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Censuses to be conducted in all UNECE member States in the 2020 round: the first time in history

Censuses are the keystone of national statistics—only with comprehensive knowledge of the number of people in a country, how they are distributed across the towns, cities and villages of the country, and the shares of children, youth, working-age people and older people, can effective policies be designed and monitored.  

Many of the indicators for monitoring progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals depend on knowing the size of the population—for example, to calculate income per capita or school enrolment rates, we need to know how many people there are.

Yet censuses are also the most expensive, time-consuming and complex task of any national statistical office. For some countries, the challenges have been too great and they have not conducted a census for decades. For others, these challenges have motivated them to move away from traditional techniques—enumerators going door-to-door with paper questionnaires to collect census data. Some have opted for online censuses where people fill in their own information and submit it via the Internet. Some use handheld electronic devices to speed up personal interviews and data processing. And still others have dispensed with traditional censuses altogether and gather their data by combining information from administrative sources, such as national population registers.

Whatever the technique used, the Conference of European Statisticians’ Recommendations for the 2020 Censuses of Population and Housing call for all countries to gather data on a core set of variables and provides detailed guidelines for the definitions and classifications that should be used to ensure they are comparable across countries.

For the first time, all countries of the UNECE region have expressed the intention to comply with these recommendations by conducting a census in the next round, during or close to the year 2020. For Uzbekistan this would be the first census since 1989. Turkmenistan conducted a census in 2012 but the results were not made available to the public.

The challenges of conducting a census, and the many innovative approaches to tackling these challenges, were the focus of UNECE Census Week, which featured a capacity development workshop and a meeting of the Group of Experts on Population and Housing Censuses attended by nearly 100 census experts from the UNECE region and beyond. Participants shared their experiences on use of alternative data sources, integration with geospatial information and new techniques for dissemination, and exchanged perspectives on the future of censuses beyond 2020.

UNECE maintains a database of information about member countries' plans for the 2020 census round, such as what format the census will take and by what means data will be collected: https://statswiki.unece.org/x/XgSoBw