By Alex Jackson

It is important to realise that censuses don’t just collect demographic data, but that they also collect information regarding employment, education, community patterns etc.

National Information Obtained

  • Can look at trends over the previous ten years and project how these trends will move forwards to enable planning to take place.
  • Censuses can help project future demand for jobs.
  • They can help project natural change and immigration changes.
  • They enable the planning of services such as schools and hospitals.
  • They enable to projection of national housing demands.
  • They offer a snapshot of the diversity of the country.

Regional Information Obtained

  • Enabled regional plans to be developed to cater for anticipated natural increase/decrease and changes in migration.
  • Enables services to be located close to demand.
  • Assists the provision of essential utilities.
  • Locates areas of depravation based on grid squares and postcodes.

Information For Business & Commercial Interest

  • Enables targeted marketing using information based on postcodes.
  • Enables firms to locate in areas where people and required skills are available.

Why Do People Dislike Censuses?

  • Some see them as an invasion of their privacy.
  • Political conditions in a country can make censuses difficult or even dangerous to carry out. For example, Nigeria didn’t have a senses for 28 years.

Methods Of Collection

People are “counted” either where they are at a precise moment in time (de facto) or according to their normal place of residence.


Censuses normally take place every ten years. Some countries carry out one every 5 years, others with a much lower frequency.


Either the whole population is surveyed or just a small sample (i.e. 10% of the population) and general conclusions are then derived about the whole population.

What Data is Collected?

  • Age - 0 - 5, 6 - 10, 11 - 15 etc.
  • Sex & Gender - Male / Female
  • Education - Primary, Secondary, Higher education. Qualifications, years of school completed etc.
  • Occupation - Permanent, temporary, unskilled, unemployed etc.
  • Religion - Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jedi, no religion etc.
  • Socio-economic Status - Indicator of social class. In the UK, A1 = Richest & F5 = Poorest.
  • Ethnicity - White, Black etc.
  • Marital Status - Married, single etc.