Todays Date
May 18, 2022

Ethnic games and migration block the census

Politics, calculating with ethnic figures makes the census a political, rather than statistical process. The government has a big fear of migration figures

co-author: Biljana Stavrova

Census is about democracy, not just statistics. This is the motto of the campaign of the NGO sector, which through performances in various towns throughout the country is to convince the government that a census is a necessary statistical operation for economic and social planning.

Government lacks political will to conduct a census

The initiative for taking a census was started by the NGO “Infocenter”. Biljana Bejkova, executive director of the organization, appeals for the main purpose of the census not to be ethnic counting of citizens.

According to Bejkova, the census should not be a hostage to politics, due to which this operation failed in 2011.


Biljana Bejkova (photo: Civil)

“We are aware that the census will not be organized without political consensus in the government. Census is not a part of the new government. It is obvious that none of the partners in the government wants the census to be carried out. On the other hand, this statistical operation has been turned into ethnic counting of the population. On one hand it has politicized this statistical operation, on the other hand it is avoided, because the reality of the figures will certainly not fit their policies”, said Bejkova.

Lulzim Haziri, program director in the Association for Democratic Initiatives (ADI) says Macedonian census is not statistical, analytical or developmental issue, but a sensitive political issue that will cause tensions, every time when mentioned or conducted, because the figures are used to make camps.  



“We are in this number, you are in that number! We are strengthening, you are weakening! Starting from this confrontational attitude and vulnerability of government coalitions based on their preservation upon party interests, the census will always be an obligation imposed from outside, rather than internal need. If there was a political will, the current ruling coalition could have carried out the census after its collapse in 2011”, explains Haziri and adds:

“As long as the reasons that led to suspension of the census are not published, and agreement is not reached for their overcome, it will be uncertain”, said Haziri.





Macedonian Center for European Education (MCEE) is involved in the campaign “Census Now”. Ljupcho Petkovski from the organization considers it obvious that there is no political will to organize the census because the budget for 2014 does not project funds for the cost of the census, and the politicians do not give signals that it could be carried out.

“We will pay a high social cost unless census is conducted. Census is necessary so as we do not get in a situation in which we found ourselves. Mobile teams of doctors are sent in villages without inhabitants, on the other hand there are no doctors in villages in need of such services”, emphasized Petkovski.

What motivates the government to postpone the census?

Macedonia is the only country in Europe and one of the few in the world that has not conducted a census. Biljana Bejkova added that this way we become disparate and incompatible with the world and with global processes.

“Even worse, policies in all the other areas are irrelevant and unsuccessful. Without accurate and realistic data in all social spheres good and effective policies cannot be planned in economic development, education, health, social welfare, agriculture, infrastructure, etc.”, analyzes Bejkova.

According to her, without a census there will not be a relevant electoral list. Of 2.2 million inhabitants Macedonia has according to the last census, about 1.8 million figure among voters.


Bejkova finds that there are no doubts in the capacity of Macedonia to conduct a census, and Lulzim Haziri from the organization ADI noted that apart from the political game with ethnic figures, the lack of administrative capacity may be among the main reasons for delaying the census.

According to him, after 2002 the state administration is filled with party cadres which do not appear to be able to hold onto their shoulders such a heavy administrative burden.

“The project Skopje 2014 affects the delay and irrational spending of the state budget through frequent elections, subsidies for the electorate, given the high cost of conducting a census. But above all, the main reason is the lack of mutual trust between Macedonians and Albanians in terms of functioning of the state”, commented Haziri.

Ljupcho Petkovski from MCEE thinks the census failed because of political and inter-ethnic mistrust in the government coalition, as in the failed census in 2011 there were different interpretations and findings for some strange figures.

“Whatever the reasons, they can be overcome, we should not get in the situation of Macedonia, jointly with Somalia and some other countries to be the only one where a census has not been carried out”, said Petkovski.

Fear of striking data and mass migration

Aferdita Hadzhijahja-Imeri, social issues expert, says that one reason for the cancellation of this operation is the fact that many young people leave the country.

“Reasons for the postponement of the census (traditional) are the assumptions that we are facing large percentage of emigrations of both Macedonians and Albanians”, said Imeri.

“The fact that the World Bank confirms that around 400,000 people have emigrated from Macedonia, while Eurostat claims that 230,000 people have regulated residence in Member States of the European Union, clearly shows that the government is not willing to tell us the real situation on the ground” says Bejkova.

“Postponement of the census is also affected by the continued legal and illegal emigration of the population, mainly Albanian population, but lately Macedonian, too, as well as a significant number of Roma population lacking personal documents. I believe this is one of the reasons, the most important. And regular reports of the Bureau of Statistics on births and deaths of members of different ethnic communities are an important indication that force the daily policy to “forget” the census”, said Lulzim Haziri from the organization ADI.

