ABU DHABI // A comprehensive census of the emirate begins today, with thousands of workers collecting data from residents and visitors that will shape government policies and funding.
To kick off Census 2011, the Statistics Centre Abu Dhabi (Scad) will distribute paper forms requesting personal details such as name, occupation, age, marital status and nationality at hotels, hospitals, prisons and student dormitories until Monday.
From Tuesday, census takers will start knocking on doors. They will visit residences and labour accommodation to collect data in person.
The worker will ask each resident the census questions and record them on a tablet computer. Both types of forms will request that the respondent detail both residents and visitors at the home on "Census Reference Night", which will be sunset Monday to sunrise Tuesday.
Everyone living in or visiting the emirate on the reference night is to be counted. Scad selected the reference night with the aim of creating a portrait of the emirate's population at one moment in time.
"This will the first comprehensive data collection activity in Abu Dhabi since the 2005 Census," a Scad official said. "The Abu Dhabi Government agreed that a census needed to be held in the emirate, in order to get detailed information about each of the three regions."
More than 6,000 census takers will carry out the field work and data collection phase of the census, which is expected to last until October 27. This means that, in extreme cases, people will be asked 24 days after the fact who was staying at their home on October 3.
At the end of the day, each census taker sends the data to the Abu Dhabi main office via a secure connection.
Scad said the information collected will be used to create policies and fund community programmes and services.
Each emirate is meant to carry out its own census every five years.
A plan to conduct a door-to-door census nationwide was called off last year due to a "lack of financial resources" to cover the estimated cost of Dh65 million. Instead, the national population is estimated using administrative records from the Ministry of Interior and data on births and deaths from the Ministry of Health.
For 2010, the population of the emirate was estimated to be about 1.9 million, with nearly 61 per cent living in the capital, nearly 29 per cent in Al Ain, and nine per cent in Al Gharbia, according to data published in Scad's latest Statistical Yearbook of Abu Dhabi.
About 1.4 million men and 588,000 women live in the emirate and 22 per cent are nationals. Between 2005 and 2010, annual population growth rates averaged nearly eight per cent per year.
Participating in the census is required by law and all residents and visitors - including babies, children and domestics - must be counted. Every "householder", defined as "the person who owns or rents the property and is wholly or partly responsible for paying household bills", must answer the census questions.
A pilot census, which collected information from 10,000 people, was conducted in May to help Scad test its systems and equipment.
Census takers will primarily visit between 4-9pm Sunday through Thursday but they may work some mornings or weekends.
They will be based in 37 schools across the emirate - in the Western Region, Al Ain and Abu Dhabi.
All information collected by Scad will be confidential and will be used only for statistical purposes. By law, Scad cannot share raw personal data, even with other governmental departments, only the overall statistical findings.
Scad staff have signed a legal declaration that all census information provided is secret.
Translators will be available for non-English or non-Arabic speakers. Workers are trained to call supervisors to arrange for a translator to visit homes for foreign language speakers.
Provisional census results are expected in December and full results should be made public by 2012.