Researchers in UK count cost of plan to scrap census

September 11, 2013 • News

Researchers in UK count cost of plan to scrap census

The census – a beacon for statisticians and historians for more than 200 years – will be scrapped under proposals to be unveiled this month, prompting fears that policy making will suffer from the loss of valuable social data.

A consultation by the Office for National Statistics will outline two options for replacing the census, which has been in operation in England and Wales since 1801.

Politicians have complained in recent years that the census – carried out every 10 years – is too expensive. In 2011, it cost £480m and employed 35,000 people.

Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, announced in 2010 his desire to scrap the census, but an ONS consultation launched the following year kept open the option of retaining it in its present form.

The latest proposals, however, will rule out the status quo. Instead, the ONS will ask experts such as statisticians, demographers and historians whether they prefer to replace the census with either an internet survey or a collation of administrative data sources such as health and education records.

Many people are sceptical that either method could paint a sufficiently detailed picture.

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