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ONS opens up search for census replacement

With time running out to find a replacement for the census, the Office for National Statistics is considering several alternatives to the two options it has already proposed, Research Fortnight has learned.

The office is consulting on whether to organise the existing census of the entire population online from 2021 or to replace it with a combination of existing administrative data sets and a traditional survey of just 4 per cent of the population. But at a meeting of small-area demographers and government statistics officials, David Rhind, the deputy chairman of the ONS’s parent body the UK Statistics Authority, revealed that the authority was also keen to consider ways of merging the two ideas.

“We’d like to see other ways that would minimise risk, bring…benefits from both of those [options] and perhaps mutate over time,” said Rhind. According to David Martin, professor of geography at the University of Southampton and a member of an independent working group that is coordinating researchers’ responses to the consultation, such a solution would be a “phased transition”, with immediate work to get the systems for administrative data up and running plus a full online census in 2021.

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