Volume(A) - Includes Microdata of Districts 01 to 15
Population and Housing Census [hh/popcen]
Sri Lanka has a long history of Census taking. The first scientific census was conducted in 1871. Since then the Census of Population has been conducted usually in every ten years with certain exceptions (1871, 1881, 1891, 1901, 1911, 1921, 1931, 1946, 1953, 1963, 1971, 1981). The Census Ordinance of 1868, framed on the lines of the English Law covering censuses, provided the legal sanction for the first census to be taken in 1871 in Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon).
This Ordinance was amended in 1880 and repealed in 1900. The Census Ordinance of 1900 substantially remained the basis for census taking in Sri Lanka throughout the years with minor amendments in 1945, 1955 and 1980. The Census of Population and Housing 1981 was conducted on the 17th March 1981 and it is the 12th of the series. The year 1981 was declared as the Year of the Disabled by the United Nations and therefore priority was given to the tabulation of information collected at the census on physically disabled persons and published as a separate handbook.
Additional notes - The new Ordinance(1900) drafted by the then Census Superintendent Mr. P Arunachalam was based on the Indian Census Act. This new law made the census taking procedure more flexible so that the Govt. could decide the optimal scope and the best procedures to be adopted at each census. The 1900 Census Ordinance made it the duty of the occupants of houses, enclosures, vessels etc. to allow the census staff to access occupants' property and perform necessary activities pertaining to the conduct of Census such as pasting marks and numbers on house walls, and asking questions relating to the census schedule to obtain the most reliable answers in the fields of population, housing, agriculture, labour, industry etc. The new law (1900) also sanctioned the appointments of public servants to the newly defined positions such as Census officer, Census commissioner and highlighted the offences (breach of rules) leading to punishment
The Census Ordinance states that it shall be lawful for the Minister,” from time to time by order published in the gazette, to direct that a census be taken of the population, as he may deem necessary for ascertaining the demographic, social, or economic conditions of the inhabitants of Sri Lanka” . [Source - Census of Population and Housing 1981 Report.]
The Census of Population 1981 provides statistical data from the national to the village level on demographic and basic socio-economic characteristics of the people of Sri Lanka. Findings on the Population by Administrative Subdivisions provide the background for feasibility studies of various development projects, the skeleton for building up of master plans, bench mark data for monitoring development activities, measurements for assessing levels and trends of demographic characteristics of the people of Sri Lanka.
The officers of DCS who were selected for 1981 census activities were in overall charge of major activities such as questionnaire design, manual preparation, sampling, printing, data processing etc. Administrative responsibilities for taking of the census was decentralized and authority was vested with the Govt. District administration and the local body administration.
Major activities of Census 81 were questionnaire preparation, consultation and cooperation (conferences and review meetings), infrastructure and enumeration (village listings), Financial management and budgeting, Publicity and training, Tabulation and Dissemination of Census Data.
Kind of Data
Census/enumeration data [cen]
Unit of Analysis
-v1.0 : Full edited dataset, for internal use.
Early in the planning stages, a publication outlining the scope and content of the proposed census was circulated among Government Institutions and non-government organizations interested in population, housing and related matters, inviting their comments and suggestions. The views of those who responded were taken into account in constructing the census schedule.
A decision was made to employ sampling at various phases of the census. Sampling was to canvass information on migration and housing. The sample consisted of all urban areas and a 1 in 10 systematic sample of census blocks in all rural areas. The urban sector was considered too heterogeneous in the relevant characteristics to yield accurate results from a simple and a practically feasible sampling design and therefore sampling was restricted to rural areas only.
In Sri Lanka censuses, the method of enumeration has been 'de-facto' persons : enumeration was done at the place they were found on the census night.
All residents living in the housing units in Sri Lanka on the final census night plus the mobile population including tourists.
Producers and sponsors
Department of Census and Statistics
Ministry of Finance and Planning
United Nations Fund for Population Activities
DP and Cartography Equipment
United Nations Fund for Population Activities
Dates of Data Collection
Data Collection Mode
Data Collection Notes
Training of Census was done in four tiers :
1. Master trainers ( Senior officers of DCS) by the officers who were responsible for the development of the census
schedules and instruction manuals
2. Trainers (Statistical Investigators of DCS) by Master trainers.
3. Supervisors ( GN's and officers of local bodies in each AGA Division) by Trainers
4. Enumerators (67,000 in number) in each AGA Division by Supervisors and the trainers
Special instruction classes were held for Special Enumerators and Outdoor enumerators.
Department of Census and Statistics
Ministry of Finance and Planning
The schedules were printed in all three languages.
Two types of Census schedules (General and Sample) were used to collect census info. Sample schedule contained all the topics included in the General Schedule together with additional topics in migration and housing. In addition, a disability schedule was circulated to cover total blindness, total deafness, dumbness and loss or paralysis of an arm or leg. Topics covered by the schedules were as follows:-
General Schedule - Number of Households, Relationship to h/Household, Sex, Religion, Ethnic group, Citizenship, Physical infirmity, Date of Birth and age, Marital status, Attendance at school or other educational institute, Educational attainment, Literacy Sinhala/English/Tamil, Principal activity during last 30 days, Whether sought work, Reasons for not seeking work, Period of search for work, Principal occupation or kind of work, Kind of industry, business or service, Employment status, Distance from usual residence to place of work or school, Principal mode of travel to place of work or school.
