21 December 2017
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) organised a ‘Census, Population & Public Policy Forum’ on 13 December to gauge views in the areas of ethnicity, gender identity and sexual orientation. Dr Jamil Sherif of ReDoc represented the MCB at the forum, which included participation from faith communities and other advocacy groups. Two of the expert speakers were Dr Omar Khan, Director of the Runnymede Trust, and Zamila Bunglawala, Deputy Director at the Cabinet Office Race Disparity Unit. Sections of the Sikh community are seeking reclassification as an ethnic category, rather than remaining as one of the religious affiliation choices. The case being made is that this would harmonise with the famous Mandla court case, that held Sikhs an ethnic group for the purposes of the Race Relations Act 1976. MCB’s concern, shared with other census data analysts, is that such a recategorisation will affect comparability with 2001 and 2011 census outputs. Other candidates for new ethnicity categories are Roma, Somali and possibly Jewish – the latter thus far one of the religion categories. There may also be a case for ‘White – European’, e.g. to capture data on the second generation Polish community. The ONS has published the findings of its trials of gender identity and sexual orientation questions, which remain under review.
The 2021 Census will differ from the 2011 Census by relying to a much greater extent on on-line form completion. A date for the White Paper that needs to be presented to Parliament has not yet been announced.