The Department of Census and Statistics is an amalgamation of two units, the statistics section and the census section which functioned separately under the Donoughmore Constitution. The census section comprised the Census Department which was created on December 1, 1944 for the purpose of taking the Census of Population in 1946.
With the inauguration of the Soulbury Constitution in 1947, both statistics section and census section were brought under a new department namely the Department of Census, Statistics and Planning which was assigned under the Ministry of Home Affairs. This department was renamed as the Department of Census and Statistics by a gazette notification dated May 18, 1948.
History of census taking
Census taking in Sri Lanka dates back to the late 19th century. Prior to 1871, estimates of population had been made from time to time on the basis of returns made by village headmen. The first scientific census in Sri Lanka was conducted on 27th March 1871 by the then Registrar General’s Office. In fact Sri Lanka has the longest history of Census takings among SAARC countries.
Since 1871, censuses were conducted, usually in every 10 years with certain exceptions. With the inception of the Census Department in early 1940s, the population census taking was handed over to the department.
- The 1941 census was conducted only in 1946 due to the world war. This was recorded as the first census taking by the department.
- Even though it was intended to hold a census in 1951, it was postponed to 1953 owing to the shortage of paper at that time.
- The tradition of taking censuses in the year ending in 1 could not be maintained in 1960s and the next census was carried out in 1963.
- The DCS managed to revert back to its tradition and conduct censuses in 1971 and 1981 but the census which was scheduled to be conducted in 1991 could not be implemented due to the disturbances prevailed in northern and eastern parts of the country.
- The last Census of Population and Housing was conducted in the year 2001.
Commencing years of Censuses SAARC countries