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7 Problems of Census

Updated on November 02, 2016
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Problems of Census

The conducting of census is one of the most important things countries must do on a regular basis. But sadly, in many parts of the world (especially in the underdeveloped parts) a lot of problems exist during the conducting of census which make it sometimes difficult to conduct regular censuses or get adequate census figures.

8 Common Problems Countries Face in Conducting Census

Some of the major problems faced by nations when it comes to the conducting of census include the following:

1. Cost of Conducting Census

One of the biggest challenges associated with conducting census in poor countries is the enormous financial costs of conducting the exercise. It is no secret that it is extremely costly to conduct a census. Even in developed worlds, the costs involved in conducting censuses can be quite overwhelming. For many poor countries all over the world, taking huge amounts of money out of their limited resources for the purpose of census can be a very difficult thing. As a result of this, many poor countries cannot conduct censuses as regularly or as efficiently as richer countries do.

2. High Illiteracy Rate in a Nation has a Negative Impact on the Conducting of Census

Countries with large proportions of their populations being illiterates face a great challenge during the conducting of censuses. Over the years, numerous studies have shown that countries with very high illiteracy rates find it more difficult undertaking efficient population census than countries with high literacy rates. For example, in certain very remote parts of the world where illiteracy rates are extremely high, many people tend to run away from census officials when they arrive to count them. As a result of illiteracy, many of these people feel that it is a taboo to count human beings. Sometimes these illiterates also feel that the government uses counting of people as a strategy to raise the taxes of households. They therefore give wrong information to the census officials or run away from their villages when these census officials come to count them. This often translates to inaccurate population figures.

3. Inadequate Infrastructural Facilities in Certain Areas

There are certain places in the world where it is very difficult undertaking efficient population census because of poor infrastructural facilities such as bad roads, inaccessible roads or insufficient roads that connect various towns and villages. There are certain very remote places where the only available medium of transportation is by foot. In view of this, many census officials can’t reach these very remote and inaccessible places to count the people and therefore just make estimations as to the number of people living in such areas. The end result is an inadequate population figures after the census.

4. Traditional and Religious Beliefs can Interfere with the Census Exercise

In many underdeveloped parts of the world (especially in certain remote parts of Africa), where traditional beliefs are the order of the day, census officers face serious challenges when they reach these places and try counting the people. Most of the people in such areas deliberately decide not to make themselves available to be counted because of their strong traditional beliefs. Some of these traditional beliefs consider it an abomination to count people while they are still alive. According to these beliefs, anybody who gets counted exposes himself to suffering from all sorts of ill fortunes which can range from ailments to even death. Some traditional believers also consider it a taboo to let women count men. They therefore don’t make themselves available to be counted by the female census officers that are sent by the government to their villages.

5. Corruption Interferes with Census

Corruption during census can make it difficult to have an efficient population census exercise that provides accurate population figures. One of the biggest reasons why censuses aren’t very successful in a country such as Nigeria is because of the high rate of corruption in that country. Over the years, there have been countless stories of corrupt census officials collecting monies needed for conducting census but pocketing these monies and sitting in their various officers where they write down imaginary figures of certain villages and towns without actually having visited these places. This automatically leads to inaccurate population figures of a country. Also, in countries where population sizes determine how much money the central government releases to a state or province, corruption can easily overtake the census taking process and make states to exaggerate their population sizes in order to get a bigger share of funds during the central government’s distribution of funds. Corruption is one of the biggest reasons why certain countries find it very difficult conducting successful censuses and obtaining reliable population data.

6. Insufficient Census Experts

Another problem associated with conducting censuses in certain parts of the world is the insufficient number of professionals with the knowledge and experience of conducting census. More often than not, governments of underdeveloped countries don’t have sufficient experienced census officers, demographers and population experts to effectively handle the task of conducting population census. As a result of this, these countries end up using inexperienced census officers to do the job. The end result of using people who are not experts to conduct an important exercise like census is an efficient census that provides inaccurate population figures.

7. Insufficient and Ineffective Census Educational Campaign

How effective an educational campaign on census is prior to the census taking place determines how successful the census exercise eventually becomes. Many times, certain countries are unable to get accurate population figures through population censuses simply because prior to the census exercises, intensive and effective educational campaigns on the importance of census to the nation wasn’t done. It is when people become aware of the importance of population census that they are encouraged to make themselves available to be counted and cooperate with census officers in order to ensure a smooth census exercise which brings about an efficient population census that provides accurate population figures of the country.

8. Poor Demographic Maps

Because of demographic maps that aren’t reliable, it becomes very difficult for the authorities to know all the remote areas (especially the very remote areas) in the country and go there to conduct the census exercise. The problem with unreliable or poor demographic maps is the fact that it results in some extremely remote villages not appearing on the maps. Such areas therefore end up not being visited by census officials.


The above-mentioned are the most common reasons why certain countries (usually underdeveloped countries) are unable to obtain accurate population census figures during population censuses. Of all the above reasons, the massive costs involved in conducting census happens to be the biggest challenge that nations across the world have to battle with. Many underdeveloped nations, because of very weak economies, struggle a lot getting adequate funds to purchase inputs or logistics for a smooth census exercise. As a result of that, these countries find it very challenging conducting successful censuses.


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