MPs warn census axing could harm social science

 
census form The committee said the census was incredibly valuable to social researchers

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Scrapping the 10-yearly national census could harm social science in the UK, a group of MPs has warned.

The government is looking into whether there are less costly alternatives, with a view to scrapping the next census in 2021.

But the MPs said other methods of data collection may not be adequate and might not be any cheaper.

The government said the census was outdated and a "more effective, less bureaucratic" survey was needed.

The last census, which took place in 2011, cost an estimated £480m.

In 2010 Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude said: "There are, I believe, ways of doing this which will provide better, quicker information, more frequently and cheaper."

'Costly mistake'

But the Science and Technology Committee said they were not convinced that alternative ways of collecting the data would be a cheaper option.

The MPs also raised concerns that social science in the UK would suffer if serious consideration was not given to how the data would be replaced and that any alternative may not be able to provide nationwide coverage like the census.

However, the MPs acknowledged there were a range of problems with the census in its current form, which is always at least two years out of date by the time the data is published.

Chair of the cross-party committee Andrew Miller said: "Ministers must think hard before they take the decision to scrap the census."

"The census has provided the UK with one of the richest collections of population data in the world.

"It is incredibly valuable to social researchers, charities and the public sector and a move to cancel the census on financial grounds may prove to be a costly mistake."

The Office for National Statistics is currently consulting on alternatives to the 2021 census and is expected to report its findings in 2014.

A Cabinet Office spokeswoman said: "The government believes that the census, in its current form, is outdated.

"We are supporting ONS' work to design a replacement which will allow for more effective, less bureaucratic collection of the information necessary for the operation of public services. We will keep Parliament informed about the progress of this work."

 

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 58.

    Census data is a very useful tool if researching your family. It's just a shame we can only get at them once they are 100 years old! In view of people not filling them in, perhaps we should roll the clock back to 1901 and send someone to each household to fill them in for them - 1911 was the first to be filled in by the household

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 57.

    Al the people who complain about the lack of school places, or doctors or dentists should remember that the government need to find out the data somehow. Govt policy should be based on data and evidence. The census is a key part of the data needed. If you refuse to be counted you can't complain if there is no provision made for you.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 56.

    I was ok with most of the census questions. The one that I found weird though was the one that asked "who is sleeping in your house overnight on precisely 31st March 2012?" How was I supposed to know who was going to be stopping over at my house on that date? Couldn't get my head around that one.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 55.

    The census should continue in order to understand the needs of the country schools carehomes etc. What is the difficulty in ever household filling in a form every 10years and returning it ? It took me less than 30mins. If the anaylsis of data is costing money cut down on unecessary questions.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 54.

    @29.Tez

    "It should also be mandatory to complete the Form"

    It IS mandatory to fill in the form and it is mandatory to tell the truth.

    However a lot of people do not fill it in at all and a large number of the people who do, fill in incorrect information, because they, very sensibly do not trust govt.

    If you fill the census honestly, do you know (e.g.) DVLA sell your details to anyone who asks?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 53.

    All your lovely data passed to Lockheed Martin in the US.

    NWO in operation.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 52.

    It won't be scrapped, it will of course be 'outsourced' - probably to G4S, or ATOS, or someone else that has contributed to party funds at some stage - and will provide useless, sub-optimal data, at an escalating cost..... assuming it is ever finished and not left on a laptop on a train
    That's my prediction anyway

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 51.

    "35.
    penguin337

    The last census was a joke with no follow up visits"


    No follow-up visits? I've never had any visits at all for the census! Are we talking about the same thing here? I just filled in a form and sent it back.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 50.

    42.exporter
    That's the system you are advocating?
    No matter what you are told, ignorance is not bliss.
    Too many spectators in this country not enough players, thats the problem.
    If you like it that way then thats your choice.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 49.

    29 The point raised about the census is that currently people here illegally simply don't fill it in , and because they are not officially here, officials cannot find them to hand them the fine for not filling in the form which is mandatory now.
    It says nothing about illegals - councils know it well.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 48.

    Don't forget that one of the main uses of the census is to provide government funding for each local authority, based on the increase/decrease of people living there and using the resources, so the more accurate the data, the more money each Council gets (I'm not exactly keen on paying more in Council tax than I have to). Junk mail is done through the Electoral Reg - totally different.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 47.

    15. Megan
    2 HOURS AGO
    I refuse to classify myself by the colour of my hide (and there wasn't an accurate descriptor available anyway: it's a sort of pinkish-beige...).

    If you wanna send me a pic I can match it to a pantone for you :)

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 46.

    The govt. says the census is not needed.
    This is probably because Big Brother now knows more about you and I than the census will ever tell them.
    The solution is perhaps for the govt to publish the census every 10 years from their data online.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 45.

    Just an expensive and totally hopeless exercise. It will tell you how many Jedi knights there are but with the important things like how many illegal immigrants or illegal foreigners there are hiding out in the UK it is absolutely useless. A complete waste of time and money.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 44.

    In 2010 Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude said: "There are, I believe, ways of doing this which will provide better, quicker information, more frequently and cheaper."

    In 2012 Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude said: "A bit of extra fuel in a jerry can is a sensible precaution to take.”

    I don't think there's anything more I can add.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 43.

    #16. Tony Soprano I don’t disagree but it is too slow. Kids start school at 5 years so every ten years is too late especial when odd events can trigger population explosion like electricity strikes etc and we then have a 5 year planning cycle on top. There is so much technology about and data being collected that with the correct laws and structure such data collection should be automatic.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 42.

    @ 41

    Why do I need access to anyone's private details? It's just another money making machine as well as an invasion of privacy AND it allows for the constant spamming we get, ie junk mail which again is a total waste of money, resources, and my time scooping it up off the floor and straight into the bin

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 41.

    36.exporter
    "There are enough databases up and runninng for them to have all the info they need"

    Its not about them having the info its about our access to it, these datbases are generally the preserve of corporate UK and the state machine many of which we have no say or access to.

    Just how they like it I'm afraid.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 40.

    Even on an electoral form, there is a tiny piece written to give you the option to not share your details. This is so difficult to understand by the way it's been worded that you don't know wether to tick it or not. The gvt then either allow everyone to see it, or if you opted correctly, don't, unless they pay the gvt for YOUR information! Very wrong in my eyes

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 39.

    @29.Tez

    "It should also be mandatory to complete the Form"

    It IS mandatory to fill in the form and it is mandatory to tell the truth.

    However a lot of people do not fill it in at all and a large number of the people who do, fill in incorrect information, because they, very sensibly do not trust govt.

    If you fill the census honestly, do you know the DVLA sell your details to criminals?

 

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