Amid a debate on the feasibility of operating the Demographic Census, the IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) signs this Thursday (7) with the UN (United Nations) partnership to develop a system for monitoring the coverage of major research carried out by the institute.
The system provides for the use of administrative records such as school enrollment data or energy consumption data to estimate the population in small geographic areas known as census tracts to monitor the work of enumerators and assessments of the coverage of household data collection.
The census was planned for 2020 but was postponed after the pandemic began. The current forecast is to start collecting data in August, but the budget for the research was taken from the bill that estimates the budget for the year, under discussion in Congress.
This week, the IBGE suspended a tender for the hiring of 181.9 thousand temporary workers for the research, based on the understanding that the budget cut, from R $ 2 billion to R $ 71 million, makes the operation unfeasible, which foresees visits to about 70 million households.
After the cut, the institute’s president, Susana Cordeiro Guerra, resigned. The institute says it awaits the debate on the budget, but defends the realization of the census in 2020, despite resistance from the staff, who fears health risks for enumerators and the population that will be interviewed.
The agreement with the UN does not provide for disbursements and, therefore, is independent of the budget. The text that will be signed this Thursday foresees the transfer of population estimation technology with administrative records and geographic information, such as maps of night lighting.
Usually, the population estimate for a census sector is made based on the visits of the enumerators, which should occur every ten years. With the new information, IBGE wants to have a second assessment, using a technology that the institute has named Grade Pop.
At first, the idea is to use the data to plan the enumerators’ logistics. After collecting the interviews, Gradepop data will be compared to the census result to assess whether the collection covered the entire projected population.
The IBGE estimates that the model gains more importance during the pandemic, which increases the risk of problems with collection – a similar system was used in the United States census, carried out in the midst of the pandemic in 2020 – and says that the technology can unfold in other products, such as the institute’s annual population estimate.
“Gradepop is a product of frontier technology for estimating population density in small areas. One of its main uses will not only be the guarantee of the quality of the coverage of the Census in the three phases of enumeration ´collection]but it will also have significant consequences for other areas of IBGE’s statistical and geoscientific production “, says Guerra.
The population estimates made by IBGE are used, for example, to define transfers from the federal government to states and city halls. For this reason, former presidents of the institute and specialists in demography and public policies criticize the cut of funds for the census.
The research has been the subject of controversy since the beginning of the Jair Bolsonaro administration: soon in the possession of Guerra, in February 2019, the Minister of Economy, Paulo Guedes, determined the reduction of spending on research, which was initially budgeted at R $ 3 , 1 billion.
After successive clashes with the entity’s technical staff and requests for dismissal from managers linked to the Research Directorate, Guerra announced in June the reduction in the size of the questionnaires that will be applied to the population, which motivated the creation of a campaign for the research.
Guerra, who remains in office until the appointment of a new president, says that the system being developed with the UN does not replace face-to-face census interviews, it only improves the monitoring of the quality of data collected at home.
Since taking office, however, she has advocated greater use of administrative records in IBGE surveys. In March, the institute entered into a partnership with the Federal Revenue Service and the IDB (Inter-American Development Bank) to improve the use of tax information in the calculation of GDP (Gross Domestic Product).