Religion, ethnicity ignored by many Czechs in latest population census

Over the past decade, Czech society has seen a number of interesting changes and trends, as shown by preliminary results of the 2011 population census which were released on Thursday. The figures show the country’s population grew a little, mainly due to migration. Czechs are also more educated than they used to be, and many more of them live alone. If people’s answers in the census are to be trusted, more people declared themselves to be Jedi knights than Romanies.

Some 15,000 people recorded their religion as Jedi, as part of an international movement that stated some ten years ago in the English-speaking world and has since also earned supporters in the Czech Republic.

When commenting on the phenomenon, the head of the Czech Statistical Office, Stanislav Drápal, was careful not to completely dismiss this particular result of the 2011 population census, noting it is not up to statisticians to say what is and what is not a religion.

But other results of the census perhaps shed more light on how the Czech society has changed since the previous census took place a decade ago. Sociologist Pavel Kučera from Prague’s Charles University says one of the major ones has to do with changes to the structure of the population.

“These numbers show some changes in the population structures. There are also some changes in the size of the population but they are not that surprising. It seems that in the long run, the reproductive potential in the Czech Republic is growing, and the growth is mostly the result of migration.“

According to the census, the number of foreigners living in the Czech Republic is up by more than 260 percent compared to the previous figures from 2001. Ukrainians form the largest minority in the country, with over 117,000 members, followed by Slovaks, Vietnamese, Russians, Germans and Poles. The total number of foreigners reached nearly half a million.

Over 6.7 million respondents declared themselves to be Czechs and more than 520,000 said they were Moravian, up from the previous figure of 380,000. But more than 2.7 million people ignored the question altogether. Pavel Kučera believes this might have been caused by problems with terminology.

“There are many foreigners living here, and for example in Russian, the word ‘natsyonalnost’ means citizenship. So I think people could be puzzled by these terms, especially if they got questionnaires in the Czech language. But according to the statistics, there should be at least nine million ethnic Czechs. Why they did not say so is difficult to say but there could be a big proportion of Romanies.”

Only 13,500 people gave their ethnicity as Romany, which is between 10 and 20 times lower than their real numbers.

The census also found that nearly half of adults living in the Czech Republic are single – 48 percent of men and 43 percent of women, and the phenomenon is not limited to large cities but spread across the country.

Czechs are also more educated than they used to be – every second inhabitant has begun or completed a university course. Sociologist Pavel Kučera says this will have a far-reaching impact in the future.

“We can see a massive shift in the proportion of people with university education, and it will get even higher in the coming decade. In the future we have to expect further growth, and these will be people with higher expectations, be it jobs, salaries, etc.”

Despite the unexpected emergence of 15,000 Jedi knights, the 2011 population census also confirmed the status of the Czech Republic as one of the world’s most atheistic countries. Only 1.1 million people declared themselves as Roman Catholic, down from 2.7 million 10 years ago, while nearly half of the whole population is not affiliated with any religion.