Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Click here to download a printable version.

1. What is a population census?

A population census is a snapshot of a country at a particular moment in time. South Africa’s census will be held in October this year. Census night is the 9th of October 2011. The picture we are taking will tell us how many people live in the country, their gender, age, living conditions, access to basic services etc.

2. Who organises Census?

In South Africa the census is planned and conducted by Statistics South Africa.

3. Who is Statistics South Africa?

Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) is the national statistics agency of South Africa established under the Statistics Act (Act No.6 of 1999) with the aim to produce timely, accurate and accessible official statistics.

4. Why do we need to have a census?

The information collected will give planners, both inside and outside of government, an accurate picture of how many people are living in the country and their living conditions as well as access to basic services. This will tell them what resources people need such as education, healthcare, housing and transport. That is why it is important for everyone within the borders of South Africa on the 9th of October to participate.

5. When was the last census conducted?

The last time a census was conducted was in 2001. South Africa conducted its first democratic census in 1996. This year’s census will be the third census that counts the entire South African population.

6. How often is a census conducted?

Conducting a census every ten years is in line with international standards.

7. Why do I have to participate in Census 2011?

Census data is used for planning purposes. If you do not participate, the data collected will not be a true reflection of the South African population. The South African government as well as private sector needs accurate information for effective planning and policy making. .

8. Do I have to participate?

A census attempts to collect data from everyone, unlike a survey which only collects data from selected respondents. A census is therefore the only source for community level data on issues such as migration patterns, education, persons with disabilities, employment and unemployment, fertility, mortality and service delivery, all of which are critical for planning. We therefore encourage all persons in South Africa to cooperate with our fieldworkers and to give them complete and accurate data.

Legally, Section 16 of the Statistics Act (Act 6 of 1999) obliges a respondent to answer all questions put to them by an officer of Statistics South Africa. Section 17 of the Statistics Act guarantees the confidentiality of your information. The data we collect is used for statistical purposes only and no-one, not even the President of South Africa, can access data on an individual level.

9. How do I know that the person at my door is from Stats SA?

Our enumerators can be identified as follows:

  1. A yellow satchel with the Census and Stats SA logos
  2. They will have census questionnaires with them
  3. An A3-size book with a map of the area on the first page
  4. A yellow bib with the Census and Stats SA logos
  5. An ID card

All persons who applied for a census post have been vetted by NIA, and no person who has been convicted of a crime has been employed.

10. How will you make sure I am counted?
Our fieldworkers have just completed a listing phase where they have recorded a register of dwellings, this will be used to cross reference with during enumeration to verify all households within an EA have been counted. If your household has not been contacted by 21 October, you can contact the call centre on 0800 110 248 to request that an enumerator visit your dwelling to administer the questionnaire.
After data collection from 10 – 31 October, an additional 2 weeks (01 – 14 November) will be utilized for mop-up operations, and to ensure that any households that have been missed are counted.

11. How do I know that the information I give to Stats SA will not be sold or made available to other organisations such as SARS?

Section 17 of the Statistics Act guarantees the confidentiality of your individual information. Every Stats SA official is sworn to uphold the confidentiality of collected data. Employees of Stats SA will be legally bound, by signing the Oath of Confidentiality, never to disclose individual information gathered in the course of their duties, to anyone not authorised by Stats SA. The oath continues to apply even after employment has ceased. Section 8 of the Statistics Act states that no unauthorised person or organisation (including government departments) can have access to individual information that is gathered in terms of the Act, and no other government organisation can look at any individual information collected during the census except when the data have been aggregated for report purposes and the respondent’s personal details have been excluded. The Act provides for a fine of up to R10 000 and/or imprisonment of up to six months for fieldworkers or other employees of Stats SA who are found guilty of contravening the Act.

12. Why do you need my full name and address?

The reason Stats SA requires full names and addresses is for quality-check procedures. When you complete the questionnaire, your personal information (such as name and address) will be filled in on a flap attached to the first page of the questionnaire. Once the quality assurance has been done, this flap is removed and destroyed. During the final processing, the data for all the households are converted into statistical tables for publication that do not include name and address information. Consequently, published information can never be traced back to a specific household, or a particular individual.
While Stats SA asks for the full names of respondents and records the physical addresses of their dwellings on the questionnaire, this information is never published or otherwise made available to anyone outside the employ of Stats SA, not even to other government agencies.

