25 September 2013

England and Wales Census Consultation

Changing technology makes it important that government keep the means it uses to achieve its goals under review. This is as true for the census as for any other aspect of government operations.
In the UK the Office of National Statistics has started a consultation on the census for England and Wales. A consultation document (pdf) points out that while many European countries have for many years kept a file on each citizen which includes much of the information that would be collected in a census this is not the case in the UK. Neither is it the case in Canada (as far as we know).
The census has always been primarily to provide information for the operation of government. Genealogy and social science has benefitted, but as an afterthought. Some believe the primary goals can now be achieved by means other than a census, just as the Harper government in Canada replaced the long-form census in 2011 with a survey.
Without doubt the result of the consultation for England and Wales will be examined by Canadian authorities in looking at the way forward. So it's important their consultation includes input from the genealogical community. We must not be marginalized. I look to the Society of Genealogists, amongst others, to represent the community interest. It's one reason I choose to support SOG through a membership.
Peter Calver in his most recent Lost Cousins newsletter notes another document, a draft Statement of Users’ Requirements: Genealogists and Social Researchers, which ends with the sentence:

None of the alternative sources of information mentioned above match the primary merit of the Census as a “universal snapshot” of almost everyone present in the country at a particular time.

Worth watching.

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