HAVANA TIMES — The much heralded “Population and Housing Census” is now being conducted in Cuba under the slogan “We’re Counting Everybody.” It is said to have the aim of counting how many of us there are: Men and women, children, adults, young and old, blacks, mestizos and whites, as well as what condition people live in, etc.
All this seems timely and wise in the midst of a “process of change aimed at improving the quality of life of the population,” as the official slogan says.
When a census taker came to my house, I was really expecting more specific questions and not to hear myself giving responses as light as the ones I provided yesterday.
My gender and my race were easy enough. My age and who I lived with were also asked. How many and what kind of home appliances I had at home, including if I had a cellphone, seemed to be worth noting as well.
What my level of education was and whether I or the people I live with are employed also seemed like valid questions.
But there was one question that, for me, was notably absent from the questionnaire: What was our income? They never asked what my partner’s salary was or what my personal source of income was.
After a little reflection I realized that this wasn’t necessary. Firstly, it’s not worth collecting statistics about something that’s already known: that most Cubans earn less than a dollar a day in take-home pay.
On the other hand, I understand that the census, once completed, will serve for publicizing the figures that the Cuban government likes to highlight – that we have I don’t know how many thousands of university graduates, that our aging population is like what’s occurring in First World countries, and so on.
What they don’t specify are the thousands of professionals who aren’t working in their fields, how many are self-employed, or how many people live off of family remittances and other devices.
Nor will it reflect that the aging of the population is to a large degree due to the exodus of younger people.
In a few days the census will end, at which time it will be described as successful, effective, and who knows how many more positive adjectives. Now, my concern is this: Will this statistical census serve as just another pamphlet or will it be used as actual information for creating improvements in the lives of our sad but well-counted population?
Oh, another thing, are we really counting everybody? What for?