Today, March 21st, is Census Day in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. All households in these countries are required by law to complete the census based upon their status on March 21st. Scotland has decided to postpone their census until 2022 due to the pandemic.
The census is run every 10 years and is used by national and local government and organisations to help plan future services and infrastructure e.g. hospital beds, school places, GP services, roads, housing. It gives a snapshot of our society and provides the most accurate estimate on population and households.
The 2021 census includes questions on the property e.g. type of house, number of bedrooms, heating; and questions on the people living in the household e.g. age, sex, profession, how they commute, qualifications, health, religion. For the first time there are voluntary questions on sexual orientation and gender identity for people aged over 16. The 2021 census will be carried out online unless the householder requested otherwise.
Censuses have been around for thousands of years, one of the most famous ones is told in the Bible as part of the Nativity story. In the UK 10 yearly censuses have been part of life since 1801. Some say it was introduced to understand how many able-bodied men could fight in the Napoleonic Wars. There are only two decades with no census data: 1941 when it was not carried out due to the Second World War and 1931 when the entire results of the census were lost in a fire in 1942!
In 1871 households were asked whether anyone in the household was an idiot or a lunatic! It is a pity a similar question does not exist today - it would be an interesting statistic to mention on my tours! All of the results from the census are kept anonymous for 100 years. After 100 years people researching their family history can access the records to get an interesting insight into the lives of their ancestors. If you are eager to see the main results and statistics from the 2021 census you will need to be patient. The initial findings are scheduled to be published in March 2022. Until then I will continue to advise my guests that the population of Bath is "around" 100,000!
The 2021 census is rumoured to be the last time that we will have a census in the UK. Statisticians are assessing whether more up-to-date and cheaper alternatives can be used in its place e.g. council tax records. Time, as always, will tell.