Detailed and Generalized Portrait

Forthcoming census will draw a new demographic and socioeconomic portrait of the nation
The Health Ministry has registered an important fact and hopes it will become a tendency. In January–July 2006 birth rate increased 4.6% on the year, and death rate declined 2.1%. In the period, 53,829 boys and girls were born, 2,489 children more than in January-July 2005. At the same time, the number of deceased declined compared with the same period last year.

The tendency that all demographers would love to observe for many years to come is predominance of reproduction over mortality. Specialists are very cautious about making too optimistic forecasts and prefer giving the surplus a test period of five years to grow into a real tendency. The deficit is likely to disappear by the next census, which is to be held in 2009.

Any population count is a significant socioeconomic and political phenomenon. Most countries of the world, including Belarus, count population every ten years: it is believed that a decade is a perfect period to show the changes that occur in the country. To have comprehensive information about the country and its population it is necessary to collect demographic, economic and social data about every citizen of the country or a territory. The government is guided by this information when elaborating its social and economic programs in order to see the impact on the human capital of the state.

The idea to count human resources came to the rulers of the most ancient civilizations thousands of years ago. Ancient Greece and Rome used to have periodic population counts, and in China the first census was held over four thousand years ago. Those counts were too primitive and applied only to a part of the population. Back in the feudal times Europe was split into small princedoms, kingdoms and principalities, so all counts were extremely difficult and rare and were only expedient after large wars, devastating natural disasters, epidemics and famine.

In Belarus the first ever census was held in 1897. The result was 6.673 million. After Belarus was incorporated in the USSR, there were six population counts, in 1926, 1939, 1959, 1970, 1979 and 1989. The last Soviet census registered a record high of 10 million, 151 thousand 800 people.

The first census in the history of sovereign Belarus took place in 1999 and showed that the number of passengers of the “sovereign Belarus” boat reached 10 million 45 thousand 200. Belarus’ population increased 25% since the first post-WWII census, and the share of urban population hiked 180%. Besides, the census of 1999 demonstrated the multi-ethnic nature of this country: representatives of 180 nationalities live here. Of the total, 81.2% called themselves Belarusians, 11% Russians, 4% Poles and almost 2.5% Ukrainians.

The next census, to be held in 2009, will show how much the country has progressed over the second decade of its sovereignty. The population count normally covers all demographic features (sex, age, marital status), economic features (occupation, branch or industry, position in occupation, sometimes unemployment), education (literacy, school attendance), ethnical features (nationality, language, sometimes confession). Those who reside in Belarus temporarily will be of particular interest to demographers and citizenship and migration officers.

The country will thus have a new demographic, ethnical and socioeconomic portrait of the nation “Belarus — 10 years older”. This work of art will cost the country pretty penny, about $1 per capita.

At present Belarus is drafting the National Demographic Safety Program for 2006–2010. The program aims to reduce sickness rate and mortality, boost birth rate and life expectancy, and optimize migration flows. The 2009 census will become a sort of indicator to show whether the demographic program will be effective or not and prompt demographers a way to adjust the situation.

In a word, a census is a very serious thing.

Viktor Radivinovsky
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