Census around the World

The Census in Europe

All European Union (EU) Member States have agreed to hold a national census on a 10-yearly basis. The first censuses under that EU Regulation took place in 2011. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a number of countries, including Ireland, Scotland and Germany, decided to postpone their census from 2021 until 2022. England, Wales and Northern Ireland carried out censuses in 2021.

The Census around the world

The United Nations (UN) recommends that countries undertake a national census at least every 10 years. It notes that some countries may need more frequent censuses because of the speed of changes in their population and/or housing circumstances. It has also recommended that all countries or areas of the world produce detailed population and housing statistics at least once in the period 2015-2024. 

How the census is conducted around the world

Countries use a variety of methods and data sources to collect their census data. In Ireland, we use a ‘traditional’ census. This involves teams of enumerators calling to each household in the country to deliver and collect census forms. The United States carried out its 2020 census using paper forms, online and telephone responses. The 2021 census in England, Wales and Northern Ireland was the first census in each country carried out primarily online. The Central Statistics Office is working towards an online option for Ireland’s next census.

EU Member States decide which way to best carry out their census. In addition to the ‘traditional’ census, options include using population registers, a combination of a traditional census and sample surveys, or a combination of a register-based census and sample surveys. They also agree definitions and dates for the data to be collected and measures to assess and assure its quality. The United Nations’ World Population and Housing Census Programme includes principles and recommendations to guide and assist countries in carrying out their regular censuses.  

The world’s population

The United Nations publishes an Annual Statistical Yearbook and an annual Demographic Yearbook which includes population figures for each country.  The 2020 Demographic Yearbook estimated a total global population of just under 7.8 billion in mid-2020, including 3.86 billion females and 3.93 billion males. Asia was the most highly populated continent, with 4.6 billion people. China, with 1.4 billion people, was the country with the highest population. 

Some countries maintain population clocks to estimate their population, and in some cases the world population. The United States Census Bureau provides an online population clock, which includes the top 10 most highly populated countries.  

Top 10 most populous countries (July 1, 2021)

1. China1,407,098,834
2. India1,380,721,926
3. United States331,893,745
4. Indonesia275,122,131
5. Pakistan238,181,034
6. Nigeria219,463,862
7. Brazil215,903,281
8. Bangladesh164,098,818
9. Russia142,320,790
10. Mexico128,569,498

Want to know more?

If you want to know more about the population in the EU, or globally, you can visit these websites: