Health Statistics User Group

2021 Census: recommendations for the census have been published

  • 1.  2021 Census: recommendations for the census have been published

    Posted 17-12-2018 17:36

    A message from the Office for National Statistics

    Help Shape Our Future: The 2021 Census of Population and Housing in England and Wales

    The UK Statistics Authority has made its recommendations on the content and conduct of the 2021 Census. The census is planned to take place on 21 March 2021. A White Paper has been published .

    The recommendations include the proposal that, for the first time, the 2021 Census for England and Wales will be predominantly online.  The Office for National Statistics (ONS) intends to make it easy to respond online on all devices, including mobiles and tablets, with Assisted Digital face-to-face help available for those who need it. Paper questionnaires will also be available.

    With every census we undertake, consideration is given to new questions which should be added to provide information which is not available from elsewhere. The 2021 Census will, for the first time, collect information on veterans of the UK armed forces. This enables monitoring of the Armed Forces Covenant – the deal between the country and those who served it.

    There will be questions on gender identity (while keeping the existing question on sex) and sexual orientation for those aged 16 and over. As with the question on religious affiliation introduced in the 2001 Census, we believe these new questions should be voluntary and no individual should have to answer these questions if they prefer not to. The Government and UK Statistics Authority will now consider the appropriate mechanism to ensure this is the case. 

    We will continue to ask questions on key themes including carers, demography, education, ethnicity and national identity, health, housing, labour market, language, migration and citizenship, and religion. A full list of topics is available within the White Paper (page 32).

    As well as adding a new Roma tick-box to the ethnic topic in recognition of the specific needs of the Roma community ONS will be making it easier for everyone to identify as they wish through the development of "search-as-you-type" capability. There will continue to be considerable community engagement. ONS will also be increasing the analytical offering and outputs for all groups and backgrounds and developing an online flexible dissemination system where users can specify the data they need and define their own queries to build tables.

    The White Paper also sets out confidentiality provisions for personal data collection and digital security, and plans for the publication of, and access to, 2021 Census data.

    We've published an Equality Impact Assessment alongside these proposals.

    You can find more information on the research and consultation that has informed these recommendations here.

    You may receive other emails about the White Paper if you are on more than one of our distribution lists.  We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause.

    If you have any questions about our recommendations and plans for the 2021 Census, please contact


    White Paper