Posted: Thu 21st Nov 2019

Updated: Wed 26th Feb

Concerns over census national identity question

North Wales news and information
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Nov 21st, 2019

A lack of census tick boxes could risk confining Welsh national identity to only those from a white ethnic background, councillors have warned.
Set to next take place in 2021, the once a decade nationwide survey records the details of every UK citizen from their occupation and religion to education and sexuality.
But concerns over a lack of tick box to allow people to record themselves as Welsh and non-white has been flagged up by members of Gwynedd Council’s cabinet.
According to the draft questionnaire, the 2021 census is set to include options for people to describe themselves as Welsh, English, Scottish, Northern Irish or British within the ‘white’ ethnic group category.
Non-white respondents, however, will only be given tick boxes to describe themselves as ‘British’, with examples including “Asian” or “Asian British,” “Black” or “Black British”.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), all citizens have the right to manually fill-in their ethnic group if they don’t feel represented by the tick boxes on offer.
But this, say councillors,  could “force” some to “choose between being black or being Welsh” and have written to the ONS outlining their concerns.
Cllr Nia Jeffreys said: “People should not be forced by officialdom to chose between being Black or being Welsh – obviously there are many people who are both.
“I personally know many people in Gwynedd who are Welsh and Black or Welsh and Asian for example – and there must be thousands more across Wales and the UK.
“It is really important that this is recorded correctly in the census in 2021.
“There is still time to change the census questions and I hope our letter will make the Office for National Statistics see sense on this crucial matter.”
According to a 2016 council report, Gwynedd’s non-white population grew from 3.4% in 2011 to 4.6% in 2014. 
The letter, co-signed by Cllr Jeffreys and the council leader, Dyfrig Siencyn, adds: “The suggestion here, intentional or otherwise, is that Welsh identity (and English, Scottish etc) is confined to those of a white ethnic background.
“It is also implied that British identity is somehow more inclusive than Welsh, English etc, and applicable to a broader range of ethnic groups.
“This is unacceptable and increases the possibility of confusion and hostility amongst census respondents.”
With recent opinion polls showing an upturn in curiosity and/or support for the notion of Welsh independence, their letter went on to note that issues surrounding national identity in Wales are “complex” and that “current thinking and debate on these factors has evolved significantly since the last census” in 2011.
In response, a spokesperson for the ONS said: “In the 2021 Census everyone will have the opportunity to identify as they wish.
 “We’ve engaged widely with users in Wales and are proposing that anyone wishing to identify as “Welsh” and another category (including ‘Asian or Asian British’ and ‘Black, Black British, Caribbean or African’) will be able to do so by completing one of the write-in options.
“Our proposals for the 2021 Census were included in a recent government White Paper ‘Help Shape Our Future: The 2021 Census of Population and Housing in England and Wales” ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

By Gareth Williams – Local Democracy Reporter ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​



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