Communities Finance

Census 2021 – what you need to know!

The twenty-second national Census is planned to take place in Spring 2021. The UK Government published a White Paper in December 2018, which includes detailed plans relating to the 2021 census, such as: suggested questions; proposed date (21 March 2021); personal data / digital security; and plans for publication of data.

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27 February 2019

Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg | View this post in Welsh

The twenty-second national Census is planned to take place in Spring 2021.

The UK Government published a White Paper in December 2018, which includes detailed plans relating to the 2021 census, such as: suggested questions; proposed date (21 March 2021); personal data / digital security; and plans for publication of data.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) are responsible for the Census in England and Wales. Historically Scotland and Northern Ireland have always been responsible for their own censuses. Welsh Government officials work closely with the ONS and there is a UK Census Committee involving all four countries to co-ordinate Census taking.

Remaining legislative steps

A Census Order is expected to be considered by UK Parliament in autumn 2019. This is used to direct that a census is carried out and provides Parliament with an opportunity to debate and agree proposals for the census.

Census Regulations that set out the detailed delivery and collection methods then need to pass through the National Assembly for Wales and should be laid in early 2020.  These are passed by negative resolution.

The Hollerith Census Tabulator
The Hollerith Census Tabulator

How have we got here?

The ONS have spent years investigating, consulting on, and testing questions for the 2021 Census.  In Wales, a Welsh advisory group feeds into the development of the Census questionnaire. The Assembly’s Culture and Welsh Language Committee also ran a scrutiny session with the ONS on 18 April 2018, focussing on proposed questions within the Census and particularly issues around potential questions relating to the Welsh language, gender identity and sexual orientation.

What consideration has been given to the Welsh Language?

The ONS have contacted a range of stakeholders with an interest in the Welsh language and consulted with the Welsh Government regarding the selection of areas for testing the main language question. Further details can be found here.

How are the questions different from the last Census?

The 2021 Census will, for the first time, collect information on veterans of the UK Armed Forces. It is proposed that there will also be a new voluntary question on sexual orientation for those aged 16 and over. In addition to the usual question on being male or female, there will also be a voluntary question on gender identity for those aged 16 and over. Further work has been undertaken to expand and update options included under ethnicity.

Will the Census be administered differently?

The 2021 Census is going to be predominantly online for the first time. The ONS have undertaken research and assessments to ensure this does not impact adversely on people and to maximise both responses from difficult to reach groups.

Full list of questions in the proposed Census

The final list of topics recommended for collection in the 2021 Census is detailed in the White Paper:

For households

Relationships within the household; Type of accommodation; Self-containment of accommodation; Number of bedrooms; Type of central heating; Tenure and type of landlord (if renting); Number of cars or vans;

For communal establishments

Type of establishment (including who it caters for and who is responsible for managing it); For residents in communal establishments; Position within the establishment;

For visitors in households

Name; Sex; Date of birth; Location of usual residence

For residents in households and communal establishments

Name; Date of birth; Sex; Marital/legal civil partnership status; Ethnic group; National identity; Amount of unpaid care provided; General health; Long-term health problem or disability; Qualifications; Long-term international migration; Short-term international migration; Address one year ago; Citizenship (via passport held); Religion; Welsh language skills (in Wales only); Main language used; English language proficiency; Economic activity; Occupation; Industry; Method of transport to place of work; Supervisory status; Address of place of work; Address and type of second residence; Second residence; Students’ term-time address; Armed forces; Gender identity; Sexual orientation.

Work will continue until early 2019 to finalise the wording of questions.

Can you still feed into the process?  (How you can find out more?)

The ONS are running roadshows in March 2019, including their latest plans for the 2021 Census.

More information about the research and consultation that has informed the recommendations on the content and conduct of the 2021 Census on the Office for National Statistics (ONS) website.

What happens next?

Ceredigion has been chosen to help ensure the overall success of the 2021 Census with a rehearsal taking place across the county, 13 October 2019. The rehearsal will enable the ONS to test some of the systems and processes it has put in place ahead of the digital-first 2021 Census. The coastal county has been chosen as it has a high proportion of Welsh speakers, and includes a large rural area with varying internet coverage.

Will there be a 2031 Census?

This could be the last Census of its kind.

ONS are also researching the use of administrative data to improve the way Census-type statistics can be produced in future. No decision has yet been made on the future of the Census. The aim of this work would be to replicate the type of information collected through a census, by using the administrative data already held by government, supplemented by surveys.

Census 2021 data will be compared with statistical outputs based on the administrative data. The benefits of this approach could be lower cost and more frequent outputs.

Recommendations will be made to the UK Government in 2023.


Article by Martin Jennings, Senedd Research, National Assembly for Wales