The Czech Republic in figures

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In this week's edition of Talking Point Pavla Horakova looks at the final results of the national census carried out in 2001. If you'd like to learn more about the Czech Republic in figures, now is your chance.

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The final results are out. Last week, the Czech Statistics Office released a huge amount of figures which all tell something about Czechs and how they have changed during the past decade. The last census took place in 1991, before the split of Czechoslovakia, so last year's survey was the first in the Czech Republic's 10-year history.

The census was concluded on the 1st of March last year and it took more than a year to process all the data. On the 1st of March 2001 the Czech Republic had 10,230,000 inhabitants. The population decreased by more than 72,000 since the last census in 1991 despite the fact that around 124,000 foreigners living permanently in the country were registered in the 2001 census.

9,250,000 people declared Czech nationality, 380,000 said they were Moravian and about 11,000 said they were Silesian. Almost 200,000 Czech citizens claimed Slovak nationality. There were 52,000 of ethnic Polish origin and almost 40,000 people described themselves as German.

Marie Bohata is the President of the Czech Statistics Office.

"The largest minorities are Slovaks - 20 percent, followed by Ukrainians, Poles and the Vietnamese."

She was referring there to another group in the census - foreigners living permanently in the Czech Republic, but without taking Czech citizenship. An overwhelming majority of them came to this country in the last decade. Without them the decrease in population would have been even more dramatic.

For the first time in history, the population in what is now the Czech Republic has decreased for other reasons than wars. In the 20th century, the two world wars caused major losses. The 1921 census showed there were about 70,000 fewer people than in 1910 and between 1930 and 1950 the population dropped by 1,780,000 people. The figure included casualties of the Second World War, refugees, the post-war expulsion of Germans and people who went into exile because they didn't approve of the communist regime.

The most recent drop is attributed to two factors - Czechs are ageing and fewer babies are being born.

"I think some trends are quite obvious. For example the ageing of the population is demonstrated by the average age of the population which reached 39 years. This is 2.5 years more than in 1991. The number of newborn babies decreased from some 130,000 around 1990 to only 90,000. As a result we have now 117 pensioners in our population compared to 100 children. This ratio worsened from 87 in 1991 and will be even higher according to our projections, which is not very good, of course. Further, less people work compared to the situation in 1991, the difference being much higher than the decrease in population."

Marie Bohata, photo: CTK
Czechs are living longer. Improved healthcare and a healthier lifestyle are thought to be behind a rise in the mean life expectancy of Czech population.

"It is rising by almost four years for men and almost 3 years for women. However women live longer so this is also a factor contributing to the ageing of our population."

It is becoming more and more expensive to start a family. Children are a costly affair. That's one of the reasons why fewer babies are born. Another one may be new methods of family planning and there's also a wider range of activities young people want to pursue before they settle down and start a family. It is obvious that Czechs are marrying later than they did ten years ago. The average age of marriage rose to 29 last year from 25 in 1991 for men and to 27 from 22 for women.

"The average age is being postponed by some five years. The average age of brides in the first marriage is now 27 years and this is a very significant demographic change which in our country took only some ten years to occur. In some developed countries this took more than 20 years."

Last year's census revealed another striking trend - a sharp decline in the number of people who declare themselves religious. Only 32 percent said they believed in God, whereas 6,000,000 said they were atheists.

"The overwhelming majority of believers in the Czech Republic are Roman Catholics with about 83 percent, however the number of believers decreased significantly compared to the last census. The Catholic Church only lost almost 1,000,000 people".

It may seem that Czechs are abandoning their faith. However, individual churches haven't noticed any dwindling of their congregations. The reason behind this steep decline is thought to be the euphoria and a new sense of freedom after the fall of communism which people still felt in 1991 when the last census was carried out.

As Marie Bohata said earlier, the Roman Catholic Church is the largest church with 2,740,000 followers. The Evangelical Church of Czech Brothers has 117,000 adherents, followed by the Czechoslovak Hussite Church with 99,000 members and the Jehova's Witnesses with 23,000 followers.

In every census there are usually many facetious or eccentric answers, such as last year in Britain when a large number of people entered Jedi Knight as their religion. I asked Marie Bohata, the head of the Czech Statistics Office whether her team encountered many such entries.

"Yes, of course there were such answers as you mentioned but they were absolutely marginal. For example about believers: I believe in myself or I believe in my friend and so on."

What a pity Czechs weren't too creative this time. What else? The first ever census in what is now the Czech Republic took place in 1869 and the population was 7.6 million.

Now the average Czech is 39 years old and almost 20 percent of people over the age of 20 are single. The South Moravian region is the only one where there are more religious people than agnostics. Nine percent of Czechs have a university degree, while the largest number of people who haven't finished primary school live in the West Bohemian region of Karlovy Vary. Prague has 1.17 million inhabitants, which is 45,000 people fewer than in 1991. There are 51 percent of women and 49 percent of men on average. Prague has the smallest male population - only 47 percent.

Now it's up to sociologists to analyse the data further. We shall deal with individual topics in more detail in our future programmes. Meanwhile if you want to know more about the Czech Republic in figures, go to www.czso.cz , that's the official website of the Czech Statistics Office and you can find there plenty of interesting information about this country.