would have been in the range of 1,200,000 and 1,500,000, in other words our population would have doubled, we would have had a surplus of skills, a large number of consumers, entrepreneurs and businesses,” he said on his blog chrisram.net.
“Looked at another way, a 20% increase over ten years is only 1.84% compounded annually, while a 15% over ten years require an annual compounded rate of 1.41%. These are well below the annual growth rates of countries at our level of development. It is not however a question of fertility – the birth rate far exceeds the death rate – our problem is migration for which we seem to have no interest, let alone policy,” Ram, who is also an attorney, had said.