Release plans

Our plans for releasing Census 2021 statistics.

Release plans for Census 2021 statistics

Census Office released the first results for Census 2021 statistics on the size of the Northern Ireland population at 9.30 am on 24 May 2022. Univariate main statistics (phase 1) on ethnicity, country of birth, passports held, religion, religion or religion brought up in, national identity, language and household size were published at 9.30 am on 22 September 2022. Other main Census 2021 statistics will be released in stages up to summer 2023.

Table 1 provides a summary of the release plans. More detail on the content of each of the Census 2021 releases is outlined after the table. The exact date of each release of outputs depends upon the ongoing processing, coding and quality assurance of census data.

A version of the Census 2021 outputs prospectus (PDF 247KB) is also available to download.

If you have comments on this outputs prospectus, email us at census@nisra.gov.uk.

Census data collection was carried out safely and effectively during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has had impacts on our population and census outputs will help us understand them. As we produce census outputs, we will aim to present commentary on the impacts of the pandemic on our population.

This page will be updated as more information becomes available. It was last updated on 22 September 2022. Detail of the changes made can be found in the updates register.

Table 1: Release schedule of Northern Ireland Census 2021 statistics – summary
Release Title and content Planned release Geography
Release 1

Population and Household Statistics:

Headline population statistics by age and sex, number of households with usual residents, and communal establishment population. Estimates in this release will be published in rounded form.

24 May 2022 Northern Ireland
Release 2 – Phase 1

Univariate Main Statistics (1):

Key univariate statistics for ethnicity; country of birth; passports held; religion; religion or religion brought up in; national identity; and language.

This release will include finalised, unrounded estimates for population and household statistics.

22 September 2022 Northern Ireland and Local Government District
Release 2 – Phase 2

Univariate Main Statistics (2):

Key univariate statistics for marital status; household composition; living arrangements; sexual orientation; health, disability and unpaid care; highest level of qualifications; labour market; communal establishment; and households.

Winter 2022/23 Northern Ireland and Local Government District
Release 3

Multivariate Data Tables:

Standard tables with multivariate statistics for the key census variables.

A specification of the standard tables will be released in advance.

Spring 2023 Northern Ireland and Local Government District
Release 4

Flexible Table Builder:

All main census topics in the initial two releases will be available in a table builder application. This will allow users to access a host of tables on the census.

Spring/summer 2023 Northern Ireland and Local Government District
Final staged releases

Final Releases (staged):

Census 2021 statistics from releases 2 and 3 will become available for remaining smaller geographies. The extra geographies will include Towns and Villages of Northern Ireland and a number of other smaller geographies.

The Census 2021 commissioned table service will start.

The Census 2021 grid square product will also be released.

Summer 2023 All available geographies

Census 2021 First Release: Population and Household Statistics

The first release of Census 2021 statistics was published at 9.30 am on 24 May 2022 and is available via the NISRA website. The statistics are published in rounded form and include the following:

  • the population of Northern Ireland by age and sex
  • the household and communal establishment population of Northern Ireland
  • the number of households for Northern Ireland

Census Office published a statistical bulletin alongside the first release of Census 2021 statistics. This highlights key trends or changes in our population and housing. Data visualisations, such as population pyramids, were also provided. There is also information on the changes in the Northern Ireland population from Census 1851 to Census 2021.

Initial reports on quality assurance and methodology were also published as part of the first release.

Census population statistics will be complemented by the NISRA population estimates series. Population estimates roll forward census statistics and adjust for components of population change (such as births, deaths and migration) to provide estimates of the population, by age and sex, at 30 June each year. The next release of NISRA population estimates is planned for autumn 2022.

Census 2021 Second Release: Univariate Main Statistics

The second release of Census 2021 statistics will be in two phases. These will include key summary statistics for each of the main census topics for Northern Ireland and the 11 Local Government Districts.

All tables in this release will be based on either the usual resident population or on all households containing usual residents. Tables will include univariate statistics, meaning they will contain data from just one variable.

