What is the census and when is the next one in the UK?

THE census is a survey that takes place every ten years – and the next one has to be completed TODAY, Sunday March 21.

It gives an accurate estimate of all the people and households in England, Northern Ireland and Wales, but what else do we know?

What is the UK census used for?

The census gathers detailed information on the country's population, their characteristics, education, religion, ethnicity, working life and health.

The compulsory survey is the most important single source of information about the size and characteristics of the country's population.

Modern censuses have been taking place every ten years since 1801 with the exception of 1941 (during World War Two) and in Ireland, in 1921.

The Office of National Statistics (ONS), which carries out the survey, says it helps to give a "complete picture of the nation".

The census helps provide vital information that the government needs to develop policies, plan and run public services and allocate funding.

The ONS said personal information on a census is only used for statistical purposes and it will never sell or share personal information with anyone.

When is the next census?

The next census is taking place today, Sunday, March 21 2021.

Everyone will have to fill in the same survey on the same day.

It is understood that 94 per cent of people took part in the 2011 census.

Guidelines on the official website claim the survey "should take about 10 minutes for the household questions and 10 minutes per person".

People refusing to complete the survey face a fine.

Could the 2021 census be the last one ever?

The UK's national statistician, Professor Sir Ian Diamond, recently announced that the government is looking at getting "to a similar place, more quickly, using different strategies".

The current estimated cost of the next count is £906million, nearly double the cost of the 2011 one.

Cheaper alternatives could include using current administrative data like GP lists, Ordnance Survey, council tax records and driving licence details.

This could be combined with large scale population surveys to achieve a similar level of accuracy to the census, which relies on people filling out a lengthy form.

What happens to the census records?

Statistics obtained from recent censuses can be found at the ONS website but if you want to dig back even further you can go to the National Archives.

No personal data is released or shared by the ONS, but people can look at profiles of the country and their local area.

ONS carries out a number of checks before publishing results to protect people's personal information.


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