2011 Census for England and Wales


A population census is a key instrument for assessing the needs of local communities. When related to other data sources such as housing or agricultural censuses, or sample surveys, the data becomes even more useful.

Most countries of the world take censuses: the United Nations recommends that countries take a census at least once every ten years. The design for the 2011 Census reflected changes in society since 2001 and asked questions to help paint a detailed demographic picture of England and Wales, as it stood on census day, 27 March.

Data collected by the census is used to provide statistical outputs which central government uses to plan and allocate local authority services funding, and which local authorities themselves use to identify and meet the needs of their local communities. Other organisations that use census data include healthcare organisations, community groups, researchers and businesses.

The questionnaires, including people’s personal information, are kept confidential for 100 years before being released to the public, providing an important source of information for historical, demographic and genealogy research.

The most recent census of the United Kingdom, known as the 2011 census, took place on 27 March 2011, a decade after the previous census. It was conducted on the same day in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to ensure coherence and consistency.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is responsible for the census in England and Wales; the General Register Office for Scotland (GROS) is responsible for the census in Scotland and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) is responsible for the census in Northern Ireland.


The 2011 Census for England and Wales included around 25 million households. Questionnaires were posted out to all households. People could complete and submit their questionnaire online, or fill it in on paper and post it back in a pre-addressed envelope.

Guidance was provided online and through the census helpline. Completed questionnaires were electronically tracked and field staff followed up with households that did not return a questionnaire. Special arrangements were made to count people living in communal establishments such as; boarding schools, prisons, military bases, hospitals, care homes, student halls of residence, hotels, as well as for particular communities; rough sleepers, travellers and those living on waterways. In these cases field staff delivered and collected questionnaires and, where needed, provided advice or assistance in completing the questionnaire.

There was a legal requirement to complete the 2011 Census questionnaire, under the terms of the Census Act 1920. As at 27 March 2011 everyone who had lived or intended to live in the country for three months or more was required to complete a questionnaire. Failure to return a completed questionnaire could lead to a fine and criminal record.

First results from the 2011 Census, in the form of age and sex, and occupied households estimates for England and for Wales were released on 16 July 2012. More detailed results, for a range of statistical and administrative areas, will follow in three more phases into October 2013.

1st release Jul 2012 – Nov 2012
2nd release Dec 2012 – Feb 2013
3rd release Mar 2013 – Jun 2013
4th release Jul 2013 – Oct 2013