Everything you need to know about the 2021 census

People in Luton will join millions of others across the country this weekend in filling out the 2021 census.

Friday, 19th March 2021, 1:50 pm
Updated Friday, 19th March 2021, 1:52 pm
You must complete the census on Sunday, March 21

Once every 10 years, UK households sit down to complete the questionnaire to help paint a picture of who we are, how we live, and what we do.

The vast hoard of information is used by councils, central government and charities to help run vital public services such as hospitals, housing and schools.

The next one in England takes place this Sunday, March 21, and is likely to reflect some of the biggest shifts in society for generations.

You must ensure that you and your household complete the census online here on Sunday, as required by law.

What has changed

According to 2011’s census, Luton had a population of 203,201, of which 50% were women and 50% men.

For the first time this year, people aged 16 and over can answer additional voluntary questions about their gender identity and sexual orientation.

The Office for National Statistics, which runs the census in England and Wales, says the answers will help shape services for the LGBT+ community and promote equality.

People in the area were also a little younger than others across England with an average age of 34.8 years – compared to the national average of 39.3.

Religion and ethnicity

The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted harsh inequalities among different parts of the population, including between different ethnic groups.

In Luton, 54.7% described their ethnicity as white in 2011, while 29.9% were Asian, 9.8% said they were black and 4.2% of mixed ethnicity.

A further 1.5% stated another ethnicity.

Of the major world religions, Christians formed the largest community, comprising around 96,300 people in 2011.

This was followed by Islam (50,000), and Hinduism (6,700).

“Information from the 2011 Census has already been crucial in our understanding of mortality for different groups during the pandemic,” said Pete Benton, census director of operations.

“With fresh data from 2021, we will be able to update the analysis we have already done to give us the richest data we have ever had.”

Country of birth

Around 69% of people living in Luton in 2011 said they were born in the UK, while 9% were from EU nations including Ireland, and 22% from elsewhere.

"Over the last couple of years we have seen lots of reports about the decline in immigration from the EU – and more recently, with the Covid crisis, suggestions of an exodus of migrants from the UK,” said Madeleine Sumption, director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford.

“Problems with data collection during the pandemic mean it's not clear how many people left the UK last year.

“But even if there has been a big fall in the migrant population over the last couple of years, it's unlikely to offset a decade of migration since 2011."

The world of work

Few aspects of our lives have been changed as much by Covid-19 as how we work, and for many of us, where we work.

About 6,200 people aged 16 and over in Luton said they worked mainly at or from home at the last census, amounting to roughly 5% of the working-age population – slightly lower than the England average of 8%.

“We know that about half of the UK workforce worked from home during the first lockdown in 2020,” said Christina Marriott, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health.

“This suggests that we can expect a significant rise in home-based working from the 2021 census results,” she added.

And while the charity’s research suggested there are many benefits to home working, such as saving time and money normally spent commuting, people can also feel isolated from colleagues and find it more difficult to switch off from work.

The RSPH is calling for employers to support staff to make home working a more positive experience.

What you need to know

The census should take about 10 minutes for the household questions and a further 10 minutes per person for the individual questions, says the ONS.

Every householder is responsible for completing it for their household, either by answering the questions for all household members or making everyone answer their own.

If you do not complete the census, you could be fined up to £1,000.

To complete the census, visit here.