13. In which languages are the questionnaires available?

The questionnaires are available in all 11 official languages.

14. How long does it take to fill in the questionnaire?

It will take approximately 35 minutes to complete the questionnaire, depending on the number of people in your household.

15. Can I complete the questionnaire on my own?

The fieldworkers have been specially trained to assist with the speedy completion of the questionnaire. Should you wish to complete the questionnaire on your own, you may. You can also contact the call centre (0800 110 248) should you need assistance in the completion of the questionnaire. Please ensure that all questions are answered, and make arrangements with the fieldworker to have your questionnaire collected before 30 October 2011.

16. Can I return the questionnaire to the Census office myself?

No, the questionnaire has to be returned to the fieldworker, as they have to account for all the questionnaires allocated to them.

17. Should I let the person into my house?

Due to the length of time that it takes to complete a questionnaire, we are requesting that all people within the borders of South Africa welcome the census enumerators into their homes, once they have done all the necessary checks and are satisfied that the person is legitimate. If you are not comfortable doing this, you can answer the questions through your security gate.

18. Why do I need to participate in this year’s census if I was counted in 2001?

Over a period of 10 years a country or household may experience dramatic changes. If you compare your family today to what it was 10 years ago, it has changed. Family members may have died, others have been born and some have moved away. We need to get an accurate picture of how things are now in order to explore the diversity of the population, understand different lifestyles and to find ways and means to support them.

19. Can I complete the questionnaire online?

Questionnaires have to be linked geographically to a particular area. Due to this, physical questionnaires have to be administered to households.

20. Can I print the questionnaire from a website and complete it myself?

Questionnaires are barcoded for scanning and tracking purposes; they cannot be made available for download, as downloaded questionnaires cannot be barcorded. Questionnaires are linked to a specific area by means of the barcode, ensuring that the information generated from this project is accurate.
Each questionnaire has a set of stickers. One is stuck in a prominent area in the home to show that the household has been enumerated; the other is left with the household. After the census operations, a Post Enumeration Survey (PES) is conducted as a quality assurance measure. A sample of households will be visited a second time, and a much shorter questionnaire will be       administered. If you are part of the PES, you need to give the second sticker to the fieldworker. This will allow us to match the census questionnaire with the PES questionnaire, and ensure that information was captured accurately.

21. What if I live in an old age home, or I am in a hotel or some other communal establishment on Census night?

Statistics South Africa uses three different questionnaires. Questionnaire A is for households; questionnaire B is for people who are in transit, i.e. at airports, hotels, etc, and Questionnaire C is for people in institutions such as hospitals, prisons, etc. so you will be enumerated accordingly.

22. On the night of the 9th I will be out of the country. Will I get counted?

No. Stats SA conducts a de facto census, which means we count people where they were on the night of 9 October 2011. Anyone who was in the country before midnight on 9 October 2011 is counted; anyone who entered the country on 10 October 2011 is not. E.g. babies born before midnight on 9 October 2011 are counted; babies born on 10 October 2011 are not.

23. If I have visitors on the night of the 9th, should they be counted as part of my household?

Anyone who slept in the dwelling on the night of the 9th should be counted as part of that household. Persons who were working, travelling or attending an event on the night of the 9th and return to the household the next day (10th October) should be counted as part of the household.

24. How can you be sure that the person who slept here on the 9th, who is not part of this household, is not counted where they usually live?

Our field staff are trained to probe whether a person was present in the household on the night of the 9th. If they were not they will not be counted.

25. How do I know who the permanent members of the household are and who are not?

If a person lives in a household for at least 4 nights or more and has done so for the last 6 months, he may be considered as a permanent member.

26. What were the results of the previous Census?

There were 45 million people in the country in 2001. In you would like more information, please call (012) 310-8600 or email

27. When will the results of Census 2011 be available to the public?

The final results will be available in March 2013.

28. Why will the results take so long to be published?

We are visiting 14 million households to collect data from each one. It takes a long time to capture all that data, process, verify and analyse, and produce products that make the information easily accessible and understandable.

