Questions about sexual orientation and gender identity to be included on UK census

While this valuable data will be gathered across the UK in the upcoming census, Ireland's 2021 census will not include similar questions.

UK census feminine person with rainbow fringe holds a rainbow flag

The Office for National Statistics in the UK has announced that they will include questions concerning gender identity and sexual orientation in the upcoming England and Wales census.

Answers to the questions, which will be voluntary and for people aged 16 or over, will be used “help build a clearer picture for policy-makers and service providers.”

“Without robust data on the size of the LGBT population at a national and local level, decision-makers are operating in a vacuum, unaware of the extent and nature of disadvantage which LGBT people may be experiencing in terms of educational outcomes, employment, and housing”, Iain Bell, the ONS deputy national statistician, told the Observer.

Previously, data on sexual orientation has been gathered at regional levels across the UK but this will be the first time the data will be collected by a census in England and Wales.

Scotland will conduct a separate census in 2022 which will also include questions regarding gender identity and sexual orientation.

The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency also plan to include questions on sexual orientation and gender identity for the first time in their 2021 census.

In Ireland, LGBTQ+ advocates and groups have called on the Government to include sexual orientation and gender identity on the Census 2021 to “provide an honest view of Irish society” and correct a “historic wrong”.

BeLonG To and TENI made submissions for the inclusion of more options under the heading of gender identity including non-binary and BeLonG To also called for the inclusion of a question on sexual orientation with options including gay, straight, queer or other.

The current Irish census includes one question about gender, which asks ‘what is your sex?’ with the only options being ‘male’ or ‘female’.

Following a public consultation in 2017, the Central Statistics Office decided that questions sexual orientation and gender identity will not appear on the 2021 Census.

They added that they will reconsider adding such questions ahead of the 2026 Census.

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