What is census?
Population census can be simply defined as the official exercise of systematically counting the number of people in a country in order to arrive at the total number of people living in the country. When census is conducted, then a country knows its population and finds out more about the people in the country. Census enables a country to know the size of its population, the composition of its population, and the distribution of its population.
Stages of census
There are three main stages of population census. There is the preparation/planning stage, the implementing/data collection stage, and last but not least, the processing and analyzing of data stage.
The first stage of the census mainly involves creating awareness of the census and educating the people of the country about what census is all about and its importance. It also involves the acquisition of all relevant materials needed for the census. At this stage, census personnel (these people are known as enumerators) are also given training on how to go about doing their job effectively and efficiently.
The second stage, which is the implementing/collecting of data stage, is where the census personnel are sent to the field to gather the data by interviewing people.
The last stage, which is the processing and analyzing of data stage, involves the collection of data, the processing of data and the analyzing of data.
Now that we have all seen the three main stages of population census, let us turn our attention to the importance of census
Importance of census
- Without census, a government simply cannot know the total number of people living in the country. Census not only allows the government to know the total population of the country but also whether the country is over-populated or under-populated. This information helps the government run the country effectively.
- Population census is very important because it helps a country in its planning efforts. Countries often embark on central planning in their attempt to increase the rate of economic development within the country. This can be difficult to achieve or almost impossible if the authorities of the country do not know pertinent things about the country such as the size, structure and distribution of the country’s population. Having this knowledge is very important in helping a country during its planning efforts.
- Census can be used to control the population of a country. In the event where the population is growing too rapidly for the good of the country, census can be used to control population growth. During census, obviously the authorities get to know whether the population has increased or not. If they find out that the population has increased dramatically such that it is putting pressure on the resources of the country, they can decide to control population growth by intensifying sex education, giving tax reliefs to couples who reduce their family sizes by not giving birth to more children, intensifying family planning education, reducing the influx of immigrants into the country, etc. On the other hand, when the latest census figures show that the population of the country is declining to the point where it is harmful to the development of the country, the government can embark on campaigns such as giving marriage allowances to people, encouraging couples to give birth to more children, making it easier for foreigners to enter into the country, etc. These things can help in increasing the population of the country.
- Population census helps bring foreign investors into the country. We all know that no country on Earth can progress without foreign investors. This is the reason why all governments in the world try their best to attract foreign investors into their various countries. When population census is conducted, the total population’s size, composition and distribution are revealed. This information is very important for an investor – whether a foreign investor or a local investor in deciding whether to invest in the country or not. For example, where the country has a very large population with a greater percentage of the population being in the working class, many foreign investors will be interested in investing in the country. A good example of such a case was in the West African country of Ghana whose 1984 census results revealed that over 50 percent of its total population was in the working class bracket. Not long after this information was released, a lot of foreign investors were encouraged to send some of their investments into the country. As a result of that, Ghana’s economy grew in no small way.
- Thanks to census, comparing the standards of living among countries is possible and easy. The standard of living in a country is normally checked based on per capita income. And per capita income is obtained when you divide the total national income by the total population of a country. The result of this calculation is the per capita income. Without census, it will be impossible to get the per capita income and subsequently use it to compare the standards of living among countries.
- Since census shows the total number of people living within a country, it helps international organizations such as United Nations Organization (UNO) and African Union (AU) to know the strength of each member country. Also, it helps these international organizations determine how much contribution each member country makes to them. It’s worth noting that how much each country that is a member of an international organization makes to the organization is based on the total population of the country. Without census, these things would be difficult or impossible.
- Census allows a country know the geographical distribution of its population. The geographical distribution of population of a country refers to how the population is spread over the country. Knowing the geographical distribution of a country is important for so many reasons. For example, knowing this helps the government to divide the country into regions, states, local government areas, constituencies, etc for administrative and political purposes.
- The average country in the world allocates its revenue and resources based on the geographical distribution of its population. Places of dense population are obviously going to get more resources than places of sparse population.
- Population census helps the government to estimate its expected revenue from direct tax.
- Population census also helps a country decide how to distribute parliamentary seats. In many countries, the population of a state or region determines how many seats each has in parliament.
It is important to know that there can be no effective national development in the absence of census. One of the most important reasons why census is conducted regularly is because it helps in no small way in an effective national development planning. When population census is carried out, the government gets accurate information about the country’s population size and its population distribution. Knowing such crucial information is very important when it comes to planning and the implementation of socio-economic policies that help in the development process of any country on Earth. Even though census can be extremely expensive to conduct, countries in the world have no other option than to conduct it on a regular basis. In most countries, census is conducted once every ten years.
Buhari on January 06, 2020:
Its the best explanation of census that i have ever seen.
myvenn (author) from Ghana on November 24, 2015:
Thanks so much.
Reynold Jay from Saginaw, Michigan on November 24, 2015:
Yes--a census is a pulse on where a country is headed and where it has been. Lots of nice facts to consider here. Well done.