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The 2011 Population and Housing Census marks a milestone in census exercises in Europe. For the first time, European legislation defined in detail a set of harmonised high-quality data from the population and housing censuses conducted in the EU Member States. As a result, the data from the 2011 round of censuses offer exceptional flexibility to cross-tabulate different variables and to provide geographically detailed data. EU Member States have developed different methods to produce these census data. The national differences reflect the specific national situations in terms of data source availability, as well as the administrative practices and traditions of that country. The EU census legislation respects this diversity. The Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on population and housing censuses (Regulation (EC) No 763/2008) is focussed on output harmonisation rather than input harmonisation. Member States are free to assess for themselves how to conduct their 2011 censuses and which data sources, methods and technology should be applied given the national context. This gives the Member States flexibility, in line with the principles of subsidiarity and efficiency, and with the competences of the statistical institutes in the Member States. However, certain important conditions must be met in order to achieve the objective of comparability of census data from different Member States and to assess the data quality: Regulation (EC) No 1201/20092 contains definitions and technical specifications for the census topics (variables) and their breakdowns that are required to achieve Europe-wide comparability. The specifications are based closely on international recommendations and have been designed to provide the best possible information value. The census topics include geographic, demographic, economic and educational characteristics of persons, international and internal migration characteristics as well as household, family and housing characteristics. Regulation (EU) No 519/2010 requires the data outputs that Member States transmit to the Eurostat to comply with a defined programme of statistical data (tabulation) and with set rules concerning the replacement of statistical data. The content of the EU census programme serves major policy needs of the European Union. Regionally, there is a strong focus on the NUTS 2 level. The data requirements are adapted to the level of regional detail. The Regulation does not require transmission of any data that the Member States consider to be confidential. The statistical data must be completed by metadata that will facilitate interpretation of the numerical data, including country-specific definitions plus information on the data sources and on methodological issues. This is necessary in order to achieve the transparency that is a condition for valid interpretation of the data. Users of output-harmonised census data from the EU Member States need to have detailed information on the quality of the censuses and their results. Regulation (EU) No 1151/2010) therefore requires transmission of a quality report containing a systematic description of the data sources used for census purposes in the Member States and of the quality of the census results produced from these sources. A comparably structured quality report for all EU Member States will support the exchange of experience from the 2011 round and become a reference for future development of census methodology (EU legislation on the 2011 Population and Housing Censuses - Explanatory Notes ). In order to ensure proper transmission of the data and metadata and provide user-friendly access to this information, a common technical format is set for transmission for all Member States and for the Commission (Eurostat). The Regulation therefore requires the data to be transmitted in a harmonised structure and in the internationally established SDMX format from every Member State. In order to achieve this harmonised transmission, a new system has been developed – the CENSUS HUB. The Census Hub is a conceptually new system used for the dissemination of the 2011 Census. It is based on the concept of data sharing, where a group of partners (Eurostat on one hand and National Statistical Institutes on the other) agree to provide access to their data according to standard processes, formats and technologies. The Census Hub is a readily-accessible system that provided the following functions: • Data providers (the NSIs) can make data available directly from their systems through a querying system. In parallel, • Data users browse the hub to define a dataset of interest via the above structural metadata and retrieve the dataset from the NSIs. From the data management point of view, the hub is based on agreed hypercubes (data-sets in the form of multi-dimensional aggregations). The hypercubes are not sent to the central system. Instead the following process operates: 1. a user defines a dataset through the web interface of the central hub and requests it; 2. the central hub translates the user request in one or more queries and sends them to the related NSIs’ systems; 3. NSIs’ systems process the query and send the result to the central hub in a standard format; 4. the central hub puts together all the results sent by the NSI systems and presents them in a user-specified format.
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