Do all countries conduct a census?

Discussion in 'Cultural Discussions' started by TRG, Jan 16, 2010.

  1. TRG Senior Member

    english USA
    Every ten years in the USA we must, by law, conduct a national census, which means the government must get an exact head count on how many people are living in the country. In addition to counting noses, the government takes this opportunity to find answers to such important questions as "what racial or ethnic group to you self-identify with?" While I understand the need to have a fairly good idea about numbers and how they are distributed geographically, it just doesn't make sense that you would do it by going house to house, but this is just about how it has done . I've already been visited by two different census people, I still haven't responded to the inevitable form with its many questions. It seems to me that today we should be able to use computers and statistical methods to come up with the count and call it good enough.

    So I'd like to know. What does everyone else around the world do?
  2. Abu Rashid

    Abu Rashid Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Australian English
    Here in Australia it's every 5 years.
  3. Greyfriar

    Greyfriar Senior Member

    In the UK we, too, have a census every ten years. We have a form delivered on which we have to write the names of every member of the household together with their age and occupation. We also have to enter the name and address, etc., of any person who is a visitor spending the night at the house.

    I don't know when the next census is due but have a feeling it is this year*. I have heard murmurs of discontent on the radio as the census is going to be far more probing, asking about racial origin and sexual preference and whether or not a person is claiming unemployment benefit, is disabled, etc.

    It will probably ask how much alcohol is consumed per week and how many cigarettes, if any, are smoked per day!

    * It will be in 2011.
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2010
  4. TRG Senior Member

    english USA
    I was also wondering if any countries use statistical methods (estimates) rather than actual head counts?
  5. mirx Banned

    I am sure most do, head counts are more like a tool against which to check their statiscal information. Death, birth rates, employment, marriages, school enrollments; all of these factors are very useful to calculate sizes of populations.

    By the way, Mexico has census every 10 years and if I am not mistaken 2010 is census year. Asking for ethnic or racial orgin was outlawed early in the XX century.
  6. cubaMania Senior Member

    TRG, you may have been visited by two people CLAIMING to be census takers. The real U.S.A. census takers are not yet visiting homes.
    Census forms are scheduled to be mailed in March. They are to be returned by April 1, 2010. Only after that date will the door-to-door census takers be sent out, and only to those residences which failed to return the form by mail.
    This is from the U.S. government census site:
    EDIT: The timing is important because the census data is supposed to reflect where people are living on April 1, 2010.
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2010
  7. Vampiro

    Vampiro Senior Member

    Emiratos Árabes
    Chile - Español
    Here it is door-to-door, every ten years.
  8. Frank78

    Frank78 Senior Member

    In Germany there isn´t a regular census. The last one was in 1987, I think. We pretty much have an overview of our population because all people who are born and who die are being registered. But there´s a small number of people who won´t be counted, e.g. illegal aliens, people who emigrate from Germany to other countries.
    There´s also a relatively new feature which contributes to have an overview of the popluation. Every citizen gets a tax number when he/she is born.

    In 2011 Germany will take part in the EU-wide census.
  9. Vampiro

    Vampiro Senior Member

    Emiratos Árabes
    Chile - Español
    How do you obtain statistics about religion, employment, ethnics, education, inmigration, and many other topics related to a census?
  10. Frank78

    Frank78 Senior Member

    Religion= none of the state´s business, you may volunatarily tell it the registration office

    Employment=those who are unemployed and want benefits go to the labour bureau/employment agency / those who are employed pay taxes and must also tell their kind of job (self-employed, employed,etc)

    Ethnics=Is not a big deal in Germany. We just distinguish between citizenships. No German will ever be asked what is your ethnicity.

