Every 10 years all households across England and Wales are asked to complete a questionnaire about their lifestyle and living situation, known as the Census
The survey offers a unique insight into the nation’s population and the society we live in, and is intended to help organisations make decisions on planning and funding public services.
This year’s census is due later this month and is compulsory to complete, with households facing a fine of up to £1,000 if they fail to do so.
When is the census due?
The 2021 Census is due on Sunday 21 March, and only applies to households in England and Wales.
Every household should complete the census on this date, or as soon as possible after. If you have responded before 21 March and things have changed, you can let the government know by calling for free. The numbers can be found on the contact page online.
The census in Scotland has been pushed back to 2022 due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
The date for a census in Northern Ireland is yet to be announced.
How is it carried out?
The survey is recorded by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and will, for the first time, this year be conducted primarily online.
The ONS’ target is to have 75 per cent of census returns completed online, with the remainder completed on traditional paper forms.
Most households will receive a unique code in the post which will allow them to complete their census returns online.
Census questions are modified at each time it is carried out in order to reflect the needs of the time, although the 2021 census will be largely similar to the 2011 census, with questions about age, ethnicity, religion,employment and relationships.
However, three new questions have been included this year including veteran status, sexual orientation and gender identity.
The ONS aims to publish an initial set of census reports one year after it has taken place, and to make all outputs available within two years.
Is the census compulsory?
The Census Act 1920 makes it compulsory for everyone in England and Wales to participate in the census.
Those who fail to fulfil this legal requirement to complete the questionnaire risk being fined up to £1,000, as it is a criminal offence.
It is also a criminal offence to supply incorrect information, so make sure to be accurate when filling it out.
More information on the 2021 census can be found on the government website.