Information on legislation associated with the 2021 Census in Northern Ireland, includes a statement of agreement between the National Statistician and the Registrars General for Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Censuses in Northern Ireland are governed by the Census Act (Northern Ireland) 1969.

Census Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020

The Census Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 came into operation on 17 July 2020.

The Census Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 enable the Census Order (Northern Ireland) 2020 to be carried into effect and sets out in detail key elements of the Census process. The purpose of the Census Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 is to:

  • make provision for the operational arrangements and procedures necessary for the conduct of the 2021 Census
  • prescribe the paper questionnaires and provide details on the various online questionnaires that will be used in Schedules to the Regulations

Census Order (Northern Ireland) 2020

The Census Order (Northern Ireland) 2020 was laid before the Assembly in draft and approved on 5 May 2020. While the Department of Finance has central authority for the conduct of the census, the Census Act (Northern Ireland) 1969 specifies that the First Minister and deputy First Minister must first direct that a census is taken. This Order directs that a census should be taken in 2021. 

The Census Order (Northern Ireland) 2020 was approved by the Executive Office Committee at its 12 March 2020 meeting and was further approved by the Department of Finance Committee on 18 March 2020.

Census legislation in the rest of the UK

Office for National Statistics (ONS) and National Records of Scotland (NRS) conduct the census in England-Wales and Scotland, respectively. The respective administrations and legislatures are responsible for census legislation, which is in place and permits the holding of the next census in these parts of the UK; related information is available on the ONS and NRS websites.   

Census Impact Assessments

A number of statutory impact assessments for the 2021 Census in Northern Ireland are available to download. These include:

  • 2021 Census Regulatory Impact Assessment
  • 2021 Census Data Protection Impact Assessment
  • 2021 Census Equality Impact Assessment Screening Template

Introduction of the Census (Return Particulars and Removal of Penalties) Bill

On 1 May 2019, the Census (Return Particulars and Removal of Penalties) Bill had its first reading in the House of Lords. The Bill will amend the Census Act (Northern Ireland) 1969 to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the Schedule as matters on which questions may be asked in the census and to remove the penalty for not responding to these questions if asked.  The Registrar General’s 2021 Census Proposals Document published on 3 April 2019 sets out plans for the next census in Northern Ireland.  It is proposed that a question on sexual orientation is asked for the first time in the 2021 Census and this legislation will ensure that this question would be answered on a voluntary basis.

The conduct of the 2021 and 2022 Censuses in the UK

An updated statement of agreement between the National Statistician and the Registrars General for Northern Ireland and Scotland about the next Censuses to be conducted throughout the UK has been released. The previous statement of agreement included the intention to conduct them simultaneously throughout the UK in 2021. A similar agreement was developed for the 2011 Censuses that is believed to have enhanced the extent of harmonisation across the 2011 Censuses throughout the UK.

Previous progress updates

The original statement of agreement between the National Statistician and the Registrars General for Northern Ireland and Scotland was published in October 2015, outlining the principles that the three census offices would work on together to ensure the 2021 censuses are successful in:

  • providing high-quality population and housing statistics for the UK
  • meeting the needs of data users
  • reflecting UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), Eurostat and other international requirements

2021 Census - Consultative arrangements

The working arrangement between Central Statistics Office, Ireland & Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency on consultative arrangements for 2021 Census.