    Immigration=legal immigrants have to register anyways (again at the registration office)

    Education- I think thats part of the ministries of education (every German state has one because education is a state´s issue). They simply count the number of students who make an A-level, etc.
  11. SDLX Master

    SDLX Master Senior Member

    Lima, Peru
    Spanish - Peru
    Same fashion here and it is done everytime the government feels like it.
  12. cubaMania Senior Member

    To be accurate, I should add that in the U.S.A., in addition to contacting every residence (first by mail, and then only if that fails, in person) the census also sends out teams of people to count those without an address. They visit homeless encampments, shelters, charities, marinas, campgrounds, and any other place thought to have people living without an address.

    The 2010 U.S.A. census will ask how many people are currently staying in a residence and whether the residence is rented or owned. It will ask for each person living in the household their name, gender, age/birthdate, and in detail their ethnicity or national origin. It will ask whether they live at any other address (for instance a college dormitory). It will not ask any other questions about the person--not about religion or citizenship or immigration status or marital status or family relationships or income or anything else.

    The census is required to be done by actual count, not by statistical methods. This is from the U.S. government census website:
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2010
  13. kardorion Senior Member

    Bilingual: English (UK)-Turkish
    In Turkey the first census of the republic (founded in 1923) was in 1927 and was generally carried out every 5 years. Up until 2007 it was a door-to-door head count and the day of the census (Sunday) a curfew was imposed. Even though everyone had to be present, they didn't have to show themselves. The household head (generally the father) would answer the questions in the name of the whole family ("religion, employment, ethnics, education, immigration, and many other topics").

    For the first time in 2007 there was no curfew or headcount and they tried to do a census according to how many people are officially seen in the system of the Turkish Statistical Institute ( - available in English as well). The results were released in January 2008 (result: 71,517,10).
  14. Chaska Ñawi

    Chaska Ñawi Senior Member

    an old Ontario farmhouse
    Canadian English
    The same process happens in Canada and in the U.K. (My cousin was hired to help count the homeless in Birmingham (UK) one year, which he ranks as the most stressful job of his entire life. Many street people did not want anything smacking of government interference in their lives.)
  15. Valeria Mesalina

    Valeria Mesalina Senior Member

    Santiago de Compostela
    Spanish, Spain
    In Spain someone goes door-to-door asking questions. I don´t remember when the last one was, ten years ago or more. As it was my next door neighbour the one who was asking questions, she already knew beforehand most of the answers.

    How many people lived in the house, how many were employed, how many were underage, were there any disabled people living with us. The questionnary also asked how many square metres had our flat and how many rooms, whether we had tellies, computers, video recorders and so on (I assumed the more sophisticated the knick-knacks you owned, the more they would tax you).

    Questions about religion, ethnicity, sexuality were not asked at all.
  16. Vampiro

    Vampiro Senior Member

    Emiratos Árabes
    Chile - Español
    That kind of questions exist here, but is not an obligation to give an answer, because they are considered secondary information.
    Thanks to all.
  17. sakvaka

    sakvaka Senior Member

    The same in Finland. Every citizen is registered to the population information register: name, national identification number, address, nationality, mother tongue, family relations, religion and date and place of birth and death.

    The exact population of Finland is updated every midnight on this website:
  18. MOMO2 Banned

    As I see nobody from Italy answered yet ...

    In Italy we do. The last was in 2000.
  19. pickarooney

    pickarooney Senior Member

    Provence, France
    English (Ireland)
    In France they send around forms and then send someone to pick it up. I don't remember if they ask about religion, but I'm pretty sure they don't mention ethnicity. I just chucked it in the bin after glancing at it.
  20. xmarabout

    xmarabout Senior Member

    French - Belgium
    In Belgium: strange country, strange situation... A census is officially forbidden in the country (to avoid problems with the language sensitive question) and the last one was done in 1991. It was not a census strictly speaking but a socio-demographic survey...
    Of course, you have other ways to gather information from the population: we are all registered in what we call "the national File" and we have a public statistical office to collect data and survey about almost everything (economy, health, education, ...).
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2010
  21. TRG Senior Member

    english USA
    I think I will adopt your approach this year:)
  22. learnerr Senior Member

    In Russia, people do, but it is not obligatory to answer the questions or to contact the officials in any way. The census may proceed differently, either you come to the census office, or the people they hired come to you, or nothing of the two happens. The reason of the state is not to receive the head count, certainly: the authorities have, anyway, access to information about our passports (IDs) or similar papers that all people who stay legally in the country possess (and if they stay illegally, then why would they come to the census office or be approached by the hired officials, all the same).
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2013
  23. Grop

    Grop Senior Member

    I didn't remember when last national census happened in France, and wikipedia says it was in 1999.