Petkovski from MCEE noted that migration is the reason for postponement of the census, as the data would be very unfavorable for the government.

“But if the census is organized, new policies can be developed that could prevent emigration, or would enable young people to look dignifiedly in the future just in Macedonia”, said Petkovski.

Why is census in Macedonia politicized? 


“The biggest impact has incomplete implementation of the recommendations and methodologies for conducting the census. No appropriate definitions are used or the biggest problem why 2011 census failed was different interpretation of the definitions and standards. A census covers the total population living in the country, and the population working abroad to 12 months. We as a country do not have quality data on how much of the population goes abroad and how long it stays there. Occasional returns cannot be counted as immigration. Namely, if you are 30-40 months outside the country, and you return only once a month, you are not to be included in the total number of people living in the country”, explained Donco Gerasimovski, former head of the State Statistical Office in an interview published on web site.

Issues about the census, or misunderstandings in the State Census Commission, the boycott of individual members, giving resignations of functions in SCC, led to different interpretations of standards and methodologies in the census itself, which ultimately resulted in the termination of the census. Millions were spent and no results. There are omissions, inconsistencies and ambiguities in the Census Law, and it should be borne in mind, because my rich experience shows that there were similar problems in past censuses, but these problems were always solved by adopting quality practices in accordance with the recommendations of the UN, explains Gerasimovski.

A thousand people a year emigrate on average

Official data about the mechanical movement of the population (migration) are the forms for emigrated-immigrated people submitted in the relevant professional departments of the Ministry of Interior, according to which the table for emigrated citizens from RM is the following:

Year      2005    2006    2007    2008     2009     2010    2011      2012
Emigrated     1.282            1.073            224             740                 769                 923            1.143             1.330

This suggests that on average the Statistical Office records emigration of about a thousand people each year. Family reasons, then employment and entering into marriage are three main reasons for leaving the country.

According to the Minister of Labor and Social Policy Dime Spasov, government measures for self-employment have borne fruit.


Dime Spasov

“These are measures for the establishment of new businesses, enterprises for self-employment but also for opening new job positions. Any private company in Macedonia can raise a favorable loan with a longer grace period and a favorable interest rate of only one percent. That is a really positive project with more results. Four thousand people are annually employed with the active measures”, said Minister Spasov recently.

World Bank: Macedonia is a country with over 21 percent emigrants

Unlike our institutions, statistical offices worldwide publish their figures which are significantly larger, published on the website of the Immigration Agency as official statistics on the number of Macedonian emigrants in the world.

For example, according to the Statistical Office of Australia, 83,983 people emigrated from Macedonia to this distant continent according to their census in 2006, announced by the Immigration Agency on the web site.


Furthermore, the same table shows that most of the inhabitants of Macedonia emigrate to Italy (78,090, as of 2008, the Institute of Statistics of Italy) and Germany (62,295, 2007 data from the Central Statistics Office). Statistical Office of Switzerland, in 2011 census in their country registered 61,288 Macedonians.

43.783 Macedonians emigrated to the U.S., 14 years old data, according to the census of 2000 in that country. Striking is the figure of 47,200 migrants in neighboring Serbia, recorded back in 1994 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Macedonia.

However the Emigration Agency emphasizes that in different countries during the census there are different qualifications. For example, in America there is no graph for Macedonians. Another is the case, they say, our expatriates who long ago emigrated there already have heirs who enter into mixed marriages, so only their children can continue to learn Macedonian language.

At the bottom of the table is the aggregate number of people emigrated from their homeland which equals 465,333 citizens.

Close to this figure is the statistics of the World Bank, in which 447,000 people emigrated from the country, as of 2010, so Macedonia is ranked in the group with the most emigrants. The country is ranked 23 in the group of 25 countries with the most emigrants. With 21.9 percent emigrants of the total population, the country is in the company of West Bank and Gaza, Granada, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe.

The loss of certain types of occupations in the form of brain drain is particularly expressed in Macedonia. According to the latest report by the World Bank there is a high level of brain drain from the country and virtually anyone who has a chance to go abroad does it.

The census in 2011 failed because of major disagreements between the partners in the ruling coalition, VMRO-DPMNE and Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) in connection with the process, and especially in relation to the number of Albanians and other ethnic communities, because the Ohrid Agreement guarantees the collective rights of the Albanian community based on the 20 per cent. If this percentage increases, the Albanian political party announced that requirements for the exercise of rights, especially for appropriate and equitable representation will be based on the new rate of Albanian population.

In 2002 census there were 2,022,547 citizens of Macedonia

65 % Macedonians

25,17 % Albanians

3,85 % Turks

2,66 % Roma

1,78 Serbs %  and other communities