Dutch census saves time and money

19/11/2014 15:00

Population censuses have a centuries-long tradition. In the Netherlands, the traditional census method – asking each household for information about the people living in it - was used for the last time in 1971. This month Statistics Netherlands has published a book on the Dutch Census 2011, adding another chapter to the history of censuses in the Netherlands: a population and housing census based on registers.

Statistics Netherlands has compiled the census tables required by the European Union for its 2011 Census Round. But while many countries still used individual census questionnaires for their enumerations, Statistics Netherlands collected nearly all the required data from registers. This meant that no interviewers were needed to visit each household: the Dutch Census 2011 was conducted with a staff of 15 and a budget of 1.4 million euros. By way of comparison: Germany - where register counts are combined with traditional census questionnaires - recruited 80,000 interviewers, and spent some 750 million euros on its census. Although Germany has nearly five times as many inhabitants, the per capita costs were also lower in the Netherlands. So not only does the register-based census spare the Dutch the burden of completing of extensive questionnaires, it also saves them money in terms of taxes.

Censuses in Europe

The map of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe area reveals interesting east-west and north-south tendencies in census methods. Three main categories are distinguished on this map. Register-based censuses are becoming increasingly popular in northern Europe, combined censuses are more often found in central Europe, while traditional censuses continue to be more popular in English-speaking countries and most former Soviet republics. The results of the 2011 Census are comparable with earlier Dutch censuses, and with the census results of other countries in the 2011 European Census Round

Book about the Dutch Census 2011

This month Statistics Netherlands has published a book on the 2011 Census results and methods, Dutch Census 2011, Analysis and Methodology. This book introduces the Dutch Census 2011 to a broad readership. The first part consists of analyses of the results: key figures, a historical comparison with earlier Dutch censuses, and a brief comparison of the results of the 2011 Census in the Netherlands with results in other European countries. One chapter addresses foreigners in the Netherlands and Dutch people in Europe, and another compares the islands of the Caribbean Netherlands with the Frisian Islands.

The second part of the book looks at the methodology; it examines the new weighting approach in which microdata of the Labour Force Survey are reused in the 2011 Census. It also explains an additional estimation technique for detailed cells of the census tables.

For a short animated video about census methods and costs, see:

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