An expensive census

Malta is in the middle of a population census, and some commentators are already having fun with it as you might expect (nice one Mark).

I’ve done my part and my form is completed – except that I didn’t have to lift a finger.

Believe it or not, last Friday night there was a knock at my door (which in itself is unusual since I live in an apartment block with a video link to the communal front door), and when I opened it, a girl who couldn’t have been more than 16 breezed in past me with a beaming smile, a bag full of papers and a comment about being here to do the census.

I was in the middle of eating a meal, but it didn’t seem likely that she would be easily put off, so I sighed and focussed my attention on the census form. This was in Maltese (the girl said she didn’t have any English ones left), and she proceeded to translate each question out loud for me and then fill in my answer herself.

I noticed that she ticked the wrong box on at least three occasions (thus proving that I can read basic Maltese upside-down even when hungry and irritated) but I couldn’t care less how accurate the census is so I didn’t bother to correct her.

And so about 20 minutes later (just long enough for my dinner to cool to room temperature) we were done, and she breezed out and across the landing to the next apartment.

A couple of things stuck out in my mind from this somewhat unusual experience; firstly, I hadn’t realised that the Maltese government employs children; and secondly, how much must this whole process be costing, if every form is delivered by hand, and a significant number of non-Maltese speakers benefit from the level of assistance that I got? Can Malta afford it?

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