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Why we needed a census in 2011

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, where they live and what their needs are.

Every ten years the census provides a benchmark. Uniquely, it gives us a complete picture of the nation. It counts the numbers of people living in each city, town and country area. It tells us about each area and its population, including the balance of young and old, what jobs people do, and the type of housing they live in.

Because the same questions are asked and the information is recorded in the same way throughout the UK, the census allows us to compare different groups of people across the entire nation.

The information it provides enables billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money to be targeted where it is needed most. The census gives us invaluable facts about:


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. In turn, these authorities use census information when planning services within their areas.


Data on the age and socio-economic make-up of the population, and more specifically on general health, long-term illness and carers enables the Government to plan health and social services, and to allocate resources.


Information on housing and its occupants measures inadequate accommodation and, with information about the way we live as households, indicates the need for new housing.


The census shows how many people work in different occupations and industries throughout the country, helping government and businesses to plan jobs and training policies and to make informed investment decisions.


Information collected on travel to and from work, and on the availability of cars, contributes to the understanding of pressures on transport systems and to the planning of roads and public transport.

Ethnic Group

Data on ethnic groups help to identify the extent and nature of disadvantage in Britain and to measure the success of equal opportunities policies. The information helps central and local government to allocate resources and plan programmes to take account of the needs of minority groups.

Content from the Office for National Statistics.
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