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Ministers should plan to hold an emergency census in five years because the Covid pandemic will make this month’s survey “a snapshot of a strange unrepresentative time”, a leading academic has said.
Danny Dorling, professor of geography at Oxford and an expert on measuring inequality, said there was “serious concern” that this month’s census would not give an accurate picture of Britain due to lockdown measures. He said that an extra census in 2026 would also show whether the government’s aim of “levelling up” poorer areas was working.
Writing for the Observer online, Dorling states that there is a danger the census will be “a snapshot of a strange unrepresentative time, an image of pandemic Britain where young adults have temporarily moved in with their parents”.
“It will record a place with low street homelessness, at the tail-end of the ‘Everyone In’ campaign. It will miss Scotland, as the census is being taken in a year’s time there. It will include hundreds of thousands of people just waiting to travel back to mainland Europe (for good) prevented by travel restrictions, but ready to join the million who (we think) left in 2020. And it will count as employed those currently furloughed, but who will not be returning to work.”
He adds: “A 2026 census could be used to ascertain if any local levelling up has occurred overall. To date we have seen levelling down due to how the government dealt with the pandemic. A 2026 census could assess how much we have recovered – or not – in the five years from March 2021. It would fill the gaps in the record.”
The census is going ahead in England, Wales and Northern Ireland on 21 March despite a complaint from a union that it should be postponed because of Covid concerns and problems over a £45m outsourced contract to recruit tens of thousands of field staff.
A high court judge has already ordered changes to the guidance that accompanies a census question regarding a person’s sex. The guidance had said people could use the sex listed on their passport, which can be changed without a legal process. Campaign group Fair Play for Women argued this allowed “self-identification” as male or female. The court ruled that guidance should be changed and that individuals should state the sex on their birth certificate or gender recognition certificate, which denotes that someone has changed their legal gender. A full judicial review will take place this week.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Emergency census in 2026 ‘needed to show true picture of UK’ | Census