The population census is a key source of information on the population, usually acting as the basis for a country’s official statistics on households and individuals. It is an exhaustive exercise, with universal coverage: all households in a country are contacted in the data collection phase and information on all household members is gathered. Thanks to this, it can serve as sample frame later on for sample surveys. Its universal coverage and high representativeness allow for the study of small population groups and geographical areas.

Nevertheless, because it is such an exhaustive collection, a population census is very costly and is thus usually conducted infrequently. Generally, countries conduct population censuses every 10 years. Also, a population census tends to collect general information only, not going into detail for specific topics such as labour, which adversely affects the quality of the labour statistics obtained from this source.

The population census is a main source of statistics for benchmarking purposes, for preparing sampling frames for household surveys and for producing estimates for small geographic areas and small groups.

For more information, refer to the Quick Guide on Sources and Uses of Labour Statistics.

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