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Thursday, 17th April 2014

UK: Too Soon to Scrap the Census

Source: House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee (UK)

From Summary:

At the start of this Parliament, the Minister for the Cabinet Office indicated the ten-yearly census should be axed and the 2011 census should be the last. The census needs to change, but it is too soon to decide whether or not to scrap the census. Population estimates are of fundamental importance to the statistical system, policy makers and society more widely. The days of the traditional, paper-based census in Britain and elsewhere are numbered. The Government should make better use of its wealth of detailed administrative data which is currently unexploited and which could provide information to improve the nation’s knowledge of its population. The National Statistician has recently recommended that there should be a traditional census in 2021, albeit conducted primarily online, but that there should be at the same time greater use of administrative data and surveys....

The alternative options for the collection of population statistics are not sufficiently advanced to provide a proper replacement. Most of the respondents to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) consultation and our short inquiry agreed that the decennial census should be kept, and we agree. Witnesses emphasised, among other things, the great financial benefits to business provided by census data and these have been quantified. However, the increasing cost and deficiencies of a traditional census must be recognised. The Government must get the highest quality and most granular population statistics out of the information it already holds before we can be sure that there can be, eventually, a full and proper replacement for the traditional census.

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Having begun his career in academic libraries, Adrian Janes has subsequently worked extensively in public libraries, chiefly in enquiry work as an Information Services librarian. In this role he has had particular responsibility for information from both the UK Government and the European Union. He wrote a detailed report on sources for the latter which was published by FreePint in 2007, and has contributed articles to FreePint and ResourceShelf. He is involved in training in information literacy and the use of online reference resources.

A Contributing Editor to DocuTicker, he also write reviews for Pennyblackmusic.

Adrian can be reached at adrian.janes@freepint.com

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