Have your say on the future of population and migration statistics

From: Office for National Statistics
Published: Fri Jun 30 2023

A public consultation has begun, which will help shape the future of population and migration statistics.

The consultation covers the Office for National Statistics's (ONS's) proposals to create a sustainable system for producing essential statistics about the population of England and Wales. This would make these statistics more flexible and responsive to unexpected change.

Moving away from reliance on a census every 10 years, timely administrative data -- information that we all provide when we access public services such as the tax, benefits, health and education systems -- could be at the heart of the new system. This could be complemented by survey data, a wider range of other data sources and statistical modelling.

For the next four months, the ONS will be gathering feedback on how far the proposals (including the research published this week) are likely to meet user needs and where it should be prioritising future research.

"Our society needs a flexible, inclusive statistical system for the 21st century, one that maintains a stable level of accuracy over time and is fit for purpose in responding to unexpected change in a timely way," National Statistician Sir Ian Diamond said. "Based on our work to date, I believe we can move beyond the decade-long cycle of population statistics that has dominated for centuries and deliver a system befitting this digital age in which we live.

"Of course, we cannot rely on administrative data alone, and surveys may play an important role in our future statistics. But we have reached a point where a serious question can be asked about the role the census plays in our statistical system."

High-quality, timely population statistics are essential to ensure people get the services and support they need within communities and nationwide. Whether they provide evidence for policies and public services or help businesses and investors to deliver economic growth across the country, it is vitally important that population statistics are timely and accurate to reflect the needs of everyone in society.

More frequent statistics

Currently the census provides the backbone of these statistics with a rich picture of our society at national and local levels every 10 years. However, statistics become less accurate over the decade and local detail on important topics becomes increasingly out of date between census years.

The ONS's proposed system is responsive to ever-changing needs and, if implemented, will provide users with more frequent population statistics with high quality every year. It will provide insights on the changes and movement of our population across different seasons and times, and for many subjects it will provide much more local information every year. It will explore topics in new detail, and cover areas not recorded by the census, such as income.

Data sharing

Sir Ian added: "Throughout the pandemic and the increased cost of living, government statisticians have excelled, using the information available to them to deliver vitally important evidence, often at a local level, to decision-makers in record time. In many cases this has been achieved through one-off sharing of public sector data to meet priority needs. I believe this should become the norm, while continuing to meet high standards in data protection, security and ethics."

The consultation asks a small number of open questions to get a better understanding of user needs and priorities, which will help to shape the ONS's plans for these important statistics.

The consultation is now available and will close on 26 October 2023.

Responses to this consultation will inform a recommendation by the National Statistician, as set out in the 2018 census white paper (PDF, 968KB), on how the ONS should produce statistics about the population in future.

Company: Office for National Statistics

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