Census results will be used to develop the state's social policies.
By Bojana Milovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 25/10/11
A low birth rate is one of the reasons for Serbia's population decline in the past decade. [Reuters]
Serbia held a census between October 1st and 20th which confirmed demographers' prior fears -- Serbia lost about 300,000 people in less than a decade.
"The smaller number of inhabitants is the consequence of a low birth rate and population emigration from Serbia," Snezana Lakcevic, chief of the census department in the Serbian Statistics Bureau, told SETimes.
During the course of the census, a little over 7.5 million census forms were filled out, but Lakcevic stresses that official population numbers may be even lower.
"Some citizens were registered twice; at the address registered on their ID card and at the address where they actually live. Only after we have processed all the data will we see how many such citizens there are. Official data on the number of inhabitants will be revealed on November 15th," Lakcevic said.
Apart from demographic trends, the census will also reveal other social indicators among the Serbian population, such as the level of education and literacy.
"According to the previous census in 2002, Serbia had more than one million people, that is, over 20% above the age of 15 who never graduated from elementary school, and a whopping 50% of adults with just elementary education, or who are functionally illiterate," Lakcevic said.
This census for the first time raised questions about the use of computers and the internet, as well as transportation and handicaps.
"That data will help to more adequately set priorities for state policy," Lakcevic said.
The census was also marked by calls for a boycott by the Albanian and Bosniak minorities, whose political and religious representatives called for official census forms to be printed in their respective languages.
Lakcevic explained that the census forms in the languages of the minorities had been printed in special publications which each census clerk carried with them and, if a citizen so desired, the census question could have been read to him or her in his or her native language.
According to Lakcevic, the original forms were not printed in several languages because the software that reads the data from the census forms does not have the capability.
Representatives of the EU, which financed the census with about 20m euros, urged Serbia's minorities to participate in the census, emphasising there was no reason for a boycott.
According to Statistics Bureau data, the ethnic Albanian minority boycotted the census in southern Serbia, while the Bosniaks in the Sandzak region mostly ignored the call for a boycott.
"Less than 10% of citizens were registered in three south Serbian municipalities with majority Albanian populations. In the Sandzak region, which is mostly populated by Bosniaks, we even registered an increase in population compared to the previous census," Lakcevic said.