Press releases : Digital take up of Census 2021 beats targets

A fantastic 97% of households across England and Wales responded to Census 2021 to ensure they count when it comes to local services - and almost 90% of them did so online.

Initial findings out today show online take up of the first digital-first census far exceeded expectations, with more than 22 million responses submitted using the web questionnaire.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) had set a pre-census target of at least 75% online completion. However, that was beaten, with 88.9% of households responding to the census choosing to do so on a digital device.

Mobile phone was the most common way of completing the electronic questionnaire, with 56.4% of households choosing to do so that way. Nearly 35% used a desktop computer, while 9% used a tablet.

The average completion time for the household online form was 23 minutes, in line with expectations.

“We had a fantastic response to Census 2021 with more than 97% of households completing their census to make sure they are represented for local services like school places, hospital beds and emergency services and it was great to see the overwhelming majority use our digital services,” Census 2021 Director Pete Benton said.

“Results from Census 2021 will be fundamental to our understanding of the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on different communities. Census 2021 will not only provide information on our population and our health – it will also shed light on social and economic changes to our lives.

“While data from the 2011 Census has already been crucial in our understanding of mortality for different groups during the pandemic, fresh data from Census 2021 will allow us to update our analysis and, alongside new administrative data sources, give us the richest data on our population we have ever had.”

Top 5 local authorities in England by online share for online first areas:

  • Tower Hamlets 97.3%
  • Newham 97.0%
  • City of London 96.7%
  • Slough 96.7%
  • Hounslow 96.6%

Top 5 local authorities in Wales by online share for online first areas:

  • Cardiff 95.2%
  • Newport 94.3%
  • Vale of Glamorgan 94.2%
  • Rhondda Cynon Taf 94.0%
  • Flintshire 93.5%

The Census 2021 outputs consultation closes at midnight tomorrow (5 October), so if people want their say on what census data will be published, they should respond now.

A thorough quality assurance process is now taking place to ensure the best census results will be available for all.

Data and analysis will then be released in phases throughout 2022 and 2023.

For more information on the online Census 2021 and how the ONS enabled people to respond digitally or on paper, read the full reports here.

Notes to editors

  • The census is the largest statistical exercise that the Office for National Statistics (ONS) undertakes, producing statistics that inform all areas of public life and underpin social and economic policy. It provides a wealth of information at small geographies to inform local planning and decision-making. It is, therefore, vital that everyone takes part and is counted and that the statistics produced are accurate and meet user needs.
  • In 2014, the National Statistician recommended (236.1 KB, PDF) that Census 2021 should be a predominantly online census, with special care taken to support those who are unable to complete the census online. Our preparations reflected this approach and two articles published today describe key parts of how it was delivered.

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