What the census is for
The census provides information on housing and population that government needs to develop policies, and to plan and run public services such as health and education. The data are also widely used by academics, businesses, voluntary organisations and the public. At the moment, the census is the only method of providing this information.
The only option for 2011
A wide-ranging review of the future requirements for information, and alternative ways of gathering it, confirmed that there is an ongoing need for high quality census information, and that it could only be provided by a traditional census in 2011. No alternative source would provide the quality of data required.
Options beyond 2011
The review also concluded that, beyond 2011, if a national identity register were to be developed this might form the basis for a future Integrated Population Statistics System, which could remove the need for a census at some point. Experience from Scandinavian countries is that full implementation of such a system can take up to 30 years, as there are significant data quality, administrative and technical issues.