Russian census sparks controversy over 'padded' figures
Russia wrapped up its national census on Monday as members of the public complained of being overlooked and census takers alleged that the figures were being padded with invented people.
The census, which started on October 14, aims to comb through Russia's estimated population of 142 million people, with around 650,000 census takers gathering data.
Held for the first time since 2002, it will be watched closely for its figures on population, amid fears over low birthrates and prejudice against an influx of migrants.
Census takers, often students, working for a wage of 5,500 rubles (183 dollars), confessed on Internet forums and blogs that padding figures was a common practice.
"At one census office, the number of invented people has reached 1,100," a census taker from the southern resort of Kislovodsk wrote under the alias julia_alma, on the blog of Russian Statistics Agency head Alexander Surinov.
Census takers added extra members to families and invented people living in empty apartments, julia_alma wrote.
A male student at the Moscow Physics and Engineering Institute wrote on a student forum that he had failed to track down enough residents in his area and feared his pay being cut.
"I will have to play God: invent people and put them into flats," wrote the student, who only gave the nickname Kler.
Surinov said Friday that the census was going "according to plan." He wrote in his blog asking for people to send him details of census takers behaving incorrectly.
Members of the public also turned to the Internet to complain that they had not seen any census takers knocking on doors.
"Whom did you poll? Neither I nor any of my acquaintances saw any census workers. It's all for nothing," a man who gave his name only as Konstantin commented on Gazeta.Ru news website.
In a blaze of publicity, President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin were shown on television greeting census takers.
Medvedev confided that he worked as a census taker in 1989 and boasted that he had tracked down all the residents of an apartment building.
© 2010 AFP