NEWS12 February 2020

National statistician considering ‘cheaper’ census alternatives

News Public Sector Trends UK

UK – The next household census in 2021 could be the last of its kind, as a ‘more timely, cheaper’ approach is explored.

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The Guardian reported that Ian Diamond said he was ‘hopeful’ an alternative to the census could be found, and wanted to explore whether data could be obtained from other sources, including GP registrations, supplemented by surveys.

Diamond, who was appointed national statistician in August, said: “I will only make a recommendation to change the way we do things if we can replicate the richness of the census data. It would have to be equally rich but more timely, cheaper and more effective. We will only change if we can do something better.”

In a feature published in Impact’s October 2019 issue, we reported on how the Office for National Statistics (ONS) is exploring how administrative data could be used to replace the current census after 2021. The National Records of Scotland (NRS), responsible for Scotland’s census, is also looking at different ways in which it can deliver data.

Iain Bell, deputy national statistician for population and public policy at the ONS, and the senior officer responsible for the census transformation programme, said: “What the census does is really two things: the first is to give us the population estimates in detail, down to geographic level; and the second is to give us a description of society today, through all the other questions, such as equalities, housing, travel to work, types of work, health. Our research programme is looking at both aspects.”

The ONS is planning to make a recommendation on the future of the census in 2023.