Talks of boycotting the census

Announcements for conducting the census in April 2020 without recording ethnic and religious affiliation, and recording only the mother tongue, has already polarized the public. Social networks also announce a boycott of this statistical operation, political parties argue between each other, and experts compare different examples in the neighborhood and across Europe with bi or multinational societies.

Experiences vary from one country to another, and a unified model cannot be found under which countries differentiate their citizens according to race, ethnicity, religion and nationality.

Different experiences

In its three previous censuses (1955, 1989 and 2011), Albania enumerated people according to ethnicity, language and religion. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, ethnicity is taken into account, just as in Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, China, the Czech Republic, Kosovo, Montenegro, New Zealand, Serbia, Slovenia, Great Britain, and the countries of the former Soviet Union. In Russia, for instance, in the 2002 census, 192 nationalities were registered.

In fact, as a percentage, most of the countries use the ethnicity as the only graph in the questionnaire asked by the citizens. There are other examples. In Argentina only the country of birth is enumerated. Early in Australia, racial affiliation was recorded, and in the last three decades – the origins of the ancestors. Brazil enumerates only by race, and Canada by ethnicity, but the citizens can choose whether they are “European Canadians”, “Aboriginal Canadians”, “non-whites”, from “non-European groups” etc.

France stopped asking questions about race and ethnicity in 1978 after a great part of the French complained that such a division was contrary to the principle of equality and equal rights. For the past forty years, there have been attempts to return these graphs, Nicolas Sarkozy was the one who reacted last when he was president, and demanded that race and nationality be enumerated, but his attempt was unsuccessful.
Italy is also one of the countries where only the number of citizens and their property is recorded. And nothing else. Ireland enumerates nationality, place of birth and citizenship, and Mexico the citizens’ native language: Spanish or any of the indigenous? Norway asks for ethnicity and mother tongue. The Netherlands, however, asks whether you are an autochthonous resident of the country. The United States enumerates race, place and country of birth.

They get the question, but they do not answer it

“Ethnicity as a statistical data is still only part of the censuses of the Balkan states, while in the developed European countries this data is not recorded. Albania added this question to the latest census, but only 40 percent of respondents gave an answer. Only 20% of respondents answered this question in Bulgaria at the country’s latest census. Montenegro is also planning to exclude it. Turkey will exclude it because it turns the census into a register. Switzerland and Belgium, who are known for their multiethnic societies, did not pose that question. In France, it never even existed,” said Apostol Simovski, director of the State Statistical Office.

How much the Macedonian, that is, the Albanian community weighs was a stumbling rock between the coalition partners in the government in 2011. The initiated census operation was canceled, and the leaders of VMRO-DPMNE and DUI, Nikola Gruevski and Ali Ahmeti ended up in the Special Public Prosecution’s notebooks, which recently opened an investigation into the case. According to the prosecutors, the two party presidents agreed that there was no political capacity to conduct the census and that additional training and harmonization of standards with international norms were necessary. The Government then proposed to abolish the Census Law, and through the MPs from the ruling coalition on October 15, 2011, the Parliament adopted a decision to postpone the census. In this way, according to the SPO, the state budget was damaged by almost three million euros as they were spent on preparation.

Census boycott?

According to the announcements from the State Statistical Office, for the census in 2020 there will be about 5,000 enumerators in eight languages, using a combined method: field data and data from registries. For the construction of the forthcoming census base, data from the Ministry of Information Society and Administration, the Ministry of Interior, the Agency for Real Estate Cadastre, the Employment Agency, the Health Insurance Fund, the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy, the Ministry of Education and Science, the Central Registry, The PRO, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The census will cost 8.5m euros, of which 3.5m euros will be used for the Pilot Census that will be implemented in April 2019 and for the procurement of equipment, and five million euros for the persons who will be engaged to conduct the census in 2020. It is envisaged to register the population that is in Macedonia, as well as foreigners who have stayed in the country for more than a year, but there will also be an inventory of an absentee population that is out of the country for more than a year.

According to the government, the data on ethnicity has no usable value, but is only abused for political purposes. There will be a question about the language, that is, about the language that is usually spoken in the household and the person’s mother tongue.

“I’m boycotting a census that will deprive me of my right to declare my ethnicity,” former Culture Minister Ganka Cvetanova tweeted, which has recently “resurrected” on the political scene.

Jan Figel, former EU Commissioner and current EU special envoy who was visiting the country last weekend, said that whenever there was a census in his country Slovakia, there was a graph for stating religion, national and ethnic origin.

“It’s useful in a way to see the trends, to see the mosaic because the truth is liberating. It is based on justice, even more so that people have more identities. Part of my identity is my ethnic origin, my religion, my family, my local, regional and national component and I want to feel good with all these dimensions. If you suffocate or hide them, you are actually telling people that it is better not to show up or that this is a problem in society,” Figel said in an interview with Nezavisen Vesnik/Independent daily newspaper.

Goran Adamovski