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Questions about sexual orientation added to census for first time to gather LGBT data

George Martin
·2-min read
Transgender people and their supporters march along the Piccadilly during London's second Trans Pride protest march for equality on 12 September, 2020 in London, England. Protesters demand legal recognition for non-binary people, an end to non-consensual surgeries on intersex people, and a progressive reform of the UKs Gender Recognition Act  the law that governs the way adult trans men and women gain legal recognition of their gender. (Photo by WIktor Szymanowicz/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Transgender people and their supporters march along the Piccadilly during London's second Trans Pride protest march last month. (Getty)

The government is planning on staging the first ever census asking for details of people’s sexual orientation and gender identity.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), extra questions will be added to next year’s census in order to gather more data about the LGBT community.

Questions will be voluntary and aimed at respondents aged 16 and above with people required to tick female or male in response to the question “what is your sex?”.

There will also be a further question on gender identity which will ask: “Is the gender you identify with the same as your sex registered at birth?” Those responding “no” will be asked to specify their gender identity.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 04: Members of the Public walk over the LGBT road painted sign on Camden High Street in Camden Town on July 04, 2020 in London,United Kingdom . (Photo by Jo Hale/Getty Images)
Members of the Public walk over an LGBT road painted on the street in London. (Getty)

Iain Bell, the ONS deputy national statistician, told The Observer next year’s census is “more important than ever”.

“Without robust data on the size of the LGBT population at a national and local level, decision-makers are operating in a vacuum, unaware of the extent and nature of disadvantage which LGBT people may be experiencing in terms of health, educational outcomes, employment and housing,” he said.

Bell said there is currently “no robust data available on gender identity at all” and it would be helpful when informing policy decisions.

Read more: Christian school worker 'plans to appeal' after losing sacking claim for LGBT posting

He added that the pandemic had increased the significance of gathering detailed data on households, especially their religious beliefs and occupations.

“In many respects, the pandemic, and the impact it has had on all communities has made this census more important than ever before,” Bell added.

“Much like the 1921 census after the first world war and Spanish flu, the 2021 census will be crucial. It will show the ethnic make-up of the country, it will provide information on living arrangements, health, education and jobs and the data from it will help inform government policy at a local and national level for years to come.”

The census has taken place every 10 years since 1802 and requires households to answer questions about themselves and their family.

Respondents are about their living arrangements, occupation, education, ethnicity, religion and marital status or risk a £1,000 fine.

Next year will see the ONS move towards a digital survey, although hard copies will be available on request.

The ONS estimates it will take a year to process the data, but says the information will help policymakers in the future.