    Today they apparently use statistical methods, plus some local censuses (if this is the plural form of census) than only happen in some random cities. Oviously they have many other tools, like birth and death registries.
  24. WyomingSue

    WyomingSue Senior Member

    Cheyenne, WY
    The U.S. government has added many nosy questions to the census, but the constitutional purpose is to set the legislative districts--to balance out the numbers of people each legislator represents. Birth certificates etc. wouldn't work, because Americans move a lot and we don't have to register our location with the government.
  25. roxcyn

    roxcyn Senior Member

    American English [AmE]
    Hi TRG! I would like to add that it's not done just "house to house". They mail out forms for people to send back. If they don't receive the forms then census workers will go door to door to have people fill them out. It seems like you are against the census since you didn't fill it out nor did you speak to the census works. Statistics are not 100% without errors and if everyone fills it out, then local towns and states will be represented when necessary changes or programs come in to play. Additionally there will be a more accurate statistic of who the people are in such town or state.
  26. إسكندراني

    إسكندراني Senior Member

    أرض الأنجل
    عربي (مصر)ـ | en (gb)
    This cannot possibly be true any longer with all the gerrymandering we hear about.
  27. L'irlandais

    L'irlandais Senior Member

    Dreyeckland/Alsace region
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    Well that was very mature of you. (Not! Just in case you think I meant that.) Ever heard of "la Loi du 9 décembre 1905"? Laïcité (or "freedom of conscience") in France means they cannot ask about religion on the census form. Paradoxily this law disadvantages miniorities rather than protecting them as it was intended to do.
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2013
  28. JamesM

    JamesM Senior Member

    That's a little different. :) The number of seats in our House of Representatives is based on population, so it's important to know the population.

    Gerrymandering relates to the geographical boundaries of the districts but still must include (roughly) the same number of voters in each district. Although gerrymandering can provide one or the other party with an advantage in an election it does not reduce the number of people being represented by each district.
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2013
  29. Omada Senior Member

    Español, España
    In Spain it is done every 10 years. I was a census agent about ten years ago in Spain. We had to go door by door with the forms, and people could fill the forms by themselves, and then send it to the Statistics Office, or let us do it for them (I found some old people who couldn't read or write). The questions were about how many people lived in the place, the relationship they had, their ID document (with this they know if they are spanish or not), if they are owners or tenants, the level of their studies, and also asked information about what they think about the neighborhood, if they consider it a peaceful place or not, if it has good public transport service, it the streets are kept clean and in good condition, etc (I don't remember everything). They had to be censed in the place if they live more than 6 months a year in this place. Also they check if there is new buildings, and if the buildings censed before still exist, how old the buildings are and what services they have, and check also the business in the buildings, every shop or office, etc. All this information is taken by the National Institute of Statistics, they could not make any calculations without the information, they wouldn't know what services a neighborhood need (buses, schools, old people aid services, police…), if they didn't get all the real information door by door.
  30. L'irlandais

    L'irlandais Senior Member

    Dreyeckland/Alsace region
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    Well perhaps you should have paid more attention to the small print. It's obligatory to fill out & return the form. I've just filled in the form today, which remined me of this discussion. The form makes no mention of religion, because of the separation of Church and state in France, as I mention earlier. The form specifically asks if one is a French Citizen, or not. It also asks where one was born, so in my case this does provide them with an indication of my ethnicity, as it would of anybody born in North Africa or Turkey, or where ever. I live on a housing estate of twenty families. They did 5 houses 2 years ago, 5 houses last year, and 5 families this year. One more year and they'll have stats on all of us.
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2014
  31. JamesM

