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England and Wales Census – English and Welsh Geo-Demographics explained

Every ten years the census gives us a complete picture of the nation. It allows us to compare different groups of people across the United Kingdom because the same questions are asked, and the information is recorded, in the same way throughout England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The census provides information that government needs to develop policies, plan and run public services, and allocate funding.

Develop policies

Before central or local government can offer services, policies must be based on high-quality evidence.

Census data examples

Used for

Census data showing how many people work in different occupations and industries.

New jobs and training policies; investment decisions.

Information on housing and its occupants which measures inadequate accommodation and information about the way we live as households.

New housing policies.

Ethnic group data which help to identify the extent and nature of disadvantage in the UK.

Evaluating equal opportunities policies.


Plan and run public services

We all use public services such as schools, health services, roads and libraries. These services need to be planned, and in such a way that they keep pace with fast-changing patterns of modern life. We need accurate information on the numbers of people, including the balance of young and old, what jobs people do, where they live and in what type of housing.

Census data examples

Used for

Data on the age and socio-economic make-up of the population; general health, long-term illness and carers.

Health and social services.

Information collected on travel to and from work, and on the availability of cars.

Roads and public transport; these data also contribute to the understanding of pressures on transport systems.

Allocate money to local authorities

An accurate count of the population in each local area helps the Government to calculate the size of grants it allocates each local authority and health authority.

Census data examples

Used for

Population and household estimates for local authorities and other sub-national areas.

The Department for Communities and Local Government, NHS England and the Welsh Government currently allocate billions of pounds to local areas using funding formulae.

Why have a census?

Census information is needed to help the government develop policies and initiatives, and for local authorities to plan services and to make effective use of resources that benefit the people of Scotland. Key users of census information also include academia, research organisations, the private and voluntary sectors, the media, and the general public.

Decisions are taken every day using census statistics. For example, the planning of school spaces, houses, care homes, hospitals and fire services are all influenced by the census.

How does the Northern Irish census differ from the rest of the UK?

There are three Census in the UK, Northern Ireland, Scotland and England and Wales. The English and Welsh Census are combined into a single one.

Each census has an authority responsible for managing it and ensuring the data is anonymised before publication to protect individuals.

The authorities responsible for the management of the census in each nation are:

  • Scotland – National Records of Scotland (NRS)
  • Northern Ireland – Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA)
  • England & Wales – Office for National Statistics (ONS)

Each authority will agree a list of questions very similar to the last census to allow for continuity and comparisons over the previous one to show changes in areas. In addition to the standard questions there will also be some which are only relevant to that nation. E.g. in Wales one of the questions relates to the understanding of the Welsh Language.

There are also some differences in the geographical structure used to release the data for wider consumption. For example, the ONS and NRS will release data at an Output Area level. However, Northern Ireland will use Small Areas as it’s census can also be joined to the Republic of Ireland census.

In essence, the geographical areas are roughly the same size so they can still be used for comparison purposes.

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