Andrew Lewer MP for Northampton South
The Covid-19 crisis may have stopped lots of activities, but Census 2021 is going ahead. This decennary event has been delivering vital information about how we live every ten years since 1801, with the exception of 1941.
It was not until 1841 that people’s names were recorded to the census, which added hugely to its value for historians. Since then extra detail has been added, such as profession and place of birth in 1851, but there have been significant losses, such as much data from the 1861 census, due to poor storage, and the complete destruction of the materials behind the 1931 census in a discarded cigarette related fire in 1942.
I cannot overestimate the importance of the data and information that these censuses provide. Even in this data driven world, it still fundamentally informs and shapes the services that Government and its agencies deliver. No Government programme is untouched by the information that the census provides. It remains the richest and most comprehensive snapshot of life in Britain we have to draw from.
This year, the census will be mostly completed online. Around the time you read this article, information leaflets will have been posted to you. By the start of March, your registration code to complete Census 2021 will be delivered via post. Do not worry if you are not digitally savvy: you can still request a paper form and for those who need extra help you can complete the census via telephone.
Much of the constituency information provided by the House of Commons Library comes from the 2011 census. It has thus helped to inform me about the strengths and challenges that Northampton has.
Censuses also provide us with an interesting insight into changes Northampton has experienced. In 1801 there were only 8,258 residents compared to 212,069 in 2011, yet this growth has been in fits and starts. The town’s population virtually doubled between 1801 and 1831. Yet hardly grew at all between 1901 and 1931. The proportion of over 65s has increased from 3.9% in 1861 to 13.3% now.
Overcrowding in Northampton households has decreased from 10.5% in 1911 to 1% today. Probably the most striking change is in the make-up of the local workforce. In 1841 50.1% of all Northampton workers were in manufacturing, but just 9.3% in 2011. In 1931 Northampton men dominated employment by 2 to 1 compared to women, but by 2011 more women than men were employed. When you include the self-employed, men then nudge ahead, but marginally so. Women are now central, not only to Northampton, but the entire British workforce.
Fascinating as the historic picture is, it is future planning and future services that will benefit most by this upcoming census. On March 21st, you will be helping the country in many positive and valuable ways. Your information will contribute to the planning of Britain’s infrastructure, its services and future. Not bad for 10 minutes work.
CONSTITUENCY OFFICE: 42 Billing Road, Northampton NN1 5DE