In the last month, Brazilians have faced the polemic behind the cancellation of the Census, an important survey done every ten years that allows measuring how much Brazil’s population has changed. It has been organized by the IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) since 1940 to understand the social and economic profile of households, and mirror it to the whole country.
With the data collected, resources for education, health, assistance and all public policies are distributed throughout the cities and neighborhoods, because it is possible to find out where the discrepancies are in the social system of each of these places. For example, it raises awareness about the number of people in a city who are illiterate, its population’s level of education, and the number of children who aren’t going to school, so that the government can determine where there is a need for more schools.
The cancellation’s issues
The Census was supposed to be conducted in 2020, but it was postponed to 2021 because of the Covid-19 pandemic. With this year’s budget cut by almost 25%, allocating only about 50 million reais for the survey, it is almost impossible to do it now. The new budget might seem like a big one, however it isn’t enough to handle all the costs involved.
Besides that, there are also concerns about safety and sanitary issues. Since the pandemic still is a problem, it is risky for not only the enumerators (people who collect the data by going door-to-door), but also for those being interviewed because both could be contaminated and pass the virus to each other during the interviews. This could cause the enumerators to become viral vectors to the population.
To make sure that everyone is safe, it would cost more money than it already does to prepare the consultation at normal times. And that is another reason why the new budget isn’t enough to get it done now.
Why can it impact Brazil?
The last Census was done in 2010, eleven years ago, and if a new one doesn’t happen this year, the country would be outdated with its information to support public policies made by governments. According to Jaqueline Hansen, a PhD in social politics, this should be done in a smaller gap, but it needs to be in a bigger one since it is really expensive. And that’s why it is really important to have a new one this year: to update the old information already available and make sure that the policies created after the 2010 Census were effective or not.
And concerning the future, this new information is necessary to take new action plans. For Hansen, the Census is essential to maintain democracy alive. The population needs their requests to be heard so that their problems can be solved. It is a right. And gathering the data from the research is a way of listening to them that allows these new actions to be done, which can solve people’s necessities and keep their dignity in the democratic system.
Without it, it’s impossible to know for sure who really needs help. And knowing this is essential for making the right decisions and investing in what can have a positive outcome, because – again – everything revolves around money. You can’t build, for example, a huge hospital center in a town with ten thousand inhabitants, it is too much and would be more efficient to do so somewhere with a bigger population.
Is it interesting for the government?
Hansen believes that doing a census is not in the interest of an authoritarian government because they don’t really care about what the population needs. But a democratic one is interested in doing because it should do things for the people and be transparent with its actions. So, a government that doesn’t want it to happen is one that doesn’t want the citizens to know where the problematic issues are.
In the current context, the Census would clearly show the impact of the pandemic management that Brazil had and still has. In this situation there are more people dying than being born everyday, and this exact information is important because everything is coming from estimates. It is also possible to find out where in the country most of the deaths took place, who began to starve or who went back into poverty. In this way, everything would be exposed, jeopardizing Jair Bolsonaro’s administration’s image.
Thus, for the social scientist, cancelling the 2021 Census would be a way to perhaps protect himself and re-elect him in next year’s election, considering that the results would no longer be released in 2022 and society wouldn’t know for sure what happened.
But we cannot forget that, besides the federal government, it is the National Congress that approves the budget that will be allocated to the Census. So, more than the president, it is possible that there are also congress members who may feel benefited by the cancellation of the survey and Brazilians’ uncertainty about the situation of the country.
The article above was edited by Giulia Lozano Pacini.
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