Our aim is to ensure that the country has the best possible information on the UK’s society and economy and ensure the government has the information it needs to manage the UK’s response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
As there has been widespread disruption to the UK and constraints on our operations, we will be doing some things differently, introducing new surveys and data sources, and working to find alternatives where our existing data collection mechanisms have changed.
Our response to this means we have:
- set up a new dedicated page on our website to enable quick assessment of the impact of COVID-19 through new and existing publications
- increased frequency and/or timeliness of some existing indicators, and will supplement these with new indicators drawing on a wide range of sources, working across the Government Statistical System
- set up new surveys to provide the government and the public with vital information at this time
- suspended all face-to-face interviewing in our social surveys and where possible will be moving to telephone-based interviewing or using online surveys
Increasing frequency and timeliness of indicators
We have an already established programme of faster indicators and we plan to further enhance those. One priority is using administrative data from the government to provide early indications of changes in the labour market. In addition, we are developing more real-time indicators of price changes for some goods using web-scraping.
We are also working with several major companies to understand their data and look at how they can help understanding of the effects of COVID-19 and support decision-making.
We expect to be able to provide additional indicators over time. We will share our plans as these develop.
New surveys to monitor the impact of COVID-19 for the government and the public
Opinions and Lifestyle Survey
We have set up a new online version of the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey to monitor the public understanding of COVID-19, behaviour change (including home-working, visiting of friends and relatives, changes of plans) and impact on finances. The first survey went into the field on 20 March 2020 and the first results will be published in early April 2020. We expect a version of the survey will run every week for the foreseeable future.
Business Impact of COVID-19 Survey
We have established a new online survey called the Business Impact of COVID-19 Survey. This has a representative sample of around 17,800 businesses and will run on a fortnightly basis. The survey covers changes in employment, turnover and business expectations. The first survey went into the field on 23 March 2020, and we are aiming to publish some initial results in early April 2020.
Labour Market Survey
We have accelerated the roll-out of the online Labour Market Survey that was piloted last year to provide better insights on changes in employment and unemployment. This is a sample of around 18,000 households per quarter and will go live on 30 March 2020. Given it is designed to be nationally representative each week we are exploring whether we can publish early results from this on a more frequent basis. This will supplement our Labour Force Survey. Both surveys have had questions added to assess the impact of COVID-19 on people’s employment and working patterns.
Ensuring our surveys continue to provide vital evidence
We have stopped all face-to-face interviewing. This section summarises the impact on each type of survey.
Our business surveys are already online and paper-based only. These continue as usual.
Labour Force Survey
We have moved all Labour Force Survey (LFS) interviewing to telephone-based. As we understand the mode effects well for the LFS, we will be able to maintain continuity of estimates throughout this period. We have supplemented this by accelerating the roll-out of the online Labour Market Survey that we piloted last year.
Initially, we will stand this up for six months. This may be used to provide faster estimates of COVID-19 impacts because of its design and can be used, alongside administrative data sources, to benchmark the LFS. We have already explored the mode effects from the move to online collection of labour market data. This survey will go live from 30 March 2020 and we will update on publication plans in due course.
Wealth and Assets Survey, Survey of Income and Living Conditions, Living Costs and Food Survey
We aim to continue these surveys as telephone-based but may cut down to a smaller, core set of questions. As the suspension of face-to-face interviewing came towards the end of the financial year, 2019 to 2020 results will be largely unaffected. We will provide further updates on this once our proposals are finalised.
Crime Survey for England and Wales
We are currently exploring options for the continued delivery of crime statistics to provide insight into victimisation through this period. Options may include a cut down questionnaire suitable for a telephone survey, alongside the potential of using an online approach for some high-level questions. We will provide further updates on this once our proposal is finalised.
International Passenger Survey
The International Passenger Survey has been suspended. We are exploring alternative sources from across the government that can help deliver the statistics our users need as part of our programme to transform population and migration statistics. This programme is set out in our Transformation of the population and migration statistics system: overview. For travel and tourism, we are exploring alternative sources of information and will update once we develop our proposals further.
We currently collect prices through a number of mechanisms, including directly by visiting shops and businesses, centrally using prices published on the internet and from administrative sources. Collection in shops stopped after the data for March 2020 consumer prices, to be published on 22 April 2020, had been gathered. We are putting in place arrangements to allow price collection from shops and businesses to be done remotely. We also have access to web-scraped data. In addition, we are working on the methods for dealing with goods and services that are in limited supply or not currently available. We will keep users updated as our plans develop.
This shows the comprehensive work to bring in new data sources, set up new surveys and continue to provide the vital information needed to monitor the impact of COVID-19. We will update these pages as we develop our proposals further.