Mnemonic: has_ever_worked
Applicability: Person
Type: Standard variable


Classifies people who were not in employment on Census Day into:

  • Not in employment: Worked in the last 12 months
  • Not in employment: Not worked in the last 12 months
  • Not in employment: Never worked


Total number of categories: 4

Code Name
1 Not in employment: Worked in the last 12 months
2 Not in employment: Not worked in the last 12 months
3 Not in employment: Never worked
-8 Does not apply*

*Students and schoolchildren living away during term-time, and children aged 15 years and under.

Quality information

As Census 2021 was during a unique period of rapid change, take care when using Labour Market data for planning purposes.

Read more in our Labour market quality information for Census 2021 methodology.

Question asked

Have you ever done any paid work?

  • Yes, in the last 12 months
  • Yes, but not in the last 12 months
  • No, have never worked

In Census 2021 the question was revised to include asking about someone’s employment status. The options that people could choose from were updated to reflect this change.


Read about how we developed and tested the questions for Census 2021.

Why we ask the question

The answers help local communities by allowing charities, organisations and local authorities to identify where action is needed to help tackle low employment rates in their area.

The answer also helps local authorities to make plans that support large amounts of public spending, for example, job creation, educational opportunities and health services.

The census first asked questions on employment in 1851.

Comparability with the 2011 Census

Not comparable

The question on employment history changed between the 2011 and 2021 census.

What does not comparable mean?

A variable that is not comparable means that it cannot be compared with a variable from the 2011 Census.

England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland comparisons

Broadly comparable

The variable produced for England and Wales, and Scotland does not provide information on the number of people in employment, this is different to the variable produced by Northern Ireland.

What does broadly comparable mean?

A variable that is broadly comparable means that outputs from Census 2021 in England and Wales can generally be compared with Scotland and Northern Ireland. Differences in how the data were collected or presented may reduce the ability to fully harmonise on outputs, but some harmonisation is still expected.

Find out more about variables produced for Census 2021 in Northern Ireland and Census 2022 in Scotland.

Census 2021 data that uses this variable

We use variables from Census 2021 data to show findings in different ways.

You can:

Alternatively, you can also create a custom dataset.

Other datasets that use this variable