Statistics Estonia asking people to check personal data before 2021 census

Statistics Estonia headquarters in Tallinnn.
Statistics Estonia headquarters in Tallinnn. Source: Aili Vahtla/ERR

Statistics Estonia are asking residents of Estonia to check their data in state systems to make sure it is correct for the upcoming 2021 census. This time, most of the data will be collected from state registers.

Statistics Estonia is making preparations for Population and Housing Census 2021. In contrast to previous censuses, this time the majority of the required data will be obtained from state databases. People will answer only to the questions for which there are no data available in any of the databases.

Preparations for the population census, which takes place at the end of 2021, have taken more than 10 years.

"A lot of effort has been devoted to developing state registers and improving data quality. Due to long-term exertion and investments, Estonian databases are now of high quality. Much work has been done, for example, on developing the population register, register of buildings and dozens of other databases," said Director General of Statistics Estonia Mart Mägi.

In Europe, population and housing censuses are coordinated by the European Union statistical office Eurostat. To ensure comparability of the member states' data, Eurostat provides a framework of what to ask and how to present the answers.

"For all the questions that we are required to ask, we can now get quality answers from registers," said Mägi. He added that for the same reason, it is important that people check and update their data in the registers.

For example, in the population register, each person should have an up-to-date residential address, e-mail address, phone number, ethnic nationality, mother tongue as well as level of education recorded. 

In order to evaluate the register-based part of the census, Statistics Estonia organised two trial censuses, the first one in 2016 and the second one in 2019.

"The trial censuses proved that the registers met international quality requirements already then, but they will get even better, as work on quality will continue until the end of 2021," explained Mägi.

The 2021 census cannot yet be organised based on registers only, as in addition to the questions mandatory for all countries, Estonian researchers wish to obtain information that is not available in the registers. To meet the researchers' wishes, Statistics Estonia has added questions on the knowledge of foreign languages and dialects, religions and limitations due to health problems.

According to the Official Statistics Act, participation in the population and housing census is an obligation. However, each person can decide whether to provide answers about their beliefs.

"This means that a person is not required to answer the question on health limitations, and the question on religion includes the option "not willing to answer". For data comparability, all questions have been worded as similarly as possible to the questions asked in the 2011 census," noted Mägi. The data collected in the population and housing census are protected by adhering to the principles of statistical confidentiality and personal data protection requirements. 

Countries that have so far carried out a register-based census include Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Iceland, Austria, the Netherlands and Slovenia. Latvia and Lithuania intend to organise the 2021 census on the basis of registers only.

In Europe, a goal has been set that starting in 2024 all EU countries would organise a population census each year, which requires transitioning to a fully register-based census.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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