The 2018 Population and Housing Census enters its final days with enumerators threatening to sabotage the exercise to push the National Statistical Office (NSO) to release their outstanding allowances.
Sporadic reports of discontent have been registered in Blantyre, Ntcheu, Mchinji and Mzuzu where enumerators agreed, among other things, to enter wrong data and withhold census equipment until their dues were fully paid.
The exercise that began on September 3 and is scheduled to close on September 23 is aimed at collecting demographic data that government and other stakeholders would use when implementing various socio-economic programmes in the country.
A representative of the enumerators based in Ntcheu, Michael Chitsulo, said in an interview on Tuesday the temporary workers had agreed to withhold the remaining data and stop working until their grievances were resolved.
He said: “We are not changing our position until our concerns are fully addressed. Even if the NSO comes to plead with us, we will not back down. They promised us that we would get a total of K240 000 for training and census. So far what most enumerators have received is K100 000 or less. We are human beings too we need money to survive.”
Similar meetings took place in Blantyre and Mchinji on Tuesday where enumerators put their feet down to discontinue the exercise until the money was transferred into their accounts.
According to one of the enumerators based in Blantyre, who did not want to be mentioned, the delay in sorting out the allowances had caused them to reduce intensity of work they were supposed to put into the census.
The enumerator cited the lack of follow ups to households they were supposed to revisit after their first attempts yielded no results.
But NSO spokesperson Kingsley Manda, while acknowledging the issues, said the census was going smoothly and that in some areas, enumerators had finished collecting data.
On the money issues, he said the training allowance was being paid in instalments.
He said: “We have paid K100 000 from development partners through the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and we just deposited the remaining K20 000 from Malawi Government. The last payment will be given once they hand over government property that is K120 000 for enumerators and K150 000 for field supervisors.”
The NSO spokesperson confirmed that there had been meetings by enumerators nationwide.
“There are a lot of meetings taking place across, but they are talking about the same issue. As of now, for training allowance it is K20 000 each that is remaining for all of them. This has already been processed and they will start receiving any day,” he said.
During the first week of the exercise, some districts such as Mangochi, Kasungu and Salima had difficulties to kick start due to disagreements on payment of allowances.
NSO projections indicate that the country’s population will rise to about 17 million this year from 13 million in the 2008 census, and 24 million in 2028.