Today, population censuses are conducted in every country in the Western world. Censuses are very important, because they are a unique source of information on the size, composition, and characteristics of the population, even in the smallest geographical units such as statistical areas.
Different countries conduct censuses in different ways, in accordance with the size and social behavior of their populations. In most countries, population censuses are conducted once every 10 years. In some countries such as Japan,Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, and Canada, censuses are conducted more often, every 5 years. Notwithstanding differences between countries with regard to the frequency of censuses and techniques in different countries, the information collected ultimately relates to similar issues. Thus, it is possible to conduct international comparisons afterwards.
Over the past few decades statistical bureaus throughout the world, including in Israel, have been guided by the recommendations of the United Nations committees. Those committees are involved in efforts to develop demographic statistics all over the world. In that framework, they have been helping various countries define the information that is essential to them and formulate a basis for international comparisons. Their recommendations include proposals for various topics of research in censuses, in an attempt to achieve uniformity in the basic topics investigated throughout the world, and to provide a basis for comparative research using the census data. However, other topics of research vary from one country to the next, in accordance with the needs of different countries. The topics investigated in a given country aim to enable efficient planning of activities in that countrys national institutions. In addition, the topics of research aim to enhance understanding of the behavior of different population groups in a given country (deriving from the nature of the population, the history of the country, and its specific socio-economic situation). As such, the topics examined in the census questionnaire can vary slightly in different countries because they are determined according to the countrys needs, as well as according to the availability of information and the amount of financial resources allocated for the census.
The UN recommendations also relate to methodological issues such as data collection methods, census geography, use of samples at various stages of population censuses, and data processing methods.
In recent years, the use of administrative data for official statistics has intensified. This is largely due to technological changes, especially in the areas of computerization, and the expansion of administrative databases. These processes have opened new options for collection, analysis, and storage of data in addition to improving data accessibility. Moreover, the need to meet standards of diversity and expansion of the statistical products in developed economies, as well as the need to reduce the response burden on participants in those studies, and the need to reduce the costs of producing statistical data have all led to the conclusion that it is possible and desirable to make more efficient use of data found in administrative sources. These trends are also evident in population censuses.