With 2021 being the year of the census, Alison Brinkworth, one of the three Census Engagement Managers for Birmingham, recently delivered a presentation to some of our business students. 2021 is likely to be the first time most of the college’s students will have been asked to complete the once-a-decade survey.
Alison gave a brief history of the census and explained how the data is used to inform decisions on services and funding allocations at local and national levels, including transport, healthcare and education. She also explained why charities used the cencus information to get funding and how it helps businesses make informed decisions about where to base their offices and stores, giving our students a new understanding of how public data can be used in business.
All of the data collected is anonymised for 100 years, meaning no one can identify you in the census statistics and your personal information is not sold. Support for filling out the survey is available in many different languages (though it must be completed in English) and is accessible for those with disabilities.
Census Day is on 21 March and the cencus can be completed online at the official Cencus 2021 website.
Read on for some incredible facts about the census and our brilliant city of Birmingham!
10 fascinating facts about the census
1. The word census originates from the Latin word censere, meaning to assess, count or determine.
2. The Babylonians undertook the first known census in history back in 3800 BCE – nearly 6000 years ago!
3. The oldest surviving census data is from 2 CE, conducted by China’s Han Dynasty, which shows a population of 57.7 million people. The current UK population is approximately 68 million.
4. Although not a census in the main sense of the word, the Domesday Book of 1086 was the first survey in England and questioned landowners about their holdings to form the basis for William the Conqueror’s tax system.
5. The first UK census in the modern era was in 1801. The census has been held every decade since, other than 1941 (due to World War II), although a mini-census was held in 1939 in order to issue identity cards. The 1801 census was partly carried out to know the number of men able to fight in the Napoleonic wars.
6. The censuses from 1801-1831 contained virtually no personal information. 1841 was the first UK census to record names, age, sex, occupation and place of birth.
7. One of the most famous UK census stories comes from 1911 and the suffragette Emily Wilding Davison. The Women’s Freedom League were fighting for the right of women to vote and had launched a campaign to boycott the census. Emily hid in a broom cupboard in the Houses of Parliament for 46 hours, so she could record her residence as the Palace of Westminster. She was duly recorded with her address being given as “found hiding in the Crypt of Westminster Hall, Westminster,” although her surname was incorrectly spelt as “Davidson”. Ironically, Emily’s landlady at her rented home also included her on the census form, and so she was actually recorded twice! A plaque was later put up in the broom cupboard in her memory by MPs Tony Benn and Jeremy Corbyn. Davison became a martyr for the suffragette movement, when she died from injuries caused in a collision with the king’s horse Anmer in the Epsom Derby of 1913.
8. In 2001, a question about religious belief was included for the first time since 1851. 390,000 recorded their religion as Jedi, which fell to 176,000 in 2011, which still made it the seventh most popular religion.
9. The 2011 census saw 6,242 people identify their religion as Heavy Metal. It was also the first year the census could be completed online.
10. There are three new questions for 2021 regarding service in the armed forces, gender identity and sexual orientation. This year is also the first year the census will primarily be completed online. Paper questionnaires will be available upon request.
6 key facts about Birmingham
1. At the time of the last census 2011, 1,073,045 people lived in Birmingham.
2. Under 25s account for nearly 40% of Birmingham’s population.
3. Birmingham’s working population is the most ethnically diverse of England’s major cities, with 494 different ethnicities.
4. Particularly innovative local sectors include digital, advanced manufacturing, energy, healthcare, and the creative industries.
5. In 2011 Birmingham had 78,259 full-time students aged 18–74, from all over the world, living in the city during term time, more than any other city in the United Kingdom outside London.
6. Birmingham’s six universities make it the largest centre of higher education in the country outside London.