• How ONS and NISRA selected suppliers to provide services to the 2011 Census.

  • ONS built a national address register for England and Wales because complete and accurate address information was critical to the success of the 2011 Census.

  • The census in Wales has differed from that in England since 1891. The 2011 Census was more tailored for people in Wales and Welsh speakers than previous censuses.

Innovative design

The approach, or design, chosen for the 2011 Census drew on experiences from the 2001 Census, contemporary world best practice and changes in available technology. It also took account of the comments received from respondents to proposals published in a discussion paper in October 2003.

The design included the following major innovations:

  • multiple enumeration approaches, targeted at specific areas, including post-out of questionnaires, supported by an accurate and up-to-date address register

  • online completion of questionnaires

  • tracking of each form from printing to processing through a robust questionnaire tracking system

  • more functions for the call centre, acting as a hub for query resolution and the issuing of additional questionnaires

  • follow-up teams, targeted on poor response areas

  • use of technology in the field to monitor progress and direct the follow-up operation

More detail to download

For a more detailed description of the design, download the White Paper published in December 2008, which details the extensive consultation to identify requirements for census data, sets out the topics and questions proposed for inclusion, and highlights changes in methodology.

An information paper – a precursor to the White Paper - was published in March 2004. This paper highlights the statistical and operational strategic aims that helped to frame the design. It also outlines the major changes that were proposed from the 2001 approach, indicating the benefits and risks. Download the information paper The 2011 Census: A Design for England and Wales.

For more about the strategic aims of the census, download the information paper published in June 2004 entitled 2011 Census: Strategic aims and key research in England and Wales.

Additional information

The design for the 2011 Census took account of reviews and recommendations of parliamentary committees and other official bodies. Read more about the lessons learned from the 2001 Census.

Related downloads

2011 Census White Paper (3.08 Mb Pdf)

Papur Gwyn Cyfrifiad 2011 (3.23 Mb Pdf)

2011 Census: Strategic aims and key research in England and Wales (95.2 Kb Pdf)

2011 Census: User comments on the proposed design (252.8 Kb Pdf)

Discussion paper - 2011 Census: A proposed design for England and Wales (263.9 Kb Pdf)