The current planned table specifications for the second release are provided in Census 2021 draft table specifications for univariate statistics (Excel, 123KB). The table specifications will be subject to update as table layouts are finalised.

Univariate Main Statistics (1) – statistics for the main equality characteristics

Phase 1 of the second release was published on 22 September 2022. Census Office will publish the topics listed below in this release:

  • ethnicity
  • country of birth
  • national identity and passports held
  • religion, religion or religion brought up in
  • language (main, and knowledge of Irish and Ulster-Scots)
  • finalised, unrounded estimates for the population and household statistics published in the first release

Final table layouts (Excel, 283KB) for this release are available to download.

Univariate Main Statistics (2) –statistics for remaining characteristics

Phase 2 of the second release is planned to be published in winter 2022/23. Census Office will publish the topics listed below in this release:

  • marital status
  • household composition
  • living arrangements
  • sexual orientation
  • health, disability and unpaid care
  • highest level of qualifications
  • labour market data
  • communal establishment data
  • household data

Census 2021 Third Release: Multivariate Data Tables

A series of pre-defined tables is planned to be published in spring 2023. This release will contain multivariate data for the key census topics. The statistics will be based on the usually resident population of Northern Ireland or on all households containing usual residents.

These tables will be multivariate, meaning that they will contain data from more than one variable.

The current planned table specifications for the third release, are provided in Census 2021 draft table specifications for multivariate statistics (Excel, 139KB). The table specifications will be subject to update as table layouts are finalised.

Census 2021 Fourth Release: Flexible Table Builder

Census Office plan to have a flexible table builder system in operation after the first three releases are complete. This is planned to be available in spring/summer 2023.

All standard variables at Local Government District level will be available in the flexible table builder. Further data and geographies may be added to the system.

This release will allow users to combine variables – the system will take a user's request and create the output. The planned set of variables and classifications that users will be able to select from are still in development.

This section will be updated with further details when it is available.

Final Releases (staged over summer 2023)

The final releases are planned to be made available in stages over summer 2023.

Census 2021 Statistics for Small Areas and Super Output Areas

Two new statistical geographies (similar to Census 2011 Small Areas and Super Output Areas) are being developed. Census 2021 data will be made available for these new statistical geographies. This dataset is planned for release in summer 2023.

The new Census 2021 statistical geographies will be made available in advance of the first census outputs using them. It is hoped that this will allow users the opportunity to gain an understanding of these geographies ahead of first use for census dissemination. The current plan is for the new geographies to be published in autumn 2022, with an awareness session likely to be provided around the same time.

Census 2021 Statistics for Towns and Villages

Due to the ongoing demand for statistics about towns and villages, Census Office will use Settlement Development Limits (SDLs) to produce Census 2021 statistics on Towns and Villages. This dataset is planned for release in summer 2023.

Further information on Census 2021 statistical output geographies (PDF 116KB) is available to download.

Census 2021 Commissioned table service

Where it is not possible for users to create the outputs they need themselves, users can request that Census Office produce and supply them. The statistics will only be released if the requested data passes statistical disclosure checks. This service is planned to start in summer 2023.

Census 2021 Statistics for Grid Squares

To support the examination of trends over time, Census Office has published grid square statistics for the last five censuses (since 1971). The geographic base for these outputs is the Irish Grid, and census statistics are produced for 100 metre and 1 kilometre grids. A Census 2021 Grid Square statistics product will be produced for population and household counts for the combination of 1km and 100m grid squares.

This dataset is planned for release in summer 2023. Further details on this release will be published in due course.

Census 2021 Specialist Releases

After the publication of the main releases, a number of specialist products will be created.

Initial proposals are outlined, with more detailed plans for these specialist releases still in development. These plans will be published when available. If you wish to request further information on any specialist release, or you have proposals for a different one, please get in touch via email census@nisra.gov.uk.

