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Costing Guide for Population and Housing Censuses
Sam Suharto1; Iqbal Alam2
Statistical Consultants, Statistical Consultant, 2 Muirfield Lan, Bloomfield, CT 06002, USA.
Statistical Consultant, 1600 North Oak St. Apt 1016, Arlington, VA 22209, USA.
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Note: This paper is an extract from a draft report commissioned by UNFPA prepared by the two coauthors, entitled
“Census Costing Guide”. This paper is submitted for presentation at the 57th Session of the International Statistical
Institute (ISI) with permission of UNFPA; the authors, however, are fully responsible for its content.
The increased demand for timely and more elaborate data combined with the rising population numbers has
tremendously increased census costs. The adoption of new technologies in mapping, data processing and
dissemination, while improving the efficiency and quality of the products, has further led to increases in
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Donor fatigue in supporting census activities and associated rising costs resulted in many countries not
participating in the 2000 round of population and housing census programme (UNSD 1996, 2004, 2009 and
Suharto 2005). The global financial crisis has further aggravated the situation, and there is a possibility that
many more countries may not be able to conduct a census during the 2010 round. Realizing the urgency and
severity of the situation, UNFPA has established a programme to facilitate the continuity of census taking in
developing and transitional countries. These efforts are in line with the leadership role UNFPA has played in
advocating and supporting censuses over nearly four decades.
In order to mobilize adequate resources for a census programme, proper identification of costs for the
various activities involved is essential. Experience has shown that in the past many countries under-
estimated census costs. In an effort to assist census organizations and Governments in preparing census
budgets and mobilizing resources, UNFPA has initiated the development of a detailed “Census Costing
Guide” covering all census activities. The Guide will also assist the UNFPA country offices and other donor
agencies in understanding the census requirements.
2. Organization of the Guide
The most crucial step in planning and conducting a census is the development of a census programme with
clear identification of census activities and tasks. This serves two purposes: (i) helps determine the
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sequencing and timing of various census activities; and (ii) provides a structured process for preparing a
budget. In addition, such detailed breakdowns of activities and tasks, including the expected completion time
for each activity, provide administrators with a clear picture of the census process and the various steps
involved for its successful completion.
The “Census Costing Guide” identifies a comprehensive list of census components, activities and tasks,
grouped into five broad stages. These stages are: 1. Planning and Management; 2. Preparatory Work; 3. Field
Operations; 4. Data Processing; and 5. Census Products and Dissemination (United Nations 2008). Each
stage consists of a series of major components. To achieve the completion of a component, several activities
must be successfully completed. For each activity to be completed, a set of tasks are identified, each of
which must also be completed successfully. A task is the lowest level of work in the operational ladder; each
task may need multi-prong actions (United Nations 2001). For each task, therefore, a list of quantifiable
budget items should be identified with unit cost, number of units required, and frequency of occurrences in
order to determine the total resource requirement.
The Guide is presented in a tabular Excel format (a sample page is attached), along with selected
explanations and comprehensive lists of quantifiable budget items. The Guide contains in total 31
components, 92 activities, and 348 tasks. When each task is broken down into quantifiable budget items,
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depending on the complexity and the situation of the census project in each country, the number will easily
reach several thousand items.
3. Essentials of Census Costing
An indispensible element in planning a census is the development of detailed project plans. Use of project
management techniques, such as Gantt Charts, containing a detailed time line, or network diagrams (United
Nations 2001), are very useful tools to assist the census management, the Ministry of Finance, and
international donor agencies in understanding when an activity will be carried out and when the funds for
that activity will be required. With a view to using such techniques, each task in the “Census Costing Guide”
has been uniquely coded, and it is therefore possible for the census office to assign to each task its start and
end time, duration, and any predecessor tasks which need to be completed before this task can be started.
Although breakdowns in the “Census Costing Guide” may look too cumbersome and unnecessarily detailed,
it is the only way a census budget can be estimated and justified. The quantifiable budget items for each task
should be clearly identified by the office preparing the budget, and adequate resources should be earmarked
in the budget. Each activity under a component should be discussed in detail by the team preparing the
budget and tasks should be modified to meet local conditions.
The population and housing census is a very complex and challenging undertaking, and the census
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programme in each country is unique, mainly due to the differences in the national statistical systems, the
census content and the methodology. The Guide covers all the main elements of a census undertaking. It has
been designed to serve as a tool for planning and estimating census costs and to assist national statistical
offices in developing census budgets. This guide should be carefully reviewed by the national experts and
adapted to meet the specific national census structure and design.
 Suharto, Sam “2010 Census Round: Challenges to Developing Countries”, Proceeding of the 55Th Session
of the International Statistical Institute, Sydney, Australia, 2005.
 United Nations (2008). “Principles and Recommendations for Population and Housing Censuses, Revision
2”. Statistical Papers, Series M No.67/Rev.2. Sales No. E.07.XVII.8.
 United Nations (2001). Handbook on Census Management for Population and Housing Censuses, Studies
in Methods. Series F No. 83. Sales No. E.00.XVII.15 Rev. 1.
 United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD): “Census Financing and the Role of External Assistance”.
Paper presented at the Regional Working Group on Recommendations for the 2000 Round of Population
and Housing Censuses in Africa, Addis Ababa, 22-26 January 1996.
 United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD): “Overview of Population Censuses in Africa 1990 and 2000
Rounds”, Paper presented at the Interagency Census Coordination Committee Meeting on Sub-Saharan
Africa, New York, 14 September 2004.
 United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) website:
http://unstats.un.org/unsd/demographic/sources/census/ censusdates.html New York, as of 27 April, 2009.
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Sample of Tabular Excel Format
STAGE I: PAGE 1
I. PLANNING AND MANAGEMENT
COST NO COST
QUANTIFIABLE FRE- TOTAL
COMPONENTS ACTIVITIES TASKS PER OF PER
BUDGET ITEMS QUENCY COST
UNIT UNITS ITEM
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
1 Establish 1.1 Establish 1.1.1 Assess availability 184.108.40.206
National Census office of existing space, Renovations of
Census Space, renovations, needed, existing office
Office organization, rent or construct space
and reporting new offices
1.1.2 Develop 220.127.116.11
organizational chart Management
1.1.3 Design key reporting 18.104.22.168 Meetings
system & printing
1.1.4 Monitoring of 22.214.171.124 Periodic
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1.1.5 Procure office 126.96.36.199 Office
furniture desks & chairs
1.1.6 Procure office 188.8.131.52 Computers