This article was originally published in The Economist on June 2nd 2011
CENSUSES are as old as civilisation and governments are increasingly following the United Nations benchmark of tallying their people once a decade. Keiko Osaki-Tomita of the UN Statistical Division says that a record 70 territories are holding censuses in 2011. Only Iraq, Lebanon, Myanmar, Somalia, Uzbekistan and Western Sahara will fail to hold a count in this ten-year round.
The big growth in censuses is in Africa, but changes in the way they happen are coming from Europe. Fears of Germany’s anti-census lobby (which liked to chant “Only sheep let themselves be counted”) blocked counts for 24 years after 1987—a gap exceeded only by places such as Angola. Change came with a new European Union law requiring decennial headcounts. But the 80,000 census takers who were at work in May did not depend only on the house visits that privacy-conscious Germans find so troubling. Instead they culled data from national employment records and local population registers. Only around 10% of citizens were randomly selected for old-style surveys (with a stiff fine for those refusing to respond). Read more
This article was originally published in The Economist on April 28th 2011
WHEN Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 millions of Britons partied in public. Far fewer were expected at street parties for Prince William’s wedding on April 29th, not least because of the red tape that now snags public gatherings. David Cameron vainly told local authorities to “let people get on and have fun.”
Few prime ministers need to implore their people to party. More often governments are trying to stop them: the Afghan authorities have been considering a proposal to limit the boom in weddings, sombre affairs under the Taliban. The suggested limit is 300 guests and a few dollars per head. Read more