The UK's Office for National Statistics (ONS) has proposed two money-saving options to replace the ten-year paper-based UK Census - either moving it online, or using existing administrative data combined with a 'rolling' annual survey conducted among 4% of the population.
A full census has been conducted in the UK since 1801, with resulting data used to provide information about national demographics, and to help the government calculate resource allocation for regional and local service providers.
The most recent UK Census took place in 2011 and cost nearly £500m, leading the coalition Government to seek cheaper alternatives.
ONS is about to commence a three-month public consultation to gather feedback on its proposals from local government, statisticians and genealogists. However, the proposed changes have already provoked opposition from a number of social scientists and MPs, who are warning that failure to gather census data will have wide-ranging implications in terms of future policy decisions.
Jane Frost, CEO of the Market Research Society, says that while the move to online is a good idea, it should not be implemented at the cost of reducing the number of people who take part, or watering down the usefulness of the data that is produced as a result. 'We must keep the Census, but the number of touch points needs to be maximised - for example, by designing a Census smartphone app, or giving people the option to download the Census to their tablet or laptop,' Frost suggests.
The ONS will use feedback from the public consultation to report to the Government next year on the best methods for producing census-type data.
Web site: www.ons.gov.uk .
All articles 2006-19 written and edited by Mel Crowther and/or Nick Thomas.