Population and housing census 2011. History

Towards register-based census step by step


While households have provided the necessary information themselves for previous censuses, this year they don't need to do anything. All the necessary information will be retrieved from registers. However, this has not happened overnight; the development has been gradual over the last 40 years.

The development of the Population and housing census and the administrative registers has gone hand in hand in many ways. Data from censuses has, in many cases, been used to establish new registers, and register data has subsequently been used in the censuses.

It all began in 1769

The first census in Norway was conducted in 1769, and the first individual census was introduced in 1801. An individual census is where the entire population is listed by their name, and characteristics such as place of residence and occupation are linked to the individuals. Since 1865, all censuses have been individual censuses. Until 1970, the census was conducted using the traditional method with enumerators. After that, things started to change.

Population register had a major impact

In 1964, a central population register was created in Norway, which included the entire population. The population register was based on the data collected in the census conducted in 1960. Everyone who was domiciled in Norway was issued with a unique personal identification number, and the population register was subsequently updated with information on births, deaths and migrations. This enabled population statistics to be produced without having to count the population in the true sense of the word. The personal identification number was eventually also used in other administrative registers. This was to have a major impact on censuses as well as other social statistics.

Use of register data increasing gradually

The census in 1970 was conducted using a questionnaire and local enumerators. The data collected was used to update and correct the recently created population register. The census also formed the basis for a statistical register of the population's education level.

In 1980, the questionnaires were sent out and returned in the mail, making it no longer necessary to use enumerators. Additionally, the questionnaire was simplified, since some of the data, such as date of birth and home address, could be retrieved from the population register. Questions on education undertaken in Norway were also no longer necessary. In 1990, the only areas that the census asked about related to work, household and housing.

History of the census in Norway

1769 - First census in Norway

1801 - First individual census

1815-1960 Traditional census with enumerators

1964 - Population register established

1970 - Last census using enumerators

1980 - Questionnaires via mail. Some data is taken from the population register.

1990 - More data is taken from registers, sample survey

2001 - Dwelling register established. Questionnaire for households and dwellings.

2011 - First fully register-based census

Final piece falls into place

With regard to the 2001 census, data on employment and unemployment was also available in administrative data sources. All that was missing was data on households and dwellings. This was because there was a register of buildings but not of dwellings. In houses with several dwellings, it was not therefore possible to determine who lived with who based on the register data, i.e. who made up the members of a household.

Prior to the census, the Ground Property, Address and Building Register, now known as the Cadastre, was extended to also cover dwellings. This was done by adding a dwelling number to the address. Consequently, a dwelling number could also be added to the dwelling address in the population register for persons who lived in a house made up of several flats. The 2001 census was used to collect information on individual dwellings, such as floor space, number of rooms, bathrooms and WCs, as well as who lived in the dwelling. After the census was completed, this information was used to update the population register and the Cadastre.

In the 2011 census therefore, data for households and dwellings can also be taken from administrative registers, thus completing the development that started with the creation of the population register in 1964.