NEWS29 June 2023

ONS launches population statistics consultation

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UK – The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has set up a consultation on the future of population and migration statistics.

People in a train station

The consultation will cover ONS proposals to create a sustainable system for producing statistics about the population of England and Wales and make the statistics more flexible and responsive to unexpected change.

The ONS said this entailed moving away from reliance on the once-a-decade census to use administrative data from areas such as tax, benefits, health and education systems.

This data could then be complemented by survey data, a wider range of other data sources and statistical modelling, according to the ONS.

Currently the census provides the backbone of population and migration statistics, but ONS said the issue was the census becomes less accurate over the decade and local detail on important topics becomes increasingly out of date between census years.

If implemented, the ONS said the new system would provide users with more frequent population statistics every year, including seasonal and local information as well as areas not covered by the census, such as income.

The consultation will run until 26th October, with ONS gathering feedback on how far the proposals would meet user needs and where it should prioritise further research.

Responses to this consultation will inform a recommendation, as set out in the 2018 Census White Paper, on how the ONS should produce statistics about the population in future.

National statistician Sir Ian Diamond said: “Our society needs a flexible, inclusive statistical system for the 21st century, one that maintains a stable level of accuracy over time and is fit for purpose in responding to unexpected change in a timely way.

“Based on our work to date, I believe we can move beyond the decade-long cycle of population statistics that has dominated for centuries and deliver a system befitting this digital age in which we live.

“Of course, we cannot rely on administrative data alone, and surveys may play an important role in our future statistics. But we have reached a point where a serious question can be asked about the role the census plays in our statistical system.”