Selected Subjects: Workplace

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4.13 Workplace

4.13.1 1921

In 1921 householders in England and Wales were asked to state the address of the place of work of each enumerated person. Increased transport facilities, combined with the increasing tendency in a highly organized and industrialized people to live in suburban residential areas, suggested the need to obtain some measurement of the daily movement of population to and from places of work. The question on the schedule, included under the general heading of Occupation and Employment, was:

Place of Work

Give the address of each person's place of work. For a person with no regular place of work write 'No fixed place .

If the work is carried on mainly at home, write 'at home'

(No entry is required for any person who is retired or out of work).

Figures, partly provisional, relating to London and the Home Counties, were published as a supplement to the London County Part. This was later followed by the report on Workplaces. There were many uses to which the statistics might be applied and the tables were, therefore, of a general character. Some returns were defective in that no statement of workplace was given. This occurred in the case of persons out of work at the date of the census (from whom the enumerators had failed to obtain particulars of the last place of work in accordance with special instructions they had been given) and where the addresses given were insufficient for purposes of classification. For the whole country the 'not stated' cases amounted to 2.8 per cent of the total occupied population.

Another unfortunate defect, due to the postponement of the census until June, was the inclusion of varying proportions of visitors in returns from holiday and other resorts. In such areas the census or de facto population was in excess of the resident or de jure population and visitors included in the holiday population were recorded amongst those working outside the area. In these cases the normal tidal movement between workplace and residence was not truly represented by the relation between recorded work¿places and place of enumeration, the divergence varying with the amount of the local inflation. Details of the extent of inflation in certain areas of England and Wales were given in Appendix A to the General Report, 1921.


The statistics for England and Wales were presented in detail in three tables in the report on Workplaces. Table I classified the occupied popu¿lation of each sex enumerated in every area according to the four descriptions of workplace:

  1. Workplace in the area.
  2. No fixed workplace.
  3. Workplace not stated.
  4. Workplace outside the area.
  5. The numbers working within the area but enumerated elsewhere.

In Table I were analysed in detail, but without distinction of the sex. The third table gave a summary, for each county and every urban area with a population of more than 20,000 persons, of the enumerated population, the day population, the gross movement in and out of the area and the net movement. The movements of population recorded in the census statistics were far less than the real total number. The tables only showed movements in which administrative area boundaries were crossed.



The 1951 Census question on the location of place of work of the persons in employment was similar to that asked at the 1921 Census when it was first introduced, but in 1951 the workplace information was tabulated against the area of usual residence and not, as in 1921, by the area of enumeration. Except that persons whose usual residence was outside England and Wales were treated as though they resided in the area of enumeration; and people with workplaces outside England and Wales were treated as working in the area of usual residence.


In both 1921 and 1951, the addresses of workplace were copied, by enumer¿ators, on to postcards which were coded by Census Officers before being sent to the Census Office for use in preparing tabulations. A fuller description of this procedure will be found elsewhere in this chapter under Usual Residence and at pages 14 and 15 of the General Report .

The published tables show for every borough and county district how many persons resident in that area had a workplace in another area and vice versa. This enables comparisons to be made between the day and night population in each area. The tables also give some indication of journey to work in so far as this involves crossing local authority boundaries.

Interpretation of the data

Differences between place of residence and place of work within the same local authority area are not revealed; the larger the extent of the local authority area, the greater the possibility of such concealed movement. On the other hand, in large built-up areas comprising several local authorities or for small towns surrounded by rural areas, a considerable amount of very short distance movement was included simply because local authority boundaries are crossed.

Quality of data

The main errors which became apparent at tabulation stage were due to the recording of a Head Office address, instead of local place of work, or of 'no fixed workplace'. To provide this evidence investigations were made, by referring back to the schedule, of some improbable cases and these are fully documented in the commentary to the main volume.

It should also be remembered that data is not only affected by error in recording of workplace but by errors in recording of usual residence (see A.14). These inaccuracies may also multiply the apparent degree of workplace movement.

Publications - England and Wales

The main publication is the Report on Usual Residence and Workplace where the more detailed tables give numbers of persons resident in one area working in another and vice versa for every area of residence and workplace in combination including new towns.

Workplace movement is also shown in the report Greater London and Five Other Conurbations and while the Industry Tables do not show the movement of workers they are based on the population in employment by area of workplace.

Publications - Scotland

No subject volume was produced for Scotland, and the only data is in the volume Occupations and Industries where in addition to an Industry Table based on area of workplace a text table is given, based on the seven main cities, of distance and travelling time involved in getting to place of work.


For 1961, the question on workplace was unchanged, but this topic was only included on the ten per cent schedule.

Change in population included

Workplace was again tabulated by area of usual residence but, unlike 1951, persons with either a usual residence or a workplace outside England and Wales were excluded from the tabulations. Also members of the Armed Forces were included in the figures for total economically active residents but were excluded from all workplace movements.


The method used in 1951 for assigning area codes of workplace by the completion of postcards sent through the mail was discontinued and coding was shared by the local Census Officers and Census Branch, Titchfield. This change of procedure is again fully explained in 4.14 and at pages 23 and 24 of the General Report .

