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  • Yelena McCafferty

Can you find a problem with the Census?

As yet another year draws to a close, the Office for National Statistics has released further details of the Census conducted in 2021 in England and Wales. One such publication was on the respondents’ main language, their English language proficiency as well as the household language.


I have analysed the data on a specific point of intertest and identified only one area with zero Russian-speaking residents. It’s the Scilly Isles.


On the numbers alone the following areas are at the top for Russian speakers:


The City of Westminster – 2,062 people

West Northamptonshire – 2,019 people

The London Borough of Tower Hamlets – 1,906 people

The London Borough of Greenwich – 1,724 people

The London Borough of Barnet – 1,506 people


The leader board changes however, when percentages of total usual resident population are applied:


Boston, Lincolnshire – 1.87%

The City of Westminster – 1.04%

The London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea – 0.95%

The London Borough of Tower Hamlets – 0.64%

The London Borough of Greenwich – 0.62%


Regrettably, here comes the flaw in all this: the question in the census was about your main language, not about your mother tongue or numerous language you are proficient in. When I completed the census, I ticked English as the main language as this is the main language we speak in our household and in the country in general. A native speaker of Russian I may be, I was not counted within these figures.


An obvious change since the census was conducted has been a significant number of Ukrainian refugees now living in England and Wales, some of whom will speak Russian as their main language. If the census were held this year, the overall results would have been different.


It’s not possible to break down the population to a specific country of birth as the data are split only into 12 country categories. Nor is it possible to use passport data to make further conclusions since the Office for National Statistics categorised holders of more than one passport only into 3 groups (UK passport, Irish passport, other country passport). Again this might have been a pointless exercise, judging by the number of documents we have translated this year for people who renounced their Russian citizenship. At the start of 2022 the Russian Consulate estimated there were about 70,000 Russian citizens living in the UK.


The census is usually held in England and Wales every ten years, however the future of the project overall is uncertain until 2023 when the Office for National Statistics is due to make a formal decision. What got me overexcited initially left me deflated as I have come to realise yet again there are “lies, damned lies and statistics.”


[Tip: We’ve been serving the Russian-speaking community in the UK since 2002 so if you need assistance with translating your personal documents, email us enquiry@talkrussian.com explaining your requirements.]



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