    JamesM Senior Member

    What is a housing estate, L'irlandais?
  32. L'irlandais

    L'irlandais Senior Member

    Dreyeckland/Alsace region
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    A housing estate is a group of homes built together as a single development ; I guess you'd call it "tract housing" in the US of A.
  33. JamesM

    JamesM Senior Member

    (Thanks, I've always wondered about that. Sorry to sidetrack the discussion.)
  34. velisarius

    velisarius Senior Member

    British English (Sussex)
    There was a census just a few years ago in Greece, door to door. For the first time there were some very intrusive questions, including the names of institutes of higher education all the family have attended, whether we recycle and what percentage of rubbish and waste we recycle. I was the only one at home, my memory is not as good as it was, so reader--I lied. It struck me as strange that it was not specified whether the percentage of household waste recycled should be calculated by weight or by volume, and whether feeding our kitchen waste to the hens can be considered recycling. :D
  35. roxcyn

    roxcyn Senior Member

    American English [AmE]
  36. OneStroke Senior Member

    Hong Kong, China
    Chinese - Cantonese (HK)
    We do one every five years. We can choose to do it online if we want. I'm fairly sure it's illegal not to do it.
  37. sound shift

    sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    Many sub-Saharan African countries have been "unable to conduct a census in the last ten years", according to a website I visited just now.

    Turkey used to order its citizens to stay at home on census day: . At one time, the instruction was delivered at high volume from loudspeakers mounted on cars.

    On census day in Turkey, city dwellers with a rural past and relatives in the countryside return to their villages to swell the population figure because this means more resources for the family members who "stayed behind" (but of course it also means that the big cities don't get a fair share).
    Last edited: May 8, 2015
  38. jsvillar Senior Member

    Spanish - Spain
    As mentioned before, we do a census every ten years. Between census, all people are registered at an address. If you move, you present proof of address (ownership of the house, utilities receipts...) at your new town. The town registers you and orders your former town to de-register you (you cannot de-register on your own unless you die!). Illegal inmigrants can register, also; this address becomes your official address, grants you some rights at your town (libraries, low prices in public gyms...) and allows you to get a healthcare card. Other matters, such as voting or official notifications, are also carried out through this address.
    The census is used to correct the register (for instance, inmigrants leaving the country without notifying it) and to obtain additional data for statistics. The main problem is that it is really easy to register (just permission from somebody already registered at that address) but very hard to de-register. Since illegal inmigrants need an official address, it is normal that some friend registers them at their rented house. Then they leave the country, the owner finds tens of people registered at his home and has to wait for next census.
  39. bibax Senior Member

    Czech (Prague)
    In the Czech Republic the last census was in 2011, the next will be in 2021.

    The census is obligatory for all persons, including foreigners, dwelling in a chosen moment in the Czech Republic. The foreign diplomats are the only exception. The success rate in 2011 was 98%.

    The fine for boycotting the 2011 census was 10.000 CZK (~ 400 €).
    Btw, the fine in 1869 was 20 Austrian guldens (comparable to one month salary).
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2018
  40. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    The same in Greece. The next census is in 2021. I think it's a Pan-European thing, or Pan-EU thing, the distribution of MP seats in the European Parliament is proportional to each member-state's population after all. Greece, Czechia, Belgium, Hungary and Portugal provide 22 EMP each, due to their similar population (which is proven by a census).
  41. velisarius

    velisarius Senior Member

    British English (Sussex)
    I remember the last census in Greece. It was full of unnecessary detail, and took rather a long time. The young girl who came to my door had to ask for details on the education of all the members of my family living at home (I happened to be the only one at home that day). I have a terrible memory, so I just made up most of that.

    I was also asked about what percentage of household waste we compost or recycle, and an interesting discussion ensued on whether that was percentage by weight or by volume, and whether it included table scraps that went to the chickens - it did of course. She was very happy to be able to tick the boxes that showed us to be dutiful European recyclers, and gave me the impression that our family was very unusual in that respect.

