If you´ve made plans for Sunday, Nov. 28, cancel them. That´s the day when half a million workers will visit almost every household in Ecuador to gather information for the 2010 census.
Unless you´re an emergency service worker, a member of the military, a doctor or nurse, or work in another profession the government deems essential, you will not be allowed to leave home between 7:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. on Nov. 28. The restriction on personal mobility during census-taking is common practice in much of the world, particularly in Latin America.
More than 35,000 census workers, many of them students, are undergoing training for the next two weeks in Cuenca in preparation for Nov. 28. Each worker will be responsible for visiting 12 to 14 residences. On Nov. 26 and 27, workers will canvaas hospitals, jails, prisons and military bases to count residents who will not be in their homes on the 28th.
Census-taking will be completed on the 28th except is some rural areas where the count will continue until Dec. 5.
The restrictions on mobility affect tourists as well as citizens and residents. There will be no domestic airline flights on census day until after 5:00 p.m. and all bus and taxi service will be suspended. In Quito, Cuenca and Guayaquil, a limited number of taxis will be available on Sunday to transport tourists who arrived on Saturday, from airports and bus stations, but tourists will be restricted to their hotels until the conclusion of the census.
No prívate cars will be allowed on the streets unless the driver has government permission and cars will be impounded in case of violations.
The government says it will begin providing information via newspapers and brochures Nov. 22 to inform citizens, residents and tourists of the census rules and also to despel misunderstandings about the census.
Newspapers report that a significant number of Ecuadorians believe the census has ulterior motives. Some say that census takers will be working as bill collectors, gathering information about overdue mortgage and utility payments. Others claim that once the government evaluates each dwelling, it will force residents to accept homeless people to fill unused bedrooms. Another rumor is that the census will be used to inventory and then confiscate private property.
“These suspicions are simply not true,” says national census spokesman Alejandro Perez. “We are not working as spys. We are not stealing property. We are just gathering the information we need to count the population and to learn more about our country. All the personal information that we gather during the census will remain confidential,” he says. “This is required by law.”
In addition to asking about the age and sex of citizens and residents, census workers will gather information about housing,the number of land line and celular telephones, and internet and cable television connections. Workers will ask 74 questions in all.
Most of the census takers will be high school students, supervised by their teachers. According to Perez, this is considered a once-in-ten-years civic responsibility for Ecuador´s students.
Preliminary census results will be released in Jan. 2011 with complete data to follow in May or June. The national census website is www.inec.gov.ec.
Photo caption: Census workers in a training session in Cuenca.