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Nov 28, 2001

Census reveals Belize is changing

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Census Day; May twelfth of 2000. Belize’s population stood at two hundred and fifty thousand people. A year and a half later, researchers from the Central Statistical Office looking at the detailed data have found that in many ways Belize changed radically over the last decade. Ann-Marie Williams reports.

Ann-Marie Williams

Today, the Central Statistical Office called a press conference to update the public on population indicators such as education, fertility, religion, income and housing.

In the area of labour force participation, it’s been shown that although unemployment is at eleven percent, the average income is eight hundred, thirty-five dollars today as opposed to six hundred and twenty-eight dollars in 1991. But despite the raise-a-pay of over two hundred dollars per month, Chief Statistician Sylvan Roberts says this picture does not necessarily mean that all is well financially.

Sylvan Roberts, Chief Statistician

“There definitely needs to be some more analysis of these numbers, because the numbers that we have there has shown absolute growth. We have not accounted for inflation for example and inflation could have been the reason why the difference is about two hundred dollars per month. So there definitely has to be some more in depth study to see the real picture.”

Walk around the country and you’ll see the real picture where population by age is concerned. Twenty-six point six percent of our population is between five and fourteen years. Nineteen point nine percent is between fifteen and twenty-four, followed by fourteen point six percent in the twenty-five to thirty-four age group.

According to Roberts, Belize has experienced rapid population growth of two point seven percent per annum, which is greater than the Caribbean area, and on par with neighbouring Guatemala. This makes us prone to poverty if the social sector is not strengthened.

Sylvan Roberts

“We have to ensure that the correct policies, plans, programmes and essential services are put in place for the growing population.”

Where ethnicity is concerned, Mestizos represent forty-eight point seven percent of the growing population, followed by the Creole at twenty-four point nine. A decade ago those numbers were forty-three point six percent and twenty-nine point eight percent respectively.

Today, the Garifuna represents six point one percent, the third largest ethnic group, followed by the Ketchi Maya at five point three percent and Mopan Maya at three point nine percent. The Mennonites, Belize economic powerhouse, account for only three point six percent of Belize’s population.

Roman Catholic is still the largest religious denomination at forty-nine point six percent of the population, but it’s dominance has dropped since 1991, when fifty-seven point seven percent of Belizeans identified themselves as Catholics. Pentecostals totalled seven point four percent, Anglicans five point three, Seventh Day Adventists five point two, Mennonites four point one and Methodists three point five.

It is interesting to note that non-believers in our midst have grown from eleven thousand and twenty-five or six percent in 1991 to twenty-one thousand, seven hundred and ninety-five or nine point four percent in 2000.

Sylvan Roberts

“The people have a right to decide to believe or not to believe, and I think the consensus in Belize…I think we’re still a religious society, and therefore the consensus would be they would like as many people to believe in some kind of faith, some kind of religious denomination. And therefore from that point of view this may be worrying.”

Female-headed households have increased from twenty-two percent in 1991 to twenty-four percent in 2000, while the fertility rate is on the decline. Whatever the numbers, officials remind us that the census provides us with important data–not only for debate, but for proper policies and planning. Ann-Marie Williams for News 5.

The book of major census findings will be distributed over the next month to schools and other public institutions.

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