29. Will illegal immigrants be counted?

Yes, our task is to count everybody who is within the borders of South Africa on census night          (09th October), not to find out their legal status.

30. I am not comfortable with the fieldworker allocated; can I have someone else do the     enumeration?
If you do not wish to complete the questionnaire with the fieldworker, please ask them to contact their fieldwork supervisor to complete the questionnaire with you.
Alternatively, you can complete the questionnaire yourself and arrange with the fieldworker to collect it before 30 October 2011. If you need assistance with questionnaire completion, please call the call centre on 0800 110 248.

31. Why is the question on religion no longer asked in the census?
In 2008, Stats SA embarked on a series of user consultations, to get advice as to what questions should be asked in the questionnaire. The question on religion was low on the list of priorities as informed by the users of census data, and it therefore did not make it onto the final list of data items.

32. I have a live-in domestic worker, will she be counted with my household?
A live-in domestic worker who gets paid a salary is counted as a separate household.

33. Can the questionnaire be filled in with a black pen?
Yes, black pens and dark (2HB) pencils may be used. All other colours do not show clearly when the questionnaires are scanned, and the questionnaires will then be regarded as spoilt.
We prefer that the questionnaire be completed in pencil; that way, if an error is made, it can easily be rectified. If you write in pen, make an error and scratch it out and write the answer elsewhere, the questionnaire is regarded as spoilt.

34. Why are questions asked on sex and not gender?
Sex is the biological distinction between males and females, and is therefore the more scientific definition. Gender is the social distinction between males and females.

35. Why do you ask questions on population group?
This information is used to track population group dynamics. E.g. different population groups have different fertility and mortality rates. This information needs to be taken into account when demographers do population projections, to ensure that they are as accurate as possible. Stats SA asks this question for statistical purposes only.

36. Why do you ask questions about what appliances I have in my house, and my income?
This information identifies the standard of living, and is used to generate economic and social indicators such as the Living Standards Measures (LSMs).

37. Why is the fertility question asked of young females?
There is an international understanding that, due to better nutrition and quality of life, young women are entering puberty at a much younger age. As soon as a female begins menstruating, irrespective of her age, that female is capable of bearing a child, and is therefore considered fertile.

38. How will people in institutions (prisons, hospitals, etc) be counted?
Institutions such as prisons, hospitals, clinics, etc. will be enumerated using administrative records. The person responsible will be requested to supply the enumerator with a register of all persons who were present in that institution on that night. This information will then be recorded on Questionnaire C.

39. What questions will be asked?
The census questionnaire asks questions on demographics (sex, age, language, etc.), migration (where you live, have you moved), general health & functioning, parental survival, income, education, employment, fertility, access to services and mortality. If you would like to see an example of the questionnaire, it can be downloaded from under the “Census Archives” section.

40. What if I am travelling or out at a social on census night? Where will I be counted?
If you return to your place of residence on 10 October, and did not sleep over at another dwelling (e.g. hotel, caravan park, someone else’s residence), you will be counted at your place of residence.
E.g. someone travelling from Cape Town to Johannesburg on 09 October, who left Cape Town mid-afternoon on the 9th, travelled directly to Johannesburg without sleeping over at a venue on the way, and arrived in Johannesburg on 10th October, will be counted as though they were at their Johannesburg residence on census night.
41. I heard that census only starts on 10 October. I have already been visited by someone claiming to be from the census. Was that person legitimate?
Before enumeration begins, Stats SA does a process called listing, where a register is made of all the structures on the ground. This register ensure that our fieldworkers only go to the dwellings allocated to them, and also helps to ensure that no-one is missed when we go door-to-door counting people. The people who visited your household in the period prior to enumeration were busy with this process.

42. I am at home on 09 October, but will be leaving shortly after that and only returning after enumeration ends on 31 October. How do I ensure I am counted?
Please contact the call centre on 0800 110 248 with your details. Your details will be forwarded to the relevant district office, who will endeavour to send a fieldworker to enumerate your household before you leave.


Should you have any further questions or comments about Census 2011 please contact us on
0800 110 248 / 080 CENSUS 2 or email us at Visit our website: