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July 13, 2018

3,500 Enumerators Travel Around Nepal for 1st Economic Census

"How many people work here?"
"When did you open your store?"
"How much in sales did you do last month?"

photoAn enumerator, left, asks questions of the owner of a bakery in Katmandu, the capital of Nepal.

These questions were asked at a bakery in the capital Kathmandu on April 23. An enumerator wearing a cap and polo shirt of deep crimson and deep blue, the colors of the Nepalese flag, asked the owner questions while entering the answers on a tablet computer.

Nepal's first national Economic Census (complete count of establishments and enterprises) was held for two months beginning in mid-April. The Economic Census investigates such questions as how many companies and enterprises there are in the country and the amounts of their sales to clarify the structure and scale of the national economy. It will be used for government policy and is essential for sustainable economic growth in Nepal.

When the enumerator finished his 30 minute interview of the baker, he immediately headed to the next location on his list. In urban areas, he visits about 15 locations per day. Some are suspicious about the first Economic Census being carried out in Nepal, but the enumerators explain patiently and conduct their interviews. There are a total of about 3,500 enumerators of both genders posted throughout the country. They're filled with of a sense of mission, with one saying, "I'm proud to contribute to the country's development."

Behind the scenes of this first ever Economic Census in Nepal, JICA experts have been providing support for many years.

photoEconomic Census enumerators hold a banner informing people that the Economic Census is now underway.

Japanese techniques play a role in census implementation

In Japan, it began with the first Establishment Census of Japan in 1947 (which became the Establishment and Enterprise Census of Japan in 1996) that was carried out 20 times through 2006. Since 2009, an Economic Census* has been conducted about every three years. Through these censuses, officials have learned about the numbers of establishments and enterprises and the distribution of persons engaged by region, industry and size of business (in number of persons engaged). This information has been used in policymaking, including the New Economic Growth Strategy, regional economic measures and measures to support the social advancement of women, as well as in calculating local consumption tax.

Though censuses related to population and agriculture had been carried out before in Nepal, no economic census had been conducted because of a budget deficit and the lack of a structure to do so. So, the government did not accurately understand the economic structure of the country and could not work out effective policies to promote economic growth.

photoOfficials from Nepal's Central Bureau of Statistics visit a statistical museum in Japan.

In cooperation with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, the Statistical Information Institute for Consulting and Analysis and the Japan Economic Research Institute Inc., JICA is providing total technical support to Nepal's Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), ranging from planning the census to implementation, data processing, analysis and dissemination of results.

"During training at Japan's Statistics Bureau, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, we saw advanced methods and facilities and listened to stories of their experiences. In doing so, we deepened our understanding of economic censuses and broadened our outlook," a CBS economic census official said.

photoTraining of economic census enumerators

About 3,500 enumerators were trained in stages. The CBS economic census officials participated in a training program in Japan before becoming instructors and conducting training for CBS central officers. Those CBS central officers trained local officers of 33 CBS Statistics Offices that are located all over the country, who then carried out the training for enumerators.

Useful for national and local public organizations and corporate economic strategies

photoAn enumerator, right, takes buses and other transportation around the rural area he is in charge of, visiting establishments, conducting interviews and writing the responses down by hand on the census form.

Nepal's Economic Census covers almost all the roughly one million companies and establishments in the country, which range from those with more than 100 persons engaged to small stores run by sole proprietors. There are 18 large groupings of topics on the census form, including number of persons engaged, type of main business activities and establishment date, and 71 individual topics.

The statistics created through this Economic Census clarify what kinds of industries are developing and what kinds are lacking in what regions, and they can be used by the government of Nepal as supporting data when planning industrial and economic policies. Companies can use the data to understand in advance whether businesses in the same industry have opened in a certain vicinity, which will lead to more efficient new business openings and contribute to the overall economic growth of Nepal.

First use of Internet responses in a government census or statistical survey

photoMr. Nishi, right, gives technical instruction on how to carry out the Economic Census.

JICA chief advisor Fumihiko Nishi, a professor at the Statistical Research and Training Institute, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, travels back and forth between Nepal and Japan while serving as chief adviser of JICA's Project on Capacity Development for the Implementation of Economic Census 2018 in Nepal. "It is significant from the viewpoints of cost savings and reducing the burden on enumerators that the government of Nepal adopted Internet responses for the first time for this Economic Census," he said.

In mountainous Nepal, there are many places difficult for enumerators to visit physically, and Internet responses were recommended in such places. This is because people in Nepal can use mobile phones even in mountainous areas and have access to the internet via the telephone network in many places.

The sum of the internet responses and tablet computer responses represented about 15 percent of the total responses to this Economic Census. IT-based surveying methods are expected to boost the response rate of the population census planned for 2021.

Mr. Nishi has given technical instruction for censuses and statistics in Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Cambodia, and Nepal is the fourth country where he is doing so.

"The statistical data we created will be used in drafting the industrial and economic policies of Nepal, and I expect Nepal to experience sustainable economic growth," Mr. Nishi said.

To prepare preliminary results from the Economic Census for public dissemination, Mr. Nishi will go to Nepal in July and give his fourteenth technical instruction session.

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