Not all expats will be counted in next week’s census

This is what the well-dressed census taker wears. Photo: Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos

Not every expat will be counted in the 2011 census that kicks off Monday.

Local teachers are gathering the data, but only those expats who have been in the country six months or have the intention of being here that long will be asked to collaborate on filling out a census form, according to the government agency in charge.

That means tourists and other temporary visitors will not be counted. That also means the so-called perpetual tourists will have to decide for themselves if they will be counted.

These are the residents who leave the country every 90 days to renew their tourism visas even though many own property here and run businesses.

The Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos is putting about 35,000 teachers into the field to collect the data. The questions are far more than simply age and marital status. The census also is a survey of housing, and the initial questions relate to the construction materials of the property.

Questions also seek the number of bathrooms, type of sewage system, source of the electricity and whether the occupants recycle trash.

The form also asks the types of electronic equipment in the home and if there is Internet connection, a motor vehicle and the number of cell telephones.

Crooks already seem to have recognized the utility of this information because some residents in Heredia have been asked these questions by someone impersonating a census taker. The fake surveyors already had copies of the census form which is available on the institute’s Web site.

There is a form printed in English, too.

The institute stresses that real census takers are correctly uniformed with a vest and carry an official briefcase with shoulder strap and credentials. There also is a phone number to double check the surveyor’s authenticity: 800 23675-2011. Many residents already will know those taking the census. Local teachers have been selected because they work in the area.

The census form is six pages, but individual sheets have to be filled out for each person living in the dwelling.

Curiously, the form seeks place of birth but does not ask for nationality, so the census results will not address that question of how many expats are in Costa Rica. It also only asks if the respondent speaks a native language and does not address more common foreign languages.

The enumeration runs through next Friday. A test run took place in Palmares in August, and officials declared it a success.

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