The 22nd decennial census of population for England and Wales was taken on 27 March 2011. Today, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) publishes the first results in a report that I have laid before the House this morning.
Everyone in the country uses public services at various times—such as schools, health services, roads, public transport, job centres and libraries. These services need to be planned to keep pace with the changing demographics of the country. Government, local authorities, the health service, the education and academic community, commercial business, professional organisations and the public at large all need reliable information on the number and characteristics of people and households if they are to conduct their activities effectively. This need is currently best met by conducting a census every 10 years covering the whole of the population, and by updating the population estimates each year from the census benchmark.
Throughout the UK, broadly the same questions are asked and the information recorded in the same way. This allows the comparison of different groups of people and small areas across the entire nation. It also provides the opportunity of comparing various characteristics of the population and, owing to a high degree of consistency between censuses, allows the measurement of change over time.
The results of the 2011 census for England and Wales, which will in total comprise many hundreds of detailed tabulations designed to meet a wide range of users’ needs, are being published in a series of phased releases over the next 12 months. This first release will establish the new baseline for ONS’s population estimates for the next 10 years, and will help to determine the allocation of future local government funding. The release covers estimates of:
the usually resident population by single years of age and five-year age bands, by sex for England and Wales together, for England and for Wales;
the usually resident population by five-year age bands, by sex for regions, counties and local authority areas;
the number of households for England and Wales together, for England, for Wales and for regions, counties and local authority areas;
the number of non-UK short-term residents for local authority areas.
The final figures show that the usually resident population of England and Wales was 56,076,000, an increase of 7% since 2001. The response rate to the census was 94 % nationally, representing a small improvement on the 2001 census. However, response rates have improved markedly in many of the areas that were found to be most challenging in the 2001 census. The published results make full allowance for those people who did not complete a census form.
Although additional processing has been carried out this time, and an intense programme of quality assurance has been undertaken, publication of these figures is six weeks ahead of the corresponding report from the 2001 census. These first results are being made publicly available via the ONS website and are accompanied by a range of supporting information, including the response rate for each local authority area.
The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency will today publish a similar but separate first release from the census in Northern Ireland. The first release from the census in Scotland will be published by the National Records of Scotland in December.
Further releases over the next 12 months will cover the more detailed results. Within these, data from the full range of questions included in the census will be cross-analysed and presented for a range of geographies down to the lowest level—“census output area” (an output area is, on average, 125 households or 250 people). Strict measures of statistical disclosure control will be applied to each release to ensure that no individual person or household will be identified from the information released.
In line with Government policy on open data, these later releases will be available via the ONS website in a format that will make it easy for organisations and individuals to use the detailed results in their own systems and websites, increasing the use and exploitation of the census results.
As part of the preparations for the future, the Office for National Statistics last year instigated a review of a number of different methods of collecting demographic and socio-economic data from a variety of sources with the aim of providing a viable alternative methodology for collecting census data. The outcome of that review will be reported in 2014 in time to implement plans by 2021.