A few weeks ago, Sunday 21st March to be precise, was Census day.
Though it has been and gone, the Census remains important after this date. The government Census website states, “your answers to the Census questions will help organisations make decisions on planning and funding public services in your area, including transport, education, and healthcare”; in short, the Census is something which allows for things to be done. The Mental Health Foundation uses Census data to produce a heat map of places and people most likely to suffer from mental health issues. This is a good example of how the Census allows those who can help to be in the best position to do so. Each individual Census is essentially a hyped-up survey, nothing more, though that doesn’t mean it isn’t important both functionally and culturally. Indeed, it allows for education, transport, and the emergency services to function better.
A little history. The Roman Census was used to measure a change in the demographics of Rome and allowed for a somewhat meritocratic society. Now I do not suggest that we use our Census in the same way to decide a rigid legal class structure — but this measuring of change over time is still immensely useful. It can show the epochs and points of stagnation of our history as a nation. 1841 saw the first proper Census and since then the UK has changed a lot. I mean, never mind the 1800s, even since the last census in 2011 a lot has changed. Austerity, Brexit and Covid are just a few of the happenings of the last decade; if the impacts of these things are to be measured then the census can offer this. Think of each Census as a point of data on an ever-growing Graph; the more accurate the data and the more standard the points of data, then the more accurate the conclusion which are drawn.
Now those of you who are worried about how your personal information will be used, you can find this all out on the government website linked above. I will not go into all of it here but, just to give you a brief outline of people who are specifically barred from accessing the information, there are: firstly, those who manage taxes and benefits; secondly, anybody who wants to find you or sell you anything; and thirdly, anyone enforcing the coronavirus restrictions or from NHS test and trace. So, that should settle some of the fears you may have over the collection of data and I hope this will help to put your mind at ease when filling in your Census.
The Census is also important for marginalised groups. If you fill in the Census with all this information then you have a voice, you have representation. This is of huge importance culturally because it means that the country is aware of who the country is made up of. Yes, marches, events, and festivals allow for each and all different groups to be seen and are a great sign of our diverse cultures. But they have a weakness in that they can never show the true strength of those groups and their identities because that criticism of the silent majority is always there. The Census does not have that problem. The more people who answer the various questions with the various answers, the clearer and more accurate the picture of our nation would be.
This is so important because no matter who you are, how you identify, what you believe, or who you love, the census will represent you as you are and as you choose to be. Like voting, it is a duty to participate in, but more so, it is just interesting to see the culture of our nation reflected in all of this.
So, all that is left to say is:
Happy 2021 Census day!
Image Credit: Pete via Flickr