What is the United Kingdom Census?


The UK National Census is one of the best known examples of government statistics.



The last UK census took place on 27 March 2011. Statistics from the UK censuses help paint a picture of the nation and how we live. They provide a detailed snapshot of the population and its characteristics, and underpin funding allocation to provide public services.


Every ten years the census gives us a complete picture of the nation. It allows us to compare different groups of people across the United Kingdom because the same questions are asked, and the information is recorded, in the same way throughout the United Kingdom.


The information in this section is about the personal characteristics of the usually resident population as estimated by the 2011 Census for England and Wales. It covers our general health, whether we had an illness or disability that limited our day to day activities, our religious beliefs, our ethnicity, our national identity, whether or not we were born in the UK and when we arrived, what passports we held and our language skills.


Key Facts from the 2011 Census Data


  • The resident population of England and Wales on 27 March 2011 was 56.1 million. One in six people were aged 65 or over (16 per cent, 9.2 million).
  • Four out of every five usual residents of England and Wales described themselves as in very good or good health (81 per cent, 45.5 million).
  • Fifty nine per cent (33.2 million) recorded their religion as Christian and 25 per cent (14.1 million) reported that they had no religious affiliation.
The UK census – and the problem of validity when asking questions about complex issues like religion


Many of the disadvantages above depend on the type of questions one is asking! In the UK census, for example, one question asks how many bedrooms there are in one’s house, which is hard to misinterpret, so the fact that there is no researcher present should not impact on the results. The census, however, also had a question about religious belief, to which 390 000 respondents replied that they were ‘Jedis’, clearly indicating that they were not taking this question seriously. Had a research been present in this case, she could have queried whether or not these were genuine responses.




  • Most residents of England and Wales belonged to the White ethnic group (86 per cent, 48.2 million) in 2011, and the majority of these belonged to the White British group (80 per cent of the total population, 45.1 million). In London in 2011, 45 per cent (3.7 million) out of 8.2 million usual residents were White British.
  • Ten per cent (5.8 million) of residents of England and Wales provided unpaid care for someone with an illness or disability. This was the same percentage as in 2001 (10 per cent, 5.2 million).



What happens to the UK Census Data?


The information you provided to us in the 2011 Census is confidential and protected by law.


The confidentiality of personal information is a top priority for the census. Your personal census information is not shared with any other government department, local councils or marketing companies.


Information collected in the 2011 Census will be used solely to produce statistics and for statistical research. These statistics will not reveal any personal information.


The paper questionnaires are scanned, then shredded, pulped and recycled. Census records are kept confidential for 100 years before being made available to the public. Census records remain closed while they are in the custody of the census offices.


The census provides information that government needs to develop policies, plan and run public services, and allocate funding.

Census Data Examples Used For
Census data showing how many people work in different occupations and industries. New jobs and training policies; investment decisions.
Information collected on travel to and from work, and on the availability of cars. Roads and public transport; these data also contribute to the understanding of pressures on transport systems.
Ethnic group data which Helps to identify the extent and nature of disadvantage in the UK.     Evaluating equal opportunities policies.


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