Preliminary census results out

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The Czech Statistical Office has published the preliminary results of a national census which took place in March. Although this is the first census which could properly reflect the change in Czechs' living standard since the 1989 revolution, the first results do not speak of a busier, happier and richer nation. They show a nation growing older and abandoning its faith. Daniela Lazarova has more.

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According to Mrs. Marie Bohata of the Statistical Office, the census was not aimed at monitoring income changes and contained only a few questions which could reflect the nations higher living standard. What it did reveal was an increase in the number of flats and houses and a lower number of inhabitants per household. And it showed a population that is decreasing and aging. The current population totals just under 10.3 million people, a drop of almost 10 thousand people since the last census ten years ago. The percentage of children under 14 years of age has declined, while the percentage of people aged over 60 has increased. The biggest surprise of the census was the sharp decrease in the number of believers of all faiths. Positive or negative, these are facts which the Statistical Office has ascertained and it will be up to sociologists to analyze them further.

Much of Tuesday's press conference was devoted to the question of security and protection of private data. The head of the Institute for Protection of Private Data Karel Neuwirt has accused the Statistical Office of violating the law by asking the public to disclose certain items of information. I asked Mrs. Bohata for her stand on this.

"This is a competence problem. There is a special law on the population and housing census and a special law on protection of private data. There are different interpretations of these laws and their relationship."

So who will decide which interpretation is the correct one?

"I think the only way is to go to court. Neither the Office for Protection of Private Data not the Statistical Office can interpret laws."

So will you take the matter to court or will you wait for Mr. Neuwirt to do so?

"According to the present legislation it is our responsibility to take the matter to court. We will do so."

The final results of the 2001 census will be published at the beginning of next year, but in the course of processing regular updates will appear on the Internet.