Census 2021 Specialist release – UK Armed Forces veterans

By using information from the Ministry of Defence with census data, Census Office will create a number of tables on UK Armed Forces veterans living in Northern Ireland. These statistics will be subject to enhanced disclosure control, but where possible will include statistics on veteran status by demography, employment status, qualifications and health, disability and unpaid care. Further details of these plans will be released as they become available.

Census 2021 Alternative population base statistics

Alternative population bases relate to statistics on the various locations where individuals were counted in Census 2021. Examples include place of study or daytime populations.

Clearly there will be effects of the coronavirus pandemic on such data. As the Census provides a snapshot in time, and captures patterns at census day, final plans for these datasets are still in development. Further details will be released as they become available.

Census 2021 Microdata products

Census Office plan to produce, as a minimum, the same microdata products as Census 2011. These are listed below:

  • Teaching microdata file – A publicly available microdata file containing anonymised records on a limited set of variables for a random sample of 1% of individuals from Census 2021 for Northern Ireland.
  • Safeguarded microdata file – A safeguarded microdata file which will consist of a random sample of 5% of individuals from Census 2021 for Northern Ireland. This file will not be made publicly available and will only be made available under licence and control from Census Office.
  • Secure microdata file – The secure microdata file will consist of two random samples of 10%, one a sample of the individuals and one a sample of households from the 2021 Census for Northern Ireland. This file will not be made publicly available and will only be made available under licence and control from Census Office.
  • Ireland and Northern Ireland teaching microdata file – Additionally for Census 2021, Census Office and Central Statistics Office, Ireland, plan to work together to investigate producing a census microdata product for Ireland and Northern Ireland. This product will be guided by the teaching microdata file. Further details will be published as soon as they are available.

Northern Ireland Longitudinal Study inclusion of Census 2021 data

The Longitudinal Study (NILS) is a dataset incorporating a sample of data from the 1981, 1991, 2001 and 2011 Censuses. Census Office will enhance this resource with data from Census 2021. This resource, access to which is restricted, is planned to be updated in late 2023/24. Further information is available on the Northern Ireland Longitudinal Study research support pages of the NISRA website.

United Kingdom 2021/22 Census data

The Northern Ireland and Scotland Registrars General and the United Kingdom National Statistician released a "Statement of Agreement" on the conduct of the 2021 round of UK censuses. Whilst the census in Scotland was held in March 2022, officials are still planning for 2021/22 United Kingdom census data outputs to be produced.

This work is being driven by a UK census data group. If you use United Kingdom census data and wish to contribute to this group please get in touch via email census@nisra.gov.uk.

Ireland and Northern Ireland 2021/22 Census data

NISRA and Central Statistics Office (CSO), Ireland, presented a joint Ireland and Northern Ireland 2011 census report (PDF 5.6MB). This presented analysis across demography, ethnicity, place of birth, religion, health and care, housing and travel to work or study.

In 2018 an agreement between the CSO Director General and the Registrar General was signed on Census 2021. Whilst the census in the Republic of Ireland was held in April 2022, officials are still planning to produce a joint report on statistics from the 2021/22 censuses.

Census 2021 statistics on small populations

Census Office will where possible, produce bespoke tables for small populations. Small populations can be defined by country of birth, ethnic group, religion, or any other characteristic or geography recorded on the census form. If you wish to request bespoke tables for a small population group please get in touch via email census@nisra.gov.uk.

Census 2021 origin-destination data

Origin-destination data from the census provides aggregate statistics from census returns on the movement of people from one location to another. Examples include migration (address one year ago) and workplace or place of study flows. More information can be found on the origin-destination page on the UK Office for National Statistics website. Census Office plan to produce origin-destination data from Census 2021, which will give a unique snapshot of such flows during the pandemic.

NISRA Population and Migration estimates

After each census, NISRA revise the annual population estimates series. A revision exercise using the results of Census 2021 will also be carried out. More details on the timeline for release of population estimates is on the population statistics work plan page of the NISRA website.


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