The UK’s next census will be its last—here's why

The UK’s first census in 1801 was supposedly carried out to count how many people were eligible to fight in the Napoleonic wars.

Every 10 years since 1801 - with the exception of 1941, in the midst of the Second World War - the UK has counted its population by surveying households. But the next census will be the last.

After 2021, the UK will instead harvest the data people leave behind as they live their everyday lives.

The US held its last survey in 2020.  The Scandinavian countries, ever ahead, have already moved on. 

So why’s this important to HR & TA?

Firstly, the 2021 census – results will start being shared in March 2022 - was the first time data was collected around sexual orientation & gender identity.

Secondly, many organisations still benchmark their employee base against the 2001 UK profile. How much the ethnic profile of the country has changed will be illuminating and is bound to force employers to revise their targets.

And finally, it’s a clear example of how data sourcing is moving onwards.

Rather than survey citizens, statisticians will be collecting the data traces left behind by people's everyday interactions with government. Data is collected from welfare and tax departments, housing and vehicle registrations or our health records.

By aggregating all this information and anonymising it to protect citizens’ privacy, statisticians can glean more than they do from asking everyone on paper.

Richer, more accurate and in real-time.

So if you’re still running an annual employee survey, you need to ask yourself, is it time to join the 21st Century?