Chile commission recommends scrapping 2012 census

AP News
Posted: Aug 07, 2013 5:51 PM

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Chile's latest population census should be scrapped and repeated in 2015, an independent commission of experts recommended Wednesday.

The government had boasted that the 2012 census was the most comprehensive in the country's history. But after a three-month evaluation, six outside experts said it shouldn't be used to calculate official numbers.

"The commission believes that the 2012 census suffers from serious problems," the experts said in a report commissioned by the National Statistics Institute.

The report said 9.3 percent of the population was not included in the census. "That percentage is three times higher than other censuses carried out recently in other regional countries."

Chile's reputation for providing some of the most solid official statistics in Latin America has been hit by questions surrounding the gathering of the census data. The commission said the government surveyed 15.8 million people, when it should be closer to 17.4 million.

"This is a solid projection, and therefore valid to estimate the census omission," it said.

A third of those missing from the census findings were not counted because they were not at home, and two-thirds were not surveyed or were wrongfully marked as empty homes, the report said.

Experts said the census was wrongfully carried out amid a climate of "strong internal divisions" inside the National Statistics Institute. Francisco Labbe, who ran the institute, resigned in April after he was accused of tweaking the census numbers and under-reporting inflation.

The commission blamed the census fiasco on President Sebastian Pinera's government but also said that problems during former President Michelle Bachelet's 2006-10 administration delayed the 2012 census.

Experts recommended that a new census with fewer questions be carried out during a national holiday.

The 2012 census cost about $32 million, said Mariana Alcerreca, a former senior officer at the national institute who had reported the irregularities in compiling the data.