Additional items on Sample Schedule - Migration, Place of birth, Place of usual residence, Period of stay in the town or village of usual residence, District of previous residence and Housing characteristics such as Description of unit, Type of structure, Number of Households in the unit, No of usual occupants, Year of completion, Principal materials of construction of walls/ roof/floor, No of rooms, Main source of drinking water, Toilet facilities, Principal type of lighting, Principal cooking fuel, Tenure of unit.
Disability - Name of disabled person, Sex, Age, Place of Birth, Whether blind/deaf/dumb, Age at which blindness/ deafness/dumbness occurred, Cause of blindness/deafness/dumbness ,Disability in hand, Age at which disability in hands occurred, Cause of disability in hands, Disability in legs, Age at which disability in legs occurred, Cause of disability in legs, Other disabilities, Means of livelihood, Whether living in an institution, Occupation.
Manual Editing and Coding was confined to the following checks -
1. Ensuring that area identification codes were inserted.
2. Whether age is recorded, if not impute age
3. Ensuring that the District of birth and District of previous residence have been coded by the enumerator.
Coding was confined in respect of three instances namely, educational attainment, Occupation and Industry.
Initial coding was verified 100% but when the error rate progressively dropped verification was restricted to 10% and later to a 1% sample.
A series of edit checks were carried out on the computer and the records containing errors were printed out for manual corrections. Error records were corrected under standard instructions sometimes by checking against original schedules. Corrected records were re-entered and passed through the edit checks and error records were printed out once again for manual correction. The process was repeated until the error rate was less than 2.5%.
The data entry was done manually using computer keyboards. a IBM 4331 machine was used to process the data. For tabulations COBOL, RPG II and various tabulation packages were used.
Under the Census Ordinance, micro data cannot be released with identifications for public use. Procedures are in place to ensure that information relating to any particular individual person, household or undertaking will be kept strictly confidential and will not be divulged to external parties. Information on individual or individual Household/establishment will not be divulged or published in such a form that will facilitate the identification of any particular person or establishment as the data have been collected under the Census Ordinance, according to which the information at individual level cannot be divulged and such information is strictly confidential.
The dataset has been anonymized and is available as a Public Use Dataset. It is accessible to all for statistical and research purposes only, under the following terms and conditions:
1. The data and other materials will not be redistributed or sold to other individuals, institutions, or organizations without the written agreement.
2. The data will be used for statistical and scientific research purposes only. They will be used solely for reporting of aggregated information, and not for investigation of specific individuals or organizations.
3. No attempt will be made to re-identify respondents, and no use will be made of the identity of any person or establishment discovered inadvertently.
4. No attempt will be made to produce links among datasets provided by the Department or among data from the Department and other datasets that could identify individuals or organizations.
5. Any books, articles, conference papers, theses, dissertations, reports, or other publications that employ data obtained from the Department will cite the source of data in accordance with the Citation Requirement provided with each dataset.
6. An electronic copy of all reports and publications based on the requested data will be sent to the Department
The following rules apply to micro data released by the Department of Census and Statistics.
• Only the requests of Government Institutions, Recognized Universities, Students, and selected international agencies are entertained. However, the Data users are required to strictly adhere to the terms stipulated in the agreement form.
• All the data requests should be made to Director General (DG) of the DCS as the sole authority of releasing data is vested with the DG of the DCS. The DCS of Sri Lanka reserves sole right to approve or reject any data request made depending on the confidential nature of the data set and intended purpose of the study or analysis.
• Requests for micro data should be made through the agreement form designed by DCS for this purpose (Form D.R.1). The agreement form should be filled in triplicate and the Study/project proposal should accompany the filled agreement form. If requests are made for the micro data of more than one survey, a separate agreement should be signed.
• If the data request is from a student a letter from the respective Dept. Head/Dean/Supervisor, recommending the issue of data, should also be accompanied.
• If the request is approved only 25% of the data file is released at the first stage. The release of the total data file is considered only after reviewing the draft report prepared on the basis of the 25% sample data file.
• The released Data file should be used only for the specific study/Analysis mentioned in the agreement form and shall not be used for any other purpose without the prior approval of the Director General of the DCS. Moreover, Copies of the micro-data file, obtained from the DCS, shall not be given to anyone else without the prior written approval of the Director General of the DCS.
• The draft report of the Study/Analysis should be submitted to the DCS and the concurrence of the DG of the DCS, should be obtained before publishing it. Once published, a copy of the final report should be submitted to the DCS.
[Department : The Department of Census and Statistics (DCS)]
Department of Census and Statistics, Sri Lanka Census of Population and Housing 1981 [CPH 1981 Volume A], Version 1.0 of the public use dataset September, 2008, provided by the National Data Archive, Data Processing Division, www.statistics.gov.lk"