Since 1801, every 10 years the nation has set aside one day for the Census - a count of all people and households. It is the most complete source of information about the population available.
The latest Census was held on 27 March 2011, when the Office for National Statistics sent out questionnaires to around 25 million households.
The individual responses from those questionnaires have been combined into statistics for England and Wales including regions, districts, wards and other geographies. Personal information about individuals is held in the strictest confidence and is not shared with any other government department or organisation.
The information the Census provides allows central and local Government, health authorities and many other organisations to target their resources more effectively and to plan housing, education, health and transport services in the future.
Each Census collects basic information about:
- the numbers of people;
- where they live;
- the balance of young and old;
- what jobs people do;
- and the type of housing they live in.
However from one census to the next the questions asked are updated in response to the way society has changed and the particular issues that are important at the time. This means that exact comparisons with previous census are not always possible because of changes to the questions asked.