May 15, 2013

The Census 2012

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On November 21, 2012, Bolivia carried out its 10-year population census after 11 years. The reports about how did the proces went are mainly positive, but, as already usual in Bolivia, with a few caveats. I analyze here the preliminary results, some problems about the census process and its significance for Bolivia.

The Preliminary Results

The preliminary results show that in roughly 11 years, Bolivia's population grew by 26 per cent. Taking in to account internal and external migration, every department in the country gained population. Notable are the gains in Pando of 108 per cent and Santa Cruz (37 per cent), Cochabamba (33 per cent), Tarija (30 per cent) and Oruro (25 per cent). The explanation for the gain in Pando are internal migration which was triggered by the redistribution of land by the government and the relocalization of humans program the Morales government put in place in 2010 (see here pg 23). The increase in the Cochabamba, Santa Cruz and Tarija departments can be explained by the continued migration of people from rural areas to the centers of production and other urban areas in search of work and better living. The increase in Oruro I cannot explain. I simply don't know!

All in all, Bolivia has barely surpased the 10 million mark to 10,4 million. This points to the general redistribution Bolivia's population has gone through in the last decade rather than a healthy growth. This is highlighted by the comparison of rates of growth. While in 2001 the rate of population growth was 2,74 per cent, the same in 2012 is 2,03 per cent, a decrease of 0,71 per cent. Of course the migration to Europe, America and Argentina does not help either.


The problems noted by press reports included the inclusion of the term Mestizo in the questionaire, which leaves out people who do not identify themselves as indigenous or otherwise. Also, there were no questions about sexual preference or religion, which in a "progressive phase" under Morales was notoriously missing.

Other types of conflicts arose through border conflicts. These prompted protests from the affected municipalities because people thought the regional and municipal limits were being set by the surveyors who charted the territory to know where to send census volunteers.

Another type was the inflation of municipalities' population due to the redistribution of state financial resources. Since every municipality receives resources by population, some communities were forcing (more like coercing with the threat of taking property away) people who had left the municipality to live in a city to come back for the census. Moreover, some communities were bringing people to the community even if they did not live there. Other municipal authorities forced census volunteers to interview people in empty lots or lots with tents.


However the significance of the census is clearly the redistribution of state financial resources of the co-participation scheme which is done according to percentage of population. Here is defined who gets how much depending on how many people live in that community. Finally, the other significant factor for Bolivia is the fact that Congress' seats are also distributed according to percentage of population. So here the distribution of power is at stake.