In 1798 demographer Thomas Malthus, published his essay on the ‘principle of population’. Malthus caused great concern by suggesting that population growth would soon outstrip supplies of food and other resources. Unable to support itself, Britain would be hit by famine, disease and other disasters. Concerned at this alarmist view of the future, people began to see the need for a census. Parliament passed the Census Act in 1800 and the first official census of England and Wales was on 10 March 1801. The first official head count revealed that Great Britain’s population at the time was 9 million. Since 1801 there has been a census every ten years except in 1941, during WWII.
The basic principles of census taking have remained the same but next year’s count on 27 March, at a cost of £490m, will be the last. It is the only time that everybody in the country is counted, and is used by the Government to determine spending priorities and track population movements. Academics, charities and religious organisations rely on information gathered, as the census asks wide-ranging questions relating to people’s households, nationality, faith and marital status. The information is also a significant source of research for future generations. The online publication last year of the 1911 census proved hugely popular, with 3 million people accessing the database within its first few months.
The Coalition government thinks Britain needs a new way to keep track of the population (using databases held by credit checking firms, Royal Mail, councils and Government) because the census was often inaccurate and out of date. About 1.5million households failed to fill in their forms in 2001. Under the 1920 Census Act, citizens can be cautioned under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act and fined £1,000 for failing to answer questions. However, the powers have not been properly enforced previously. In 2001 just 38 people were fined for not filling in forms.
In 2011, a total of 35,000 people will be required to deliver the last census across England and Wales. There are great opportunities to earn some extra cash close to home, as well as helping out the local community. There are vacancies for Census Collectors who contact householders to collect completed census questionnaires and assist where required. These roles provide flexibility around working hours – there is the choice of working 15, 25 or 37 hours a week, so individuals can fit the work around their current commitments. Special Enumerators deliver questionnaires to organisations such as care homes, hotels, prisons and help with their completion. If you or your friends are looking for extra work, particularly during the evening and at weekends, register your interest and apply by 13 December 2010 at the website www.censusjobs.co.uk