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Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Draw of the Hat!

No, that's not a picture of one of Jehovah's Witnesses knocking at a door. Rather, it's from a brochure placed at my door by the National Institute of Statistics or the cousin of the Uruguayan Census bureau.

I say cousin because there are two programs in effect. One is the countrywide Census taken every 10 years here in Uruguay. That one is due to take place this September, 2011. Everyone in this country (much like the one done in the United States) will be visited for a count.

The brochure placed at my door was for a yearly ongoing census that people are chosen to participate in.

Everyone, eventually partakes in this ongoing questioning about your life and business. I asked, why was this, the first time in 3 years that I was being contacted if it's a yearly program? The survey taker said because they just break the group up into random draws throughout the year, and my lot finally came up.

I know that there are people out there who don't like Government noising about into their business. I have to admit, I was not comfortable with the nature of some of the questions. At one point, I asked if after questioning me about my household appliances and gadgets if a truck was going to pull up outside my house that night and then rob me of all of my possessions! The surveyor (a woman in this case) laughed and emphasized the point that all answers were guaranteed secret and protected under law. Still?

The survey question askers, all have a badge to identify them. In the brochure it states that all persons are obligated to answer the "encuesta" or in English the "survey/poll/inquiry/investigation"Article 14 of the Law 16.616 of October, 1994.

The information pamphlet and a 2 page letter, was left in my door while I was out. I thought I'd have to call for a return appointment but just tonight the lady Sophia returned and I invited her in (after looking at her ID) She spoke some English and since I can read Spanish,we proceeded.

The brochure uses words like "the information you offer" and in looking back, I could have told her anything and she'd have had to believe me (unless she could see it for herself).

My brother worked for the US census bureau doing a summer stint recently and he told me how rude some people were and how, he had to report shot guns and bad dogs during his route. I guess with that in mind I was willing to partake fully but in looking back I thought the questions were more about material things than needed. When I asked her why these types of questions were asked she said that the government likes to know about electrical usage and such so they can plan on providing services.

Before the surveyor came back, I did take the letter to my friend's house to look at and she said yes, they do come around to make surveys.

Here are some questions asked (in the future, other expats should ask what would happen if you refuse to answer, I didn't)

How many people living in the home? Their ages, level of education (starting with Kindergarden!) Was the school public or a private one?, Income, What they do for a living?, What did you do before moving here (since I said that we were retired), any outside money sources, (rental,bonds, Alimony, etc...)This I feel was too nosey! Do you have children? Do you own your home (or have a mortgage) or rent, How many rooms in the house. If you had to rent your house out, what do you think you could get as rent? Do you own any other homes? Do you have a cell phone, How many TV's, computers?, Do you have a VHS or a DVD player, Microwave, dishwasher, washer, dryer? Car? Do you have a cedula?, Do you have Medical Insurance? Do you pay for it yourself or does an employer? Do you have emergency service (ambulance rider attached to your insurance) How many years have you lived here? Where did you live before? Do you have any black people in your family (that you are descended from) or Indians? All in all, I think the questions generally were intrusive!

On a lot of other surveys I have seen in my life, the number of people, ages, education and home ownership are the usual questions and in the USA the race question was asked. I remembered in the US a number of questions about Hispanics were asked, (this was way before the Arizona immigrant issue, but I can't help and wonder if that didn't help lead up to that issue)

I was able to answer about Wally for Wally and our cedula numbers were not asked for, just if we had them.

I just thought that I should prepare any expats or Uruguayans that you could be next, for the draw of the  hat.

If not, then expect them in September! I was told, I would have to do that one as well!


pep said...

Hey Denise, Horacio here, how are you? Now I wanna share the opposite experience, that of a Uruguayan and his first US census. I mean, totally the opposite, I was amazed at the few questions they were asking, and how interested they were in the race of those in the house. On the other hand, I was amazed at how people on tv (mostly on Fox and other conservative channels) were saying that the only question you really had to answer by law was how many people lived at your place... I mean, it goes to show the different way people look at the government. I mean, I do not find anything wrong with the government knowing how I live (least of all the US or Uruguayan governments which I do not see as particularly threatening, we are not talking about Nazi Germany or Communist Russia here) so I was wiling to answer whatever. In any case, at least in Uruguay you can lie on the survey and the goverment or the surveyor could not care less... I mean, as an American you are probably used to having to tell the truth whenever you are asked something by the authorities, thus your reticence, but in Uruguay you can tell your little lies and np at all!!!

Denise said...

Hola! Horacio, Thanks for sharing the other side of the coin by your experience in the USA. I did get the feeling that I could have said anything but they warn you not to in the accompanying letter. I thought I read a fine (multa) of a minimum of 20 UR up to a whopping 50 UR (unidades) as an infraction for adjusting the truth. So if I read that right a fine from $1 to $3 not too bad!

Maink said...

Wow, Denise. Thanks for posting this. I'm really happy to be in the know!

Anonymous said...

Do you have to let them into your home?

Denise said...

To Anonymous,
I don't think you have to let them into your house! On a nicer day I might have thought to have them sit outside. They hold a little ipod type thing that lists a group of questions that they read to you. As you answer, they check off your response or if needed they type/text in anything extra. I would definitely offer to sit outside with them next time and have available a little table to sit their stuff on. This was just a first time experience for me that I hadn't ever heard about from any others. Starting in September everyone will start to be visited with the 10 yr. census, so I thought I'd give a heads up with this post! Forewarned equals forearmed!

Anonymous said...

Yes, thanks Denise! It's definitely good to know what to expect, rather than being blindsided!