The first national census of Timor-Leste was conducted from the 11th of July to the 30th of July in 2004 with 4,000 interviewers visiting over 190,000 households across the country. The Census provides Asia's newest nation with its first full population count after the traumatic events of 1999 and base line statistics on housing, employment, fertility and literacy. The census statistical data and indicators, at both national and district levels, will assist the country's administrators and international organisations in planning for sustainable development programs.
In July 2002, a mission comprised of experts from the United Nations Population Division, the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and the Malaysian Department of Statistics was asked to explore the feasibility of conducting a Population and Housing Census in the newly independent Timor-Leste. Although considered as a difficult undertaking, it was determined to be viable.
UNFPA organized the necessary technical and human resource support and provided the major part of the funding needed to carry out the census. Since 2002 two UNFPA Census Projects have been supporting census activities and have expended more than three million dollars. This major financial contribution was supplemented by the assistance of other donors: the United States, which among other things paid for some equipment, the printing of questionnaires and other forms, and also funded technical assistance for data editing; Ireland, which funded the census publicity campaign; New Zealand, which provided funding for technical experts; and Australia, which assisted in the training of data input personnel and in funding several technical assistance missions.
Kind of Data
Census/enumeration data [cen]
Unit of Analysis
The scope of the Timor-Leste Population and Housing Census 2004 includes:
Part 1. Household Information - Location Identification
Part 2. Enumeration Particulars
Part 3. Dwelling and Household Information
Part 4: People who Usually Live in this House
Part 5: Visitors Present on Census Day
Part 6: Usual Residents Absent on Census Day
Part 7: Household Questionnaire - Individual Particulars (Place of Residence)
Part 8: Household Questionnaire - Employment Information
Part 9: Household Questionnaire - Fertility Information
Producers and sponsors
Direcção Nacional de Estatística
United Nations Population Fund
No sampling - whole universe covered
Dates of Data Collection
Data Collection Mode
Data Collection Notes
The training program for the 2004 Census started with the placement of two Training Managers in the NSD in early 2004. Subsequently, 15 District Trainers were recruited and trained in Dili for a period of one month. They then commenced recruitment and training-of-trainer activities in their respective districts in May 2004.
Fifteen District Managers were appointed, 3 from NSD, 11 from Statistics New Zealand and 1 from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The district Managers from New Zealand and Australia were recruited as UN Volunteers (UNVs). They began their two weeks orientation and briefing on 19 May 2004, and then proceeded out to their districts on 1 May.
The field collection team for the census was to comprise more than 3,500 Timorese nationals who were to be working throughout every district in Timor-Leste. The first group recruited was the previously mentioned 15 District Trainers, whose main task after their own training was to recruit and train 75 Sub-district Trainers. These second tier-trainers would have responsibility for providing census training to Team Leaders and Field Interviewers.
Direcção Nacional de Estatística
The questionnaire developed for the pilot census went through a review. A consultant from Statistics New Zealand worked on the questionnaires and talked with government ministries, various UN agencies, NGO's and other interested parties about content and format. Where changes were made, small field tests were carried out to confirm workability and acceptability. By January 2004, the questionnaires were ready to present to the Census Technical Committee and then to government agencies for formal acceptance. During that process, some minor changes were made, but the basic questionnaire was maintained.
Three types of questionnaires were used: one for households, one for institutions (prisons, orphanages, convents, hospitals and boarding schools) and one for hotels. This section refers only to the household questionnaire.
The household questionnaire was prepared in four languages: Tetum, Portuguese, Indonesian and English.
The questionnaire was well designed. The format, wording and arrangement of questions received a great deal of attention. It was short, simple, easy to apply, and included most of the standard census questions and items. The purpose here is not to evaluate the questionnaire in detail, but it is important to mention that the data collected with it has proved to be extremely useful for a number or purposes. The usefulness of the data is a good indicator of the format adequacy and organization of the questionnaire and the relevance of the questions included. It is also important to highlight that, up to now, various data analyses have shown that most of the information is reliable. However, it is also important to recognize there is plenty of space for improvement and the questionnaire for the 2010 Census will be much better. Actually, several analyses of the data obtained with the questionnaire clearly show the need to modify the next census questionnaire and, especially, include additional questions.
The first activity was checking and editing the waypoint file. Three main problems were found: duplicate waypoints, waypoints where letters were used instead of numbers, and invalid waypoint numbers. In all cases the errors were manually corrected. Duplicate waypoints were removed, alphanumeric numbers with "o" instead of "0" or "B" instead of "8" were rectified, and waypoints close to invalid waypoints were compared to obtain a clue as to what the likely correct number should be.
After linking waypoints with questionnaire data it was realized that the vast majority of waypoint numbers could be linked to their corresponding dwelling sticker numbers. However, it also became apparent that there were still discrepancies between the two databases: Some questionnaires could not be linked to waypoints and some waypoints could not be linked to questionnaires. These problems were solved with the help of maps, comparisons with nearby waypoints and, in some cases, with new visits to suspect dwellings or entire areas.
CSPro, a software package developed by the US Bureau of the Census, was used to capture, process, and edit data.
The data capture team was formed as soon as the interviewing was completed. Staff received training in subjects such as understanding the census process, the design of the census forms, and how to operate the data-entry program. Approximately 38 data-entry operators undertook the work in several shifts. The data was captured by keyboard.
After the data was entered, a process of editing and imputation of data was conducted.
It is important to mention data capture and processing was a weak part of the census operation. Data entry had to be repeated because of the many mistakes and errors done the first time. In addition, after the data was finally entered, it took an unnecessarily long period to process end edit it. Data-capture ended in February 2005 and the edited master file was not ready until December 2005. Even then there were still some inconsistencies, especially in fertility and school enrolment data. Such inconsistencies are minor, but they may reduce the credibility of some results.
The underlying causes of the previous problems were poor use of technical assistance, largely due to lack of management continuity. The NSD is aware of this weakness and the need to address it for the next census.
Use of the dataset must be acknowledged using a citation which would include:
- the Identification of the Primary Investigator
- the title of the survey (including country, acronym and year of implementation)
- the survey reference number
- the source and date of download
Direcção Nacional de Estatística. Timor-Leste Population and Housing Census 2004. Ref. TLS_2004_PHC_v01_M. Dataset downloaded from www.measuredhs.com on [date]