JOHANNESBURG (Reuters Life!) - South African census workers will be supplied with condoms when they visit millions of households next year, raising criticism about sending the wrong message over what they should be doing on the job.
Statistics South Africa, which is managing the census, said supplying condoms to all government employees, including census workers, is a standard policy to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS in the country with one of the world's highest infection rates.
"We are not saying that people should have sex on the job" said Trevor Oosterwyk, a spokesman for the agency.
"Should people decide to engage in sexual activity, they should do it safely," he told Reuters on Friday.
But the idea of census workers with questionnaires in hand and condoms in pocket has stirred debate on leading radio talk shows, with some saying it could seen as giving permission to field workers to plan for seduction when knocking on the door.
Oosterwyk said the condoms are for private time and those who stop work for sex can be fired.
South Africa's census will start in October 2011, with about 120,000 workers taking to the field.
Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Giles Elgood