National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

Beyond 2011 - What are the options for the future?

Beyond 2011 - What are the options for the future?

The options for producing population and socio-demographic information/statistics for Scotland in the future include further development of the census approach and greater reliance on administrative and survey data.

Future census-based models can be developed, for example, by limiting the information collected from everyone to only basic demographic details ('short form') and asking only a subset of the population to provide the full range of information collected in a traditional census ('long form'). Improvements can also be gained by enumerating subsets of the population in stages so that full enumeration of the whole population is achieved over a period of time (as in the French rolling census). These approaches can be combined and in each case survey and administrative data can be used to support and enhance the census.

Administrative data-based approaches would draw primarily on data derived from administrative systems and registers either in aggregated or unit level form, or a combination of both. Such approaches are likely to require that a social survey is run in parallel to provide the range of socio-demographic information usually obtained through the traditional census.   

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) have identified a set of possible census models around which current research is being undertaken, detailed in the recent reports O1 and M3 within the ONS Beyond 2011 publications section of their website.

Administrative data-based approaches have so far been the main focus, as this area is currently the least well understood, however all options (or a combination of options) are possible. Further information is contained on the ONS Beyond 2011 publications section of their website.

All options which we are able to develop and test will be assessed using a consistent set of criteria, namely:

  • Fitness for purpose i.e. ability to meet user requirements in terms of:
    • Accuracy
    • Frequency of the outputs e.g. annually
    • Timeliness
    • Level of geographic detail at which outputs can be produced e.g. Local Authority
    • Consistency and comparability of the outputs across time or geographic areas
    • Ability to meet legal requirements
  • Cost (both total cost and cost profile over time)
  • Technical feasibility
  • Risk
  • Public burden and public acceptability.

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