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How to use data sources: The Office For National Statistics

This is about the office for national statistics data, who can use it and how to use it.

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This is part of Sapio Research’s series: 16 Useful Desk Research Sources and how to use them

What is it?

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is responsible for collecting and publishing statistics relating to the economy, population and society at national, regional and local levels. Their statistics are published in over 600 releases a year. What is more, it is possible to request extra information on bespoke topics. 

The ONS produces a range of economic and social statistics:

  • The UK’s national accounts (GDP, national income and expenditure)
  • The UK balance of payments
  • Population, demography and migration statistics
  • Government output and activity
  • Business output and activity
  • Prices statistics
  • The labour market
  • Vital events statistics
  • Social statistics
  • Economic, societal and personal well-being.

The ONS designs and runs the national census in England and Wales, which occurs every ten years.

The ONS lists publications that have used their statistics. This feature allows users to track how the data has already been used. They produce very detailed reports with commentary explaining the data and trends. These detailed reports are a great partner for understanding the raw data.

The ONS offer a range of services:

  • Interdepartmental Business Register (IDBR)
  • Opinions and Lifestyle Survey
  • Methodology Advisory Service
  • Training services
  • Virtual Microdata Laboratory (VML)
  • Longitudinal Study (LS)

Anything published by the ONS on their website is free. However, personalised requests may incur charges in line with a regime set by parliament.

Who can use it?

Their statistics are official statistics and are used by:

  • Citizens to get a view of society, and the work and performance of the government. The ONS data allows citizens to assess the impact of the government.
  • Parliaments and other political assemblies to gain information about the state of the nation.
  • The Government to make informed decisions.
  • Ministers use them to construct a picture of the economy and society so they can develop and evaluate economic and social policies.
  • Businesses use the information to help them run effectively and efficiently.
  • Analysts, researchers, scholars and students can use the ONS to help with their work.
  • European Union and other international bodies so people can compare data across countries.

How to use it

The main use for the ONS, is its open source data tables. These can be accessed by selecting a category from the banner bar.

Following this, you will be displayed an overview bulletin as well as the option to view more publications. Select a data table you would like to view, or select view more.

Once you have selected your report, simply press download.

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