Nowadays, following the recent crisis in Brazil, the construction of empirical evidence on a national scale is under dispute. This situation puts the National Population Census at risk, The Brazilian Population Census is the central database for public policies and normally takes place approximately every ten years. However, due to the pandemic and the recent political and economic phenomena, the 2020 Census is behind schedule. Since 2019 the national mainstream media have publicized adjustments to this national survey. Some examples of these adjustments are the reduction of the questionnaires due to the costs of conducting this survey
, the cancellation of the hiring process of 204,000 employees
and the possible postponement of the Population Census to 2023.
The result of these disputes may be, for example, the infeasibility of calculating household income in the country
, with direct implications for the formulation, implementation and evaluation of housing policies at national and local levels. For instance, the National Housing Plan (PlanHab), designed in 2008 by the former Ministry of Cities, mainly used the National Population Census data to evaluate and quantify the housing deficit in all Brazilian municipalities according to their different realities. Also directly related to urban policies, the adjustments in that national survey may result in the non-construction of data on rental values, affecting the calculation of the Brazilian housing deficit.
In Brazil, the housing deficit is commonly calculated by a public organization named João Pinheiro Foundation (FJP). Since 1995, this research methodology has been improved to keep up with the socio-spatial transformations in the country. Associated with this, changes in the production of official data led to adjustments in the study and quantification of the Brazilian housing problem. In 2015 the IBGE interrupted a historical series of more than ten years of the National Household Sample Survey (PNAD) by launching the National Continuous Household Sample Survey (PNADC). Following this tendency, IBGE proposed modifications to the next National Census. This modification denotes the efforts to reformulate concepts and calculations on the housing deficit to construct valid national indicators, especially for monitoring public policies and programmes aimed at housing in the country.
It is essential to clarify that the federal government played a role in this process. Due to changes conducted by IBGE, among them the exclusion of collected data from the national surveys, the FJP adopted complementary data. An example is the Unified Registry for Social Programs (Cadastro Único), a national database under central government management focused on quantifying and understanding Brazilian low-income families. The Census remains central to the understanding of the housing needs in the country, despite the necessary complementary statistical arrangements during the last few years, which allowed conducting analyses from 2016 to 2019. The calculation of the housing deficit can be detailed at the municipal level
only because it uses the Census's data, available on a national scale. This circumstance is fundamental to guiding the Brazilian municipalities' formulation, implementation, and evaluation of urban policies.
Indeed, the central government should assume good management of financial resources as an essential guideline. However, according to experts, adjustments in the survey questionnaires have a low impact on survey costs. Furthermore, it is necessary to evaluate that a good definition of the National Population Census questionnaires and other public surveys should consider the availability of time series databases. In terms of adjustments in the definition of the survey sample, it is necessary to assume that the Census is the primary reference for the universal understanding of the Brazilian population and territory. In other words, this survey can point out the exclusion of populations by different surveys and some social policies.
The importance of data for public policies and meeting the needs of the poorest people in Brazil, including through urban policies, stands out. However, essential benchmarks, such as official national data, are under dispute. In addition to the importance of carrying out the National Population Census, it is necessary to build the capacities of local governments to construct data in an autonomous and integrated manner and subsidize public policies. This improvement may affect the formulation, implementation and evaluation of local urban policies, including the regulation of urban space and the provision of infrastructures in the reality of Brazilian federalism.