Sampling error and bias

As the workplace question was contained on the sample schedule the inherent sampling errors affect these counts as much as any other subject. The data is also subject to bias particularly where the additional axes of socio-economic group, occupation and industry are used. For details see 7.2 and 7.3.

Quality of response

No measure of quality for workplace is available and the persons completing the form had not been given specific guidance if they worked and lived in one area during the week and lived in some other area at the weekend. But evidence from the post-enumeration survey shows that just under ten persons in a thousand (of whom approximately three in a thousand were school¿children, students, or armed forces) had more than one usual residence.

Publications - England and Wales

The main volume is Workplace Tables which is similar to the 1951 publication but includes more data for the new areas of tabulation; conurbations, conurbation centres and remainders. It also has additional tables giving, for persons in employment, their socio-economic group, occupation and industry. The Industry Tables (and leaflet tables) are again, as in 1951, based on area of workplace.

Publications - Scotland

Tables, similar to those for England and Wales, are published in volume VI Occupation, Industry and Workplace .

4.13.3 Workplace and Transport to work, 1966

Change in population included

In the 1966 Sample Census the workplace question was again unchanged in intention and was almost word for word similar to that used in 1961.

There were however several major changes in the population included in the tabulations. First there was a reversion to the 1951 procedure in that the Armed Forces were included in workplace movements. Secondly, while persons living or working outside Great Britain were still excluded from all tabu¿lations, persons resident in England and Wales with a workplace in Scotland and persons resident in Scotland with a workplace in England and Wales were included.

It should also be noted that if comparison is made with persons in employ¿ment in the Economic Activity Tables the figures are slightly higher in the economic tabulations which include 9,710 people usually resident outside Great Britain with a workplace in England and Wales.

Change in layout of form

The question on place of work (question 15) was deliberately separated from that on employer and employer's business (question 12) in order to avoid the confusion which has arisen in the past in some peoples minds between 'employer's address' and 'place of work'. A large firm with several establishments in different areas may have one address but several places of work or may just have a head office address and the employees may be travellers who should have answered 'no fixed place'.

New questions

The scope of the workplace tabulations was also enlarged by the advent of two completely new questions. The first was concerned with the main means of transport to work and read:

'16 What method of transport does the person normally use for the longest part, by distance, of the journey to the place of work given in reply to question 15?'

Another new topic, allied to transport to work but directed to the household, was at question 27, the relevant part of which reads:

'27(a) How many cars, including vans, taxed wholly or in part as private vehicles, are owned or used exclusively by you or members of your household?'

Only this part of question 27 was used in the workplace and transport tables (Table 9). Both parts of this question, (Part (b) concerns cars by garaging arrangements and type of building), are used in the County F&port series (Tables 13A and B) and in the Great Britain Summary Tables (Tables 13 and 14).

Quality of response

measurement of quality has been possible but it is particularly important to realise that some people do not claim to be usually resident at the address from which they go to work. The cross tabulation of address of usual residence with address of place of work produces some unlikely combi¿nations, even more so for this census when means of transport is added as an extra axis of classification. The more unlikely combinations, if they are not due to processing error, are most likely due to the fact that the people concerned had either no settled place of usual residence, or more than one place of work, or both.

Publications - England and Wales

There is little change in the main publication except that the tabulations are published in two volumes with those relating principally to workplace in Part I .

It is important to the user however to note that the major table, relating to areas of residence and workplace in combination, is now divided into two separate tables; one by residence and the other by workplace. And, for each local authority area, there is an additional line of figures giving resident and working in the area.

Part II contains the new tabulations relating to transport and cars in household.

Tables on workplace and transport also appear in the United Kingdom General and Parliamentary Constituency Tables and, as for previous censuses, the Industry Tables are based on workplace for all area levels including sub-regions.

It should be noted that in the Economic Activity Leaflets the Occupations of the persons in employment have, for the first time, been tabulated by area of workplace.

Publications - Scotland

Similar tables were published for Scotland in one volume, Workplace and Transport Tables .

Unpublished data

Where, in the main tables, individual movements have been restricted (Tables 2 and 3) or where a local authority area is not shown because of thresholding of total inward or outward movement (Table 6) full tabulations are available in unpublished form for the cost of photocopying. Similarly for Tables 7-9, which show a reduced classification by means of transport to work, the full classification is available for the same areas.

Workplace movements

Also the statistics on journey to work classify areas of origin and destination only by local authority areas. Where the area is a large one, as in the case of a London Borough, the figures are less useful than they would be if a finer area classification were used which could identify areas within an authority where employment is concentrated.

Local authorities were circulated before census day advising them that journey to work tabulations using wards, parishes or enumeration districts as the area units of origin and destination would be prepared for the cost of the additional coding. Several authorities took advantage of this offer. Further information on this range of tabulations can be obtained from the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys, Titchfield.

In Scotland similar arrangements were made for journey to work tabulations using city or burgh wards, county council divisions or enumeration districts. Further information on this range of tabulations can be obtained from the General Register Office, Edinburgh.

Office of Population Censuses and Surveys/General Register Office, Guide to Census Reports: Great Britain 1801-1966 (London: HMSO, 1977) Crown Copyright. The Office of National Statistics has granted the Great Britain Historical GIS Project permission to computerise this publication and include it in this web site. All other rights reserved.

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