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Why we have a census

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.

Cenus 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.

The data are also widely used by academics, businesses, voluntary organisations and the public.


Content from the Office for National Statistics.
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