Saturday, March 12, 2011

UK Census

On the 27th March all households in the UK are required to complete their census form.  This data will be collected by the Office of National Statistics and use to inform government policy over the next 10 years.  There’s a lot of questions asked, concerning sex, age, occupation, language, place of work, religion, ethnicity, age and mode of transport to work.

There’s a big brou-ha-ha over the census – I get the impression that this is a regular occurrence whenever the census is sent out.
Conspiciously absent is a question on sexual orientation, leading to the creation of a facebook group asking people to declare their religion as lesbian.
In the language section there isn’t enough room to write British Sign Language (although the question does state that you should put down British Sign Language if that is your first language, and the census is available in BSL on the official website).
Sikh and Jew isn’t included in ethnicity, although both are included as options in the religion section.
Sex only lists male and female options, leading to this interesting post on Shakesville, where it seems that by sex they actually means gender,
If you don’t fill out the census you are liable for a £1,000 fine, although I understand that approximately 40 people got fined last time round, when the numbers of those not completing it were probably closer to 3 million*.
Some people are calling for the government to drop the census (which they are intending to do anyway – apparently it’s too expensive – and gather the data from councils, police records, doctors’ records etc.  I think these people don’t really understand how important it is to gather the information correctly.  It would be near impossible, if not actually impossible, to collate and accurately merge the data from a variety of sources.

I have no problem with filling in the census – I think it’s necessary and I’m quite angry that the current government intend to cease carrying it out.  How else are they going to know the demographic of their citizens?  I’m also quite angry about there being no sexuality question.  I’m in the middle of writing a Starman review for Prism comics and I talk about the concept of bisexual erasure within the comic (I was recently reminded of the term by James Ashelford, thanks James!).  Erasure of certain sexualities (or other demographic types) would be much less easy to do if we had concrete data stating how many people termed themselves as such.  The census would be an excellent, nay only, opportunity to effectively gather this data.

How are we meant to prove that we’re here if we’re ignored?  I believe the current estimate of people terming themselves gay is 10% of the UK population.  I’m not sure that I believe it’s as low as that, but I have no way to disprove it.  If we had decent data we would be able to argue for funding towards queer organisations and also promote discussion about homo/biphobic attacks and discrimination.  As it is, we have nothing.  How ridiculous is that?

* or a million.  I can’t remember the figure.


Rachel said...

Good post! You missed out the Shakesville link, though -- was it this article? Markgraf at BadRep has also written a post about the sex/gender cock-up. (Hmm. Is cock-up a sexist term? Hadn't thought of that before.)

We haven't really looked at our census yet as it only arrived yesterday. It hadn't occurred to me that sexual orientation would be asked, but now I've read this post I'm also outraged that it's not mentioned!

Saranga said...

yes, that is the correct link for Shakesville thanks for letting me know.