A national census kicked off in Bulgaria at midnight, making it the first EU country to hold a population count in 2011 and one of only seven member states with an online option.
The census questionnaire will be available for those choosing to fill it online on the website of the National Statistical Institute from February 1 till February 9, 2011. From February 10 till February 28, 2011, census takers will visit households, homes, and buildings.
The proclaimed goal of the decennial census is to collect full, exact, and adequate information about the condition of the population, economy, and society which are to be used to draft strategic documents for the development of the country - a National Program for Development "Bulgaria 2020" and a new 5-year plan for the absorption of EU funds - 2013-2017.
A total of 40 000 census takers will participate in the survey. The new legislation provides for a BGN 120 fine to anybody who refuses to provide census information to the authorities.
The information from the census is also expected to be taken into account when drawing the lists with eligible voters for the 2011 local and presidential elections. Experts have warned for years that the existing lists contain the names of many persons who are dead or have emigrated, which creates conditions for electoral fraud.
According to a national survey, about 36% of the Bulgarians would agree to undergo only the online census. The reason is that it would take about 15 minutes, while the traditional method would take about 10 minutes more.
On average, one census taker is expected to visit about 200-250 people and 80 households. It is very important that all people and buildings undergo the procedure.
The campaign will end on March 1, when the percentage of Bulgarians who took part in the census will be announced. The complete data from the census will be made public at the beginning of April.