A census is a survey of a society which intends, in broad terms, to work out the society´s size and composition. How many members are there? Who are they? Where and how they live? What do they do for a living? What do they believe? What is their home situation? And so on. This year´s Czech census is particularly interesting because it is being conducted at the same time as the censuses in the other 26 EU states.
The census is run by the Czech Statistical Office (Český Statistický Úřad) or ČSÚ. The census is set to ‘take place’ on midnight between 25th and 26th March 2011, officially known as the ‘decisive moment‘. This does not mean the census collector will be waking you from your sleep or interrupting other nocturnal activities to collect your information. Rather, when filling in the form the information should be true up to that point. For example, if a child is born before midnight, he/she will be entered into the census. If he/she arrives after, then the census isn’t interested.
Three types of census forms will be delivered by a census commissioner. According to the census website, the distribution will start from the 7th March. There are three forms: a green form for each person, a yellow form to be filled in by each household in a dwelling, and an orange form for owners or caretakers of buildings.
The form for an individual person asks you basic information, marital status, employment, education and mode of transport. If someone is absent, say on holiday, but really lives at the address the form must also be filled out for them. For minors or people not competent to enter into legal acts, the forms will be filled in by their legal guardians, e.g. parents and carers. Same sex couples are recognized. Ethnicity and religious beliefs are included as questions but filling them out is optional. And yes, if you want to write Jedi, you can.
The dwelling form includes houses, flats, rooms in a boarding house and ‘weekend cottages’. The census wants to know purpose, size, location (i.e. which floor if it´s a flat, or how many floors if a house) and something about what type of rooms they are. It also wants to know about computer ownership. On the second page there is space to list the people in the household and any visitors who are there for this ‘decisive moment’.
For buildings the form asks what type, age, building material, heating and connection there is to sewerage. There are no questions about the value or the contents.
When it comes to recreational properties, the census may be a little more confusing. If a recreational property is occupied at the decisive moment, then this property will be entered on the dwelling questionnaire (the first two questions and the second page) and on the building questionnaire (the first three questions). In the case of you owning a house with a land registry number (číslo popisné), which you use only for recreation, you enter it into the census because it is a building designated for living but currently unoccupied. For an unoccupied building used for recreation you will fill in only the building questionnaire.
English translations of the forms with full explanations can be found here. These are not the forms which you submit. They are merely guides. The actual forms, either printed or on-line, are in Czech and have to be filled out in Czech.
Before filling it in you might be considering why. ČSÚ has pre-empted some of those questions and had provided answers. In a nutshell the census provides the demographic data for government to, in theory, allocate funds and better determine future social trends.
So does this affect you? According to the law, yes. Section 5 of the Act on Population and Housing Census in 2011. The subjects (i.e individuals) are:
a) any natural person having permanent residence or permission for temporary residence in the territory of the Czech Republic at the decisive moment,
b) any other natural person being found in the territory of the Czech Republic at the decisive moment and having neither permanent residence nor a temporary resident permit
This means that whoever is in the Czech Republic at the time of the census collection should in theory fill in the form. However, a spokesperson from ČSÚ wrote us in an email that they would not be pursuing tourists at “any price”. Hostels, hotels and other types of accommodation will be provided with the forms. The hope is that people will fill them in. For people on short stays, the census will be quite easy as they will only fill in questions 2-6. However, if someone is here for a stay of more than 90 days then ČSÚ will treat this individual as a “citizen” in the sense that they would assume the person has the same obligation.
It is important to remember that the form has to be filled in with a blue or black ball point pen and the census people request that it is not folded. If the name of your town or street contains diacritic markings they should be included and at the top of the form where you fill in your address and that the markings must be within the box.
Census forms can be submitted from the 26th March. There are three ways to submit them:
- by filling it out online and submitting it electronically
- handing over to the census commissioner when he/she comes around
- posting it with a prepaid envelope which can be obtained from a commissioner
All forms should be, according to the law, sent off by 14th April 2011. Otherwise there is a fine of up to 10 000 CZK for failing to submit the form. A fine of 10 000 CZK also applies to people who provide false information.
Even if this information is useful to the government, people are understandably concerned about the misuse and abuse of this information. The census lists a number of measures by which the information is protected. These include its intention solely for statistical purposes and pledges to secrecy by the commissioners. There are punishments for those who break the laws which pertain to census collection and data protection.
A spokesperson for the census said the results will be made available from the end of 2011.
If you have any questions there is a toll-free number, 274 057 777, which you can call until 20th April. You can also send it by email to email@example.com.
As ever, we’re keen to read your thoughts and experiences on the census.