The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will be taking a census of the entire country in the coming months. This will be the fourth census taken since 1974. The last census which was in 2004 revealed the population of the country to be 22 million, comprised of about 73% Saudi nationals (about 16.5 million), and the rest were expatriates from other countries. In the entire Gulf Coast region, Saudi Arabia is the largest country both in land area and in population, making up a good 60-65% of the populous of the region.
The Kingdom has employed and trained about 40,000 workers to conduct the census. The Saudi government has called upon all Saudi citizens and foreigners to cooperate in providing accurate information to the various questions concerning the demographics, economic and social makeup of all people living here. The census form consists of 59 questions and supposedly takes about 15 minutes to complete. The entire Gulf region is working together to take a joint census in all of the Gulf countries.
I can't really speak for the other Gulf area countries, but I can only imagine what a difficult and challenging task this must be to undertake in a place like Saudi Arabia, especially considering how this society is set up. First of all, I would doubt that there would be any female census takers since women cannot drive and it wouldn't be acceptable for a woman to come calling to a stranger's home, even if she would be on official state business. The working hours here are so irregular because of the five prayer times during each day, that I wonder how these census takers will manage to find men at home to talk to because if the man of the house is not at home when the census takers arrive, the women will not open the door or speak to a strange man. Many men work normally into the evening hours because the working day is chopped up so much to accommodate prayer times.
Another problem I see is that there are no street addresses here in Jeddah, and I think it's the same in the rest of the country. Many streets do not even have names. Logistically speaking, taking a census here must be a nightmare. What about the thousands of Bedouins who still roam the deserts here and don't really have one permanent abode? There are many who still live in tents and move frequently. How can anyone ensure that they will be counted? Yet another questionable issue is the fact that Saudi Arabia has so many poor and uneducated illegal aliens living here. Thousands have come to this country on the pretense of fulfilling their Hajj requirement in Islam and end up staying here permanently and illegally, in hopes of forging a better life than what they had in their own countries. Even though I read that these overstayers need not worry about being caught and sent back to their countries or thrown in jail, I'm sure that most of them will not get this message and would be fearful of answering questions like this. I just don't see how accurate a census can really be here.
I would just love to see the census form: Head of Household; Wife #1 and children; Wife #2 and children; etc. Number of people total in the household, including all wives and children, grandparents, maids, drivers, gatekeepers, nannies, cooks, etc. This could be really interesting...
For more information, here is an Arab News article about the subject.