Who works where? What the 2011 Census tells us about co-workers and commutes

Have you ever noticed the same people on your train to work, getting off at your stop day in, day out, and wondered what do they do, how did they get on at school, or how long have they been on this train for (because they look like they have lost the will to live)?  Well, now, thanks to the innovative Workplace Zones, developed from the 2011 Census, we can find statistical answers to these questions – and more.  Workplace Zones have allowed for more data than ever to be released on the characteristics of workplace populations – characteristics such as the industries they work in, the qualifications they hold, and their level of health – to name but a few.

Workplace Zones: What and why?

Workplace Zones were created to enable the publication of data on people working within areas. The average population of a Workplace Zone is 500 people and there are 53,578 in England & Wales.

To ensure consistency and protect confidentiality, Workplace Zones are constrained to minimum working populations and workplace postcodes and, where possible, maximum working populations. Workplace Zones have been developed for England and Wales, but they might be extended to the rest of the UK in 2015.

A similar geography already exists based on the resident population, but Output areas aren’t useful for reporting on people who work in an area; they aren’t consistent in the number of workers or businesses within them, and some contain so few workers that it wouldn’t be possible to even publish any workplace data for them. The City of London highlights just how different these geographies can be:
140718 City of London

 Who works in a Palace like this?

To highlight how the information published on a Workplace Zone can be used, I want to look at an example – the snappily titled E33031155 workplace zone – home to the Palace of Westminster and, as the map shows, little else. 140718 Westminster

From the 2011 Census we learn that there were close to four thousand people aged 16-74 working in the Palace of Westminster Workplace Zone. This figure could potentially be inflated by people giving the Palace of Westminster address as their place of work when they are actually based elsewhere on the parliamentary estate. Because the census is self-reported, we have to remember that people interpret questions differently, and how they answer affects the data collated.

As you can see from the chart below, the range of ages of the people working in the Palace of Westminster Workplace Zone is interesting; compared to England, a greater proportion here are either in their twenties or are older than 55 – begging the question, where does everyone go in their thirties and forties?
140718 Age

Going back to my musings about people’s journey lengths, the Palace of Westminster workforce travel an average of 42km to work. This is significantly further than the London (18km) or national average (15km). As the below graph shows, workers in the Palace of Westminster Workplace Zone are also more likely to be highly qualified, work over 49 hours a week, and, be a male aged 55 or over. They are less likely to travel to work in a car.

140718 Characteristics

If this has whet your appetite for Workplace Zones, data for the 53,578 are available from www.nomisweb.co.uk, a partner of the ONS. The ONS has also developed a very useful interactive map.

In the coming weeks the Library will produce data on people working in parliamentary constituencies, using the information contained in Workplace Zones as building blocks. Look out for a further blog post making the constituency data available as an interactive tool.

Matthew Keep