How ONS plans to provide new analysis on the core issues facing our society

The ONS’ Population and Public Policy team has delivered many new insights over the past two years on the key issues facing our society today. Here, Deputy National Statistician Iain Bell reflects on some of the progress made and sets out his priorities for the coming months, which includes important work on towns and cities, further analysis of our ageing population and the continued modernisation of surveys.

From health to housing, life expectancy to loneliness, environment to earnings, and much more, the Population and Public Policy (PPP) team at the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shine a light on society for decision making from citizens to the heart of Government. This is our role in delivering Better Statistics, Better Decisions.

Earlier this year we introduced our Quarterly review, making it easier for users to find the analysis we have done. The latest version, released today, covers insights including the make-up of the high street and what matters to life satisfaction among other issues.

But users have also told us that they often don’t know what is coming and how to get involved.

Today we have therefore launched the first PPP Year Ahead: 2019/20 which looks forward to an exciting year of transformation, demonstrating the work we have got coming up over the next few months.

We have already achieved much. Alongside improvements to our main migration and crime products, we have provided new insights into loneliness, deaths of homeless people and high streets; made our statistics easier to navigate and introduced new cross-cutting products covering key issues such as the experiences of young people and the impact of the ageing society.

But we also know there is much more to do.

Our analytical priorities are to provide better statistics with greater impact on the core issues facing society such as migration, equalities, inclusion, housing and the characteristics of thriving towns. We will continue to improve our publications, their impact and reach to ensure decision-makers can easily find and use our statistics.

Just this week we’ve released two new pieces of work that demonstrate our desire to provide fresh insights and fill gaps in the evidence base.

  • Our Ethnicity Pay Gaps in Great Britain fulfils a need for more detailed information on how earnings vary for different groups of people. This is a first look at how ethnicity affects what you earn and it generated plenty of media coverage.
  • We’ve also introduced what will become a series of towns articles later this year. We often hear that towns are being left behind or struggling, even when we have record high employment rates and the national economy is growing. So is it true? Are some towns being left behind?

These represent the first of many new products being developed in the year ahead including health  projections, new measures of human capital and new information on public sector efficiency.

Our five centres will continue to be the vehicle for providing new analysis on core issues facing our society. In partnership with others, some of the examples of new analysis being worked on are:

  • The first official statistics report on religion (Centre for Equalities and Inclusion
  • Migration and the tourism industry (Centre for International Migration)
  • Providing new insights into the serious issue that is child abuse (Centre for Crime and Justice)
  • Health, employment and well-being in towns (Centre for Sub-National Analysis)
  • Older households and housing, the working patterns, and healthy ageing, as well as local and regional variations (Centre for Ageing and Demography)

Some of the ambitions for 2019 and 2020 will help shape the system of population and migration statistics for years to come.  We are undertaking the census dress rehearsal in 2019 to ensure the 2021 Census produces high quality estimates. Alongside this, in 2020, we aim to publish migration and population estimates based on administrative data, integrating where possible into our published headline statistics. This provides a key component in work to make recommendations on the future of population statistics.

Through modernising our systems, we are collecting data more efficiently than ever with over half a million business survey responses now online, and pilots of online social surveys being tested. Alongside this our dedicated team of people collecting data from businesses and citizens day-in, day-out continue to make it as easy as possible for the information to be provided.  This brings us full circle, as the greater the impact our statistics have, the more willing respondents are to give us their time.

This is an exciting year ahead so if you want to get in touch about any of the areas we are looking into, please do so.

Our two annexes provide further information and contact details for our priorities in PPP for 2019/20:

Annex A: analytical priorities

Annex B:  Making it easier for respondents to provide us with information


Iain Bell is Deputy National Statistician at the ONS