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2019 household survey to inform pandemic policies

The findings of the 2019 Survey of Living Conditions, released on Wednesday, are to serve as a baseline for analysis of social and economic changes brought about in the COVID-19 pandemic years, as well as to help fashion more government policy responses to the pandemic effects.

“The world has significantly changed since the fielding of the data due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. This means that the 2019 data will play an important role as the baseline for the social implications in the survey. The health, education and early-childhood data will aid in establishing the direct effects of the pandemic when comparisons in subsequent years are made,” Dr. Wayne Henry director general of the Planning Institute of Jamaica, PIOJ, said at the online event to launch the publication.

Documenting the impact of living conditions on households, the publication outlines demographic changes, household consumption, health, education, social protection and housing issues affecting the population. The report is a joint publication of the government’s statistical agencies Statin and PIOJ. Typically, Statin designs and collects the data, while PIOJ analyses and writes the report, which is normally published annually.

“Over the years, the survey has evolved to ensure that it fulfils its purpose of providing the government with information for policy development, evaluation and planning,” according to Statin’s director general, Carol Coy.

The sample size was 6,551 individuals from over 2,300 households, Suzette Johnson, director of policy research at the PIOJ, disclosed.

“Single-member households account for the largest share of households. There was an increase in 2019 of male-headed households, with 38 per cent having one member, compared to female-headed households, where 20.3 per cent had one member,” Johnson said, giving highlights of the report.

The report showed that household consumption across the country averaged $370,853 per year. In real dollars, average per capita consumption declined relative to 2018 by 2.3 per cent, the report stated.

“Nationally, these changes were not sufficient to statistically influence inequality or the prevalence of poverty,” said Johnson, adding that the benchmark inequality index, the GINI coefficient, remained largely unchanged at 0.3671 points in 2019, compared to 0.3615 in 2018. A rising GINI coefficient means the society increased inequality. For 2019 over 2018, the movement was noted to have been marginal.

Looking closer at households consumption, the survey found that in the Greater Kingston Metropolitan Area, average household consumption was measured at $480,276 per annum, significantly more than the $327,950 a year in other urban centres and $316,394 per annum in rural areas.

The data showed that households headed by males consumed a lot more at $403,708 per year, or higher than the national average, with female-headed households consuming $337,155, a reflection that female-headed households tend to earn less but with more individuals to cater for. Easton Williams, senior director for social policy, planning and research at the PIOJ, noted in a response to questions that the matter of traditional two-person households was a “complex issue” in Jamaica. He did not elaborate. The majority of households are still male-led, at 55.8 per cent. On the whole, avarege household size fell to 2.7 persons per household in 2019 from 2.9 persons in 2018.

The proportion of households receiving remittances dipped a percentage point from 56.9 per cent in 2018 to 55.9 per cent in 2019.

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