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Population and housing censuses: Europe leads methodological change

The end of 2014 will mark the end of the 2010 round of population and housing censuses (spanning from 2005 to 2014), and the beginning of the 2020 round.  All UNECE countries but three conducted a census in the 2010 round, as requested by the United Nations Economic and Social Council.  This is a significant progress compared to the 2000 round, when six UNECE countries did not conduct a census.

With regard to census methodology, many countries moved away from the traditional approach based on the direct count of all individuals using paper forms.  In particular, the number of countries using register data for the census (either as the unique source or combined with other data sources) increased from 8 in the 2000 round to 19 in the 2010 round. The traditional approach, was still used by 34 UNECE countries in the 2010 round (compared to 40 in the 2000 round), including all countries in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia.

In the 2010 round, 18 countries offered the possibility to complete the census forms on the internet compared to just 4 in the 2000 round.  Internet was the main mode to fill the census forms in Estonia (67% of the households), Canada (55%) and Portugal (50%).  These innovations brought benefits in terms of reduced costs, improved data quality, timeliness of results and reduced burden on respondents.  On the other hand, new challenges emerge in evaluating the quality of the data produced with the new methods and in comparing results over time and across countries.

For over 50 years, UNECE has been leading international work on population and housing censuses in its region, in cooperation with Eurostat.  As for previous census rounds, new Conference of European Statisticians Recommendations for the 2020 census round are being prepared by over hundred census experts from member countries coordinated by UNECE.  It is expected that the new recommendations will be finalized and adopted by the Conference in 2015.