NEWS27 April 2023

Concern about census changes, finds MRS survey

News Public Sector UK

UK – Research organisations are concerned about potential census reforms in the UK, including the proposed move away from the ten-yearly census questionnaire, according to a survey from the MRS Census and GeoDems Group and the British Polling Council.

Census crowd_crop

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) will be consulting with census users on the proposed changes this year, with a decision on the future of the census expected in 2024.

Under the new proposals, the census questionnaire would be replaced by a reliance on existing government databases and survey research.

The MRS and British Polling Council said this may result in faster and more frequent releases of some census data, but may also mean that much census data would no longer be available at local levels.

Currently, anonymised census data is available at a range of geographic areas down to the finest level, called ‘output areas’.

Census data at output area level includes several topics, such as ethnicity, religion, approximate social grade, education, marital status and household tenure, and can be important for local authorities, researchers and charities to identify areas with particular needs for services and facilities.

An MRS survey sent to MRS company partners found that two-thirds of organisations use census data at small geographic areas, and that more organisations were negative ( 38%) about the proposals, than were positive ( 27%).

Organisations also use a wide variety of census data, not just the age and gender breakdowns. Respondents to the MRS and British Polling Council surveys totalled around 2,539.

The MRS, with the Census and GeoDems Group, has issued a letter to the national statistician, Professor Sir Ian Diamond, informing him of the recent survey, the concerns raised by industry representatives and requesting a meeting should changes be made to the census.

A full breakdown of the MRS survey results can be found here and details of a webinar on 30th June discussing the findings can be found here