Shaping the 2021 UK Census

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) have been recently doing work on question design and gauging the effect of asking questions on topics such as Gender identity, Sexual orientation and Armed forces community.

These questions are new following feedback from an earlier topic consultation or to address a policy need. For the new armed forces question, there is the Armed Forces Covenant which is a promise from the nation that those who serve or have served in the armed forces, and their families are treated fairly. The ONS have looked at using data from the Ministry of Defence  to identify people who have served in the armed services, but as the Veterans Leavers Database only goes back to 1975, a new question is needed to identify the number of veterans who served before 1975.

National Records of Scotland (NRS) has also been looking at the topics for the 2021 Census and has published a report on their status so far. NRS are running some events to talk about how the data will be disseminated. These events are taking place in February 2018 and early March 2018.

Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) has also been looking at the topics for the 2021 census and have produced a report following their consultation activity.

A change for the 2021 census will be the push to get more respondents to fill in their census forms online.

Each of the agencies are also looking at using existing data (administrative) that is collected by government or other national bodies, which could provide accurate data to replace having to ask that question on the form.

It’s hoped that the use of administrative data could deliver a more timely census. There is also the opportunity to increase the frequency of subsequent updates of the data, possibly even annually for some topics.

The agencies are also investigating the use of systems to be able to define your own census datasets, which would be capable of aggregating the data from the unit records (individual records about people) and applying anonymisation to them as the data is generated.

If you are interested in finding out more information on the agencies plans for the 2021 census, please follow these links to their websites for 2021. ONS Census Transformation Programme , NISRA has a 2021 Census page and NRS have setup Scotland’s 2021 Census.


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