Caracas, September 1st 2011 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – This morning the Venezuelan government launched its Census 2011, a month long effort to map out the distribution of people and housing conditions across the Caribbean nation. Ten years after the country’s last census (2001), the National Statistics Institute (INE) began sending some 18,000 trained census workers door to door in what INE President Elias Eljuri called an “absolutely transparent” and “necessary” effort to collect up-to-date figures on the Venezuelan population.
“We call on the whole of the Venezuelan people, without distinction between political ideology, religious creed, etc., to participate in the census,” affirmed Eljuri.
“This census is the most important statistical activity our country has and it’s the only one in which we have the opportunity to obtain information at a national, state, municipal, neighborhood and communal level, every ten years,” he said.
Eljuri went on to explain that the INE has spent “the last three years preparing for this one” and has had the survey reviewed “exhaustively by national and international institutions” to guarantee the best use of people’s time and resources.
Venezuela’s Census 2011, includes only the “most important” questions, said Eljuri, including: number of residents per home; how income is spent on food versus other items (a quality of life indicator), place of residence during last census (to measure the rural-urban exodus); racial identity (including, for the first time ever, the option of “afro-descendent”); and family choice (including, also for the first time, options for gay, lesbian, and transgender families to identify themselves), among many other questions asked.
According to the INE President, participating in the census is both “voluntary and entirely confidential,” though he stressed that widespread participation is “very important” so that the INE can provide accurate statistics to the Venezuelan government and international agencies as they seek to design policies to improve the Venezuelan people’s quality of life.
The Venezuelan government designated some $BsF 529 million ($US 123 million) to pay for the cost of the census, the majority of which is expected to be spent on personnel.
Some 18,000 census workers involved in the month long survey were selected from a pool of 60,000 people who responded to INE calls for citizen involvement in the campaign. Each census worker is expected to complete at least 152 household surveys, and will be paid a minimum $ BsF 1,636 ($US 380) for doing so. Those who “greatly exceed” the number of surveys gathered “can earn up to $BsF 3,000 ($US 700),” said Frank Ortega, sub coordinator for Census 2011,
“We divided the country into one thousand zones so that each census worker is responsible for an area that includes between 6,000-10,000 households,” explained Geronimo Reyes, National Coordinator of Venezuela’s Census 2011.
Census workers have until Friday, September 30th, to submit the bulk of their data.
Some in the Venezuelan opposition and media have questioned the intentions of census questions relating to housing, accusing the government of planning to use the data to later intervene in private home ownership.
In one example, Jorge Correo, spokesperson for the opposition’s Christian Democrat Party (COPEI), accused the Venezuelan government of planning to use census data “as they do in Cuba and other totalitarian regimes to control the population, house strangers in the homes of others, and other abuses.”
According to Venezuelan daily Ultumas Noticias, at each household in which residents choose to participate in the survey census workers will ask, among other things, if the home is currently occupied (lived in), if it is under construction or completely built, and what materials have been used to build the walls and rooftops.
Census workers are not to enter the homes of residents, unless invited to do so.
If no one answers the door at a given residence, the census worker is to ask neighbors if the home is occupied or not. If it is said to be lived in, the census worker is to confirm this within a three month period. If no resident is ever located, the survey will report an “absent homeowner” status for the home.
According to Census 2011 coordinator Reyes, “people have nothing to fear because the INE will never ask for documentation that verifies ownership of any given property.” Instead, he explained, “the questionnaire is designed to so that the INE and others will never know if a person has one, two or more properties.”
“Surveying strategies always exist to differentiate between a permanent and an occasional residence,” explained Reyes, “and in the communities’ people know which residences are seasonal.”
“If the intention was to obtain data on home ownership,” explained Reyes, “there are cheaper and easier ways of doing so than a national census.”
Data for this year’s census is to be collected using handheld digitalized technologies, though people have been asked to speed up the process by printing the 82-question survey and preparing their responses before being visited by census workers. Respondents are to verbalize their responses, keeping their hard copy.
Neighboring Brazil and Colombia are the only other countries in the region to have digitized their census.
At a cost of $BsF 800 ($US 186) per handheld device, an estimated $BsF 14 million ($US 3.3 million) has been spent to purchase 18,000 devices needed for the national effort.