Origin-destination data are sometimes known as "flow" data. These data describe the movement of people from one location to another.

This information can help local and central government plan and fund infrastructure for healthcare, education, transport and housing based on population need. Census information can also be used on migration and commuting patterns to look at population movement trends. They can also be used to observe how and if population characteristics, such as age, gender, ethnicity or socio-economic status are changing.

Origin-destination data products

We plan to release four different categories of origin-destination data in a combination of data visualisation products and data tables.

Migration flow data

Migration flow data show national and international migration during the year before Census Day. These data were called special migration statistics for the 2011 Census.

Workplace flow data

Workplace flow data show travel to work and method of transport the week before Census Day. These data were called special workplace statistics for the 2011 Census.

Second address flow data

Second address flow data show the location of second addresses in relation to an individual's usual residence or workplace. These data were called special address statistics for the 2011 Census.

Student flow data

Student flow data show migration patterns of individuals living at student addresses one year before Census Day. These data were called special student statistics for the 2011 Census.

Accessing Census 2021 origin-destination data

The origin-destination data will be classified in three ways:

  • public

  • safeguarded

  • secure

We will place the most detailed origin-destination data, classified as secure, in the Office for National Statistics' (ONS) Secure Research Service (SRS). These data will only be available to approved or accredited researchers. Learn more about accessing secure data.

We are still considering where to place public and safeguarded tables.

Safeguarded data will only be available to data analysts, under certain terms and conditions. The UK Data Service is likely to hold safeguarded data in line with previous censuses.

Release plans

We will begin releasing origin-destination data during phase three of the Census 2021 outputs release schedule. We plan to release the public origin-destination first, then follow these with the more complex safeguarded and secure data.

Changes to UK origin-destination outputs

England, Wales and Northern Ireland held their censuses in March 2021 and Scotland will hold its census in March 2022. This makes it unlikely that we can combine the data to produce a single reliable set of UK origin-destination outputs. Instead, we will make combined origin-destination outputs available for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The National Records of Scotland will publish data for Scotland separately.

Second address flow data will still only be available for England and Wales. Scotland and Northern Ireland do not collect this information.

New considerations for Census 2021

We are in a period of significant economic and societal change. This change is not only because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. It is also a result of Brexit and a variety of other political initiatives. These factors have impacted different groups in different ways.

The impacts for origin-destination outputs may include:

  • fewer people entering the country in the year prior to Census Day, as a result of international travel restrictions and smaller numbers of people migrating internally

  • fewer people commuting to work, with the method of transport also affected because of advice to avoid public transport and work at home where possible

  • students potentially leaving their term-time address to live at home while studying remotely

  • travel restrictions on international students, however, EU students may have migrated to the UK when possible, to gain EU settlement status

  • individuals with a second address potentially deciding to make their second address their usual address

Working with others

We are working with a range of internal and external individuals and organisations as part of our origin-destination working group to design, create, store and disseminate Census 2021 origin-destination products. We aim to produce Census 2021 origin-destination products in timely manner that meet our users' needs as far as possible. 

Internal members include topic experts on:

  • migration

  • travel to work

  • demography and census transformation

  • population estimates

  • statistical disclosure control

External members include:

  • National Records of Scotland (NRS)

  • Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA)

  • Welsh Government

  • Department for Transport

  • UK Data Service

  • local authorities

  • academia and commercial research, including transport planning

More information

If you have any questions about Census 2021 origin-destination products or are interested in joining our working group, please email census.outputs@ons.gov.uk.