Pacific statistics: Census of a small island nation
While the Australia Bureau of Statistics (ABS) readies the release of 2016 Census information, the tiny Pacific Island territory of Tokelau have been there and done that!
With the help of Statistics New Zealand, Tokelau undertook their Census in October 2016 and have recently released the full results. Speedy huh!?
Life is good on Tokelau (population: 1,197)
Tokelauans are satisfied people! Around half those who responded to the 2016 Census rated their life satisfaction 10/10 (49.9% of residents). The next most common response was 8/10, selected by 36.1%. Only 2.5% of the population gave a rating of 4 or lower.
Cross-tabulations found that older age cohorts reported higher levels of satisfaction, as did those that felt they were in good health.
Tokelauans also reported a powerful sense of belonging, with 58.6% giving a 10 rating. Interestingly, residents of the Tokelauan atoll of Fakaofo felt this sense of belonging very strongly, with over two-thirds of the adult population (67.8%) rating sense of belonging as a 10/10.
New Zealand undertakes a General Social Survey (GSS) every two years and asks the same question on life satisfaction. In 2014 only 17.8% Kiwi respondents rated their life satisfaction as 10 out of 10. By comparison, Australians rate their overall life satisfaction as 7.6 out of 10, according to this general social survey, conducted by the ABS in 2014.
The Tokelau Census is incredibly important, as it is the only comprehensive source of demographic and economic data for the three atolls (Atafu, Fakaofo, and Nukuonu) that make up the island nation. They now have data from three Censuses (2006, 2011, and 2016).
Not all Censuses are created equal though, and the Tokelau Census is definitely not a cookie-cutter version of New Zealand’s. In 2016, for the first time, Tokelau also asked questions on the quality of life including reflections on health, sense of belonging, social connectedness and income adequacy. The power of a Census-style approach in capturing these wider indicators of community wellbeing cannot be underestimated.
Making the move to electronic collection
Tokelau also changed their collection process, embracing technology in 2016 by committing to a tablet-assisted questionnaire using a computer-assisted personal interview approach (granted, Tokelau only has a small population – a total of 1,197 usual residents who were present in Tokelau on Census night, and another 302 usual residents were away overseas).
With limited internet access and the additional training required, the decision to switch to an electronic collection process wasn’t an easy move to make. However, the Tokelau administrators reported a handsome payback; the CAPI format was user-friendly, and the self-correcting function of the technology meant that many mistakes were picked up and resolved during data-capture, making the post-enumeration phase much more efficient.
So what did the 2016 Tokelau Census find?
- The usual resident population count was up 4.7% on the 2011 result (1,197 compared to 1,143)
- Tokelau has a young population (albeit getting older each year). In 2016, the median age (URP) for Tokelau was 25 years. In 2011 it was 24 years, and in 2006 it was 22 years.
- The fertility rate is 3.8 children per woman, down on 2011 (and lower than neighbouring Samoa)
- The population experiences huge migrational movement – most Tokelauans (59.2%) have lived overseas for more than six months at some time in their life (the 2013 New Zealand Census recorded over 7,000 residents identifying as Tokelauan descendants).
- Religion is a central part of Tokelauan life with most people being Christian, though religious denominations (congregational Christian, roman catholic or Presbyterian) vary hugely between atolls.
- More than half the adults smoked (51.3%) up slightly on 2011
For more fascinating insights into our Pacific Island neighbours, you can access the Tokelau Census results here.
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