The Census collects information every 10 years about the characteristics of people and households in the country. It is used by central and local government, health authorities and many other organisations to plan and provide services for everyone.
The census is an extremely large-scale and complex exercise, which requires significant government funding. The information it provides has many important uses and failure to deliver would have considerable implications, be very costly and would undermine both user and public confidence. Detailed planning is therefore required to ensure that the aims of the census are met and that public investment can be properly allocated.
As the census only takes place once every ten years, there are a number of complexities and challenges that go hand-in-hand with such an exercise. Problems need to be anticipated and contingencies developed to ensure that operations run smoothly, even in the event of a crisis
(e.g. the Foot and Mouth outbreak during the 2001 Census).
New questions and questionnaire designs need to be tested to determine public reaction, as well as our systems and processes.
The most recent Census in Northern Ireland took place on Sunday 27 March 2011. This was the same date as the rest of the UK to help produce consistent results for the UK as a whole, as well as for each country.
To make sure the 2011 Census ran smoothly NISRA conducted a test in 2007 and a rehearsal of systems and processes in 2009 and various ad hoc tests.
A selection of frequently asked questions are available to help you find out more about the 2011 Census.