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Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC)
Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC)
Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC)


Ethnicity in the 2021 Scottish census


29 January 2019     updated 24 February 2019

NRS Census logos

SCoJeC has been asked by National Records of Scotland (NRS) to assist with their planning for the next census in 2021, by asking members of the Jewish Community to test different versions of questions of particular relevance to us.

Most significantly, they are considering whether to include "Jewish" as an option for the Ethnicity question (as well as for Religion, as previously). We believe this matters, because we know from research after previous censuses that of people who identify as Jewish, and may therefore wish to use culturally specific communal welfare and social facilities, 1 in 3 did not tick "Jewish" under the Religion question.

There are two main reasons why we believe that including "Jewish" in the ethnicity question will yield a more accurate estimate of the number of people who identify in some way as Jewish. First, as Jonathan Boyd of the Institute of Jewish Policy Research (JPR) recently wrote in the Jewish Chronicle: "more British Jews situate themselves at the secular end of the scale than the religious end, by 28% to 18%. The implication is that Jewishness doesn't really sit in the category of a 'religion'… It is also a civilisation, an ethnicity, a culture, a heritage, a nationality." Since, as he goes on to say, this group does identify as Jewish in other ways — ethnic, national and historical — they count as part of our community, so we need the ethnicity question to count them.

This was implicitly recognised by the UK Government in its White Paper in December, which lays out the proposals for the 2021 Census in England and Wales. This recognises the need for robust, accurate data on the ethnic group category and proposes improvements for equalities monitoring following the census. It acknowledges that "data collections on ethnic group across the public sector are not consistent. In addition, religion is little monitored across government. … for communities including the Sikh, Jewish, and Roma communities this means many aspects of their communities' needs are hidden at present and that this needs to change. "

Secondly, this is all the more important for us in Scotland, where the religion questions asks "What … do you belong to?" (whereas the English census asks "What … are you?"), so people who do not belong to formal Jewish organisations, as well as people who feel an ethnic or cultural affinity but are not religious, may not feel that it is appropriate to answer to "Jewish" to that question. Even religiously observant Jews in places where there is nothing to belong to may truthfully respond that they belong to nothing.

SCoJeC has therefore argued for including "Jewish" as an option under Ethnicity as well as under Religion, in order ensure that everyone who identifies as Jewish in any way is able to do so, and in response to our submissions, NRS have how decided to test a version of the Ethnicity question that includes a tick box for "Jewish". They are eager to hear the views of Jewish people who live in Scotland, consider themselves to be Jewish, and are aged 18 and over.

The survey closed on 8th February, and NRS have told us:

NRS received a very good response from the Jewish community in Scotland. This is essential in the development of these questions for Scotland's Census 2021, so thank you to everyone who participated in the survey.

SCoJeC is also very grateful to everyone who responded, since including this question in the next census will help determine resource allocation to communal services and facilities for the next decade. We will post a link to the results here when these are published in late March.


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Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation no. SC029438