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The Population Census - What is it?
The Population Census provides the fullest and most reliable picture of the country's population and its characteristics at the "Census Day " (a particular point in time to which the census relates). In the census, data is collected at a specified time from the entire population; in contrast to other surveys, in which information is collected from only a small part of the residents, and from that conclusions are reached regarding the general population.

The Population Census is unique in that it provides the possibility of examining small and special population groups, and acquiring information on small geographic units (localities, neighbourhoods).
The census is conducted in Israel every decade. To date, the census was carried out six times, in 1948, 1961, 1972, 1983, 1995 and 2008.

The census is one of the most important sources of information that provides a basis for the official statistics of the country.

A population census, by the definition customary today, is a complete process of collection, reception, assessment, analysis, publication and distribution of demographic, economic and social data, which relate, at a given moment in time, to all the residents of a country or of a well-defined partial geographic area; as reflected in the Population and Housing Censuses Handbook of the UN, 1992.

The source of the word "census" is the Latin verb 'censere', which means - contrary to what's expected - not 'to count' but rather 'to assess', or in a term closer to the world of statistics, 'to estimate' (The Encyclopedia Americana, 1951). As strange as it may sound, despite the great progress made in this field, there is no practical method for determining accurately and completely the size and characteristics of any large population. The census, therefore, proves only an agreed-upon estimate, but it is a good estimate.


Stages of expediting the census
Conducting a census is a most complex undertaking, and therefore meticulous planning of each detail is required in the census process - in the methodological, contents and technological fields, as well as the organizational and administrative aspects. Great importance and a special emphasis are placed on planning and prior preparation when planning the execution of a census, preparation that includes many tests and repeated trials.

Census activities can be divided into three main stages:
1. The planning stage.
2. The stage of data collection.
3. The stage of producing the results.


The first stage - planning and preparation towards data collection
This stage is critical. During this stage, and especially at its beginning, the purpose and methodology of the census are determined, the main strategical decisions are made, and intermediate goals are defined, whose achievement makes the realization of the final goals possible. A great emphasis is put on the development of methods and means designed to achieve the goals of the census.

The second stage - data collection
During this stage data on the census population is collected, by direct contact with the residents and/or through information found in administrative resources. This is the most intensive stage, especially if the data collection in the field is extensive. This stage requires complex logistic preparation and is conducted in a relatively short period of time (several months).
In order to achieve good results during the process of collecting data from the population and a high level of quality of the data collected, there is a need for both a publicity campaign to enlist the cooperation of the public, as well as a high level of skills in the field operation.

The third stage - producing the results; including receipt, processing, estimation, analysis, publication and distribution of the census data
This stage is long and complex, from a professional viewpoint. During this stage three major activities occur simultaneously: Preparation of the final file of the census data (including receipt of the information, identification and correction of errors, editing of the data collected, imputation of missing data and calculation of estimates). Production of products by which the findings of the census are published and distributed, in the form of various statistical summaries and their analyses, or as files of anonymous individual records. Conducting activities of data assessment, from which a picture results of the extent of coverage of the population and the quality of the information produced

UN recommendations for population censuses

In most countries in the world, a population census is conducted once every ten years. In a number of countries such as Japan, Austria and Canada, a census is held more frequently, once every five years.

Towards the '60's UN statistics and demographics committees, which work for the development of demographic statistics in the world, developed a plan for population censuses in countries throughout the world. The committees formulated recommendations and suggestions for researching various subjects within the framework of the censuses, and created a standardization in basic subjects being studied throughout the world. Standardization of these subjects in population censuses around the world makes it possible to conduct comparative research between countries, based on census data. However, additional research subjects in the census change from country to country according to each country's needs, the information sources available to it, and its financial resources.

UN activities in population and housing censuses also include, among other things, recommendations on census methodological issues such as data collection methods, census geography, use of samples at various stages of the population census, and methods of data processing.
   
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