    It was nice chatting to the census-taker anyway, a recent and unemployed graduate. I felt like quizzing her on her academic credentials, and how she landed the job, how much it paid, etc.
  42. Trisia

    Trisia Senior Member

    If it was anything like here, not much. :) I did it in 2011 for our Census, and if I account for all my expenses and time lost filling up tables (after I'd gotten home), I basically paid the government for the privilege of partaking in this noble task. Well, I'll admit it was sort of fun. And yes, plenty of questions seemed silly, but even if at an individual level they sounded intrusive, I like the idea of having a general (preferably as accurate as possible) view of the standard of living, average number of people in a household etc. Some people were very much against providing any sort of information, but some were a bit too chatty and I had a hard time trying to get them to stop sharing, for their own safety. My favourite was a lady who invited me in and started counting her neatly-arranged pickled gherkins and other preserves, while I kept repeating "ma'am, thank you but this really isn't necessary".
  43. Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Paris, France
    English (Ireland)
    Ireland conducts a census every five years.
  44. Stoggler

    Stoggler Senior Member

    Sussex, GBR
    UK English
    Is there a stated reason why Ireland has one every five years when most countries go for every ten years?
  45. Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Paris, France
    English (Ireland)
    Good question. I've no idea. But there have been censuses every five years since the independence of the State. 1926 (5 years after the British census of 1921) was the first one.
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2018
  46. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    Lorraine in France
    English (US Northeast)
    The US does it every 10 years. They have to so they can decide how many senators, representatives, districts each state will have.
    In 2020 the census is more controversial. They are asking a lot more personal questions, like race, what origin, what country, so you have to say White Caucasian, Irish, origin Ireland. Then they are asking if you are a citizen, have a green card etc. What languages you speak and the level of these languages.... do you own your house.... how long you have lived there. Check out the long complicated census. 98 pages
  47. L'irlandais

    L'irlandais Senior Member

    Dreyeckland/Alsace region
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    It might have something to do with the lost of many pre 1900 documents during the Civil War.
    The fire that destroyed all Irish records - the myth and the reality
    (Then again, that may have nothing to do with it at all.)

    As I mentioned in my earlier posts, France conducts a rolling census programme each year, covering part of the population. The whole programme takes between 5 and 10 years to complete. So I am not sure 10 years is the norm for all countries, even if it is the UN recommended frequency. Anyway Ireland has a relatively small population, so every 5 years is manageable. Bear in mind, every 10 years a more detailed census is carried out; 2011 for example, while 2016 was a simplified version. Appearantly, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, also conducts their censuses every 5 years. Germany’s last census was in 1987, since then they rely on population samples.
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2018
  48. cubaMania Senior Member

    To be clear: The 98 pages are NOT about the census form which attempts to contact everyone in the country. That form will still be short with only about 12 basic questions (depending upon how you count them.) The rest of the 98 pages describe the "American Community Survey" which is a longer questionnaire sent periodically to a selected subset of the population. This is the current equivalent of what used to be called the "long-form" census, which is used for only a small number of households.

    However, controversy has arisen because a "citizenship" question has been added back* into the basic short-form intended for 100% of the population. Law suits are being launched to try to prevent the citizenship question from being included.

    *The "citizenship" question was included in the census up until 1950. Now the Trump administration has decided to add it back in for 2020.
  49. JamesM

    JamesM Senior Member

    It's a bit more complicated than "until 1950". The first census had a question about country of origin and whether the person had been naturalized. This was dropped from 1840 to 1890. Then it was reinstituted in a slightly different format: If the person had been born outside the country they were asked how long they had been here and if they had become naturalized. This continued until 1950. It was dropped entirely in 1960 because immigration was low and there were more important things to ask about (apparently) such as: do you have a washing machine / refrigerator / etc. It was reinstated on the long form in 1970. Now they want to reinstate it on the short form.

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