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  • Borislav Ivanov

The Absolute failure of Census 2021 in Bulgaria

It’s been 10 years since the rapidly declining population of the EU member state of Bulgaria has been counted and assessed. Since then, a lot of things have happened – more people have immigrated to more highly developed EU members, a large number of uncounted refugees have immigrated to Bulgaria, and a large amount of people from North Macedonia, as well as other countries with a significant Bulgarian population, have gotten Bulgarian passports. In addition to that, during COVID-19 a lot of people have returned to Bulgaria, less people are immigrating, although so far almost 22 000 people have perished from the disease.

It has been a really long time since the last census was conducted. It is estimated that the permanent population of Bulgaria is around 7 million, although there might be an additional million undocumented immigrants, people in ghettos, and expats, who work and live in Bulgaria. The population of Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, is estimated to be between 1.2 million and 2 million, although there is a large number of students, workers, immigrants, and expats who live in the city, but are not counted as permanent residents.

According to the recently conducted census, however, the population is only 5 658 000. This is due to the fact that there isn’t a single city or province which was counted completely. Only 72% of Sofia’s population was counted, and I highly doubt that the aforementioned categories have been counted at all. Even I wasn’t visited by a “counter”, and I had counted myself online way before the due date.

The census started out with a multitude of failures. The online website was down for the first couple of days, due to hacker attacks and potential Chinese meddling. The end date of the census was extended a handful of times, however most people didn’t even attempt to count themselves online, as the questionnaire was too long, complicated, and it contained a large variety of questions, regarding personal property. A lot of people were both intimidated by the online census, especially elderly people, who are not so well acquainted with technology, people from rural areas, and residents of poor areas of cities. In addition, people were highly hesitant to be counted physically due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic also contributed to the severe lack of “counters”. The “counters” did not visit a lot of areas where Roma people live, as they are widely regarded as no-go-zones. There was even an incident of someone shooting at “counters” with a gas pistol.

One of the highest glaring issues were that if you counted yourself online, you still had to be visited physically and give your code to a “counter”. Also, people could count themselves only from a Bulgarian IP address, which excludes people who work in other EU countries, as well as Macedonians, Bessarabians and people from the Western Borderlands region, who have passports.

An extension of the census, or a complete re-count is absolutely necessary, as now we won’t have any real, clear, reliable data about the population of Bulgaria at all. I would suggest that the EU should lead the campaign, as Bulgarian institutions have proven to be quite ineffective.

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