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Office for National Statistics

From Academic Kids

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is the UK government agency charged with the collection and publication of government statistics. Most publications can be downloaded free, and it is possible to create customised downloads too.

It was formed on 1 April 1996 by the merger of the Central Statistical Office, the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys (OPCS) and the statistical divisions of the (now defunct) Department of Employment. Its first Director was Tim Holt. Directors are de facto Permanent Secretaries but do not use that title. As the ONS incorporates the OPCS, the Director is also the Registrar General for England and Wales. He (it has not yet been she) is also ex officio the Head of the Government Statistical Service.

The Government has now introduced the concept of National Statistics, so the Director has yet another title, National Statistician.

Where data is broken down by geographical area, this is usually done by the areas defined in the ONS coding system.

The principal areas of data collection are:

  • Agriculture, Fishing and Forestry
  • Commerce, Energy and Industry
  • Crime and Justice
  • Economy
  • Education and Training
  • Health and Care
  • Labour Market
  • Natural and Built Environment
  • Population and Migration
  • Public Sector and Other
  • Social and Welfare
  • Transport, Travel and Tourism

It should be noted that statisticians are to be found in many other Government departments and agencies, and these statisticians often collect and publish data. For example, data on Agriculture, Fishing and Forestry come primarily from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

The Office for National Statistics won the 2004 Big Brother Award for the "Most Heinous Government Organisation" from the campaigning organisation Privacy International for its Citizen Information Project. The project is one of several that lead the Government's own Information Commissioner to warn that there is a danger of the country "sleepwalking" into a surveillance society.

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