How do other states count the population?
No matter if it is India, China or France: population figures are a major challenge for statisticians worldwide because the final goal is producing precise and reliable data. The United Nations recommend that population censuses should be taken every ten years. Nearly all countries follow that recommendation. Only seven out of 235 states and territories worldwide have not yet set a census date for the current decade. Information about dates, methods and results of censuses worldwide is offered on the census website of the United Nations Statistics Division.
An EU regulation requires (PDF, 75KB, file not barrier free) EU member states to hold a census every ten years. Therefore, large part of Europe has counted the population in 2011.
Many different ways of counting
Traditional censuses survey all inhabitants. This is done by means of questionnaires, online or in interviews. Countries with a large population such as China, India, the United States or Indonesia use this method. Countries in the European Union opting for a direct survey of the entire population in the present census round are for instance Greece, Portugal, Italy and Romania in addition to Great Britain and Ireland.
In the Scandinavian countries, register-based methods are well established since the 1980s. On a specific reference day, data are “extracted” from various existing administrative registers and linked.
Some countries such as Spain, Poland, the Netherlands and Germany use both options. Such mixed forms combine traditional population censuses (surveys of the population) with registers use or supplementary sample surveys.
France is the only country in Europe to conduct a “rolling census“. There is no such thing as one census reference day for all. Instead, only small part of the population is covered every year. This way, there is a full enumeration over a period of five years in every smaller municipality (with less than 10,000 inhabitants). In larger municipalities, about 40% of the population is thus covered by sample surveys over a five-year period.