Britons will be asked about their gender identity and sexual orientation in this year’s census for the first time, though the new questions are voluntary and do not need to be answered.
Run by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the questionnaire gives government the most accurate estimate of who lives where. And this year, it is likely to give a long-lasting impression of life during the pandemic.
It will also provide officials with a snapshot of how Brexit is impacting the country.
The official count of every person and household, which takes place once every 10 years, asks questions about households, residents and what they do.
Households in the UK must complete the questionnaire by Sunday, or risk a fine, as local authorities try to determine how many people are living in England and Wales.
The National Records of Scotland announced earlier this year that the census had been pushed back to March 2022 for households in Scotland due to coronavirus.
Census questions ask about anyone living at one address, including their age, race, occupation and relationship status.
While it is possible to be fined for failing to answer the questionnaire, people will be given multiple chances to avoid the penalty.
If a household fails to fill in the census, they will be contacted by a “census officer” whose job it is to encourage people to complete it.
It is considered a crime if the form is not completed and could lead up to £1,000, plus court costs, in fines. Providing false information can also lead to a fine.
Experts have projected that the number of people selecting Christianity as their religion on this year’s census could drop below 50 per cent. Abby Day, a professor of race, faith and culture at Goldsmiths, University of London, told reporters the UK’s “post-Christian era” could well be confirmed by this year’s survey.
Prof Day predicted further decline was largely due to baby boomers – people born between 1946 and 1964 – raising their children outside the institutions of religion.
Due to the pandemic, a paper form has been or will be delivered to all households this year but people are being encouraged to complete the form online.
Gathering this information will help develop policy, provide services and improve equality, the ONS said earlier this week.
Full details of this year’s consensus will not be released until Mach 2023 while initial findings will be published next year.
An ONS spokesperson said in a statement: “Like all our data collections, at the heart of the census is keeping information safe, confidential, secure and private – no one can find out individual’s details for 100 years.”