London: A census being held this year in Britain will ask people about their gender identity for the first time, the country's national statistician said on Friday.
The census, which will be held on March 21 in all regions except Scotland, will include the question after asking for people's legal sex, Professor Sir Ian Diamond told BBC radio.
"We will be asking for the first time a voluntary question later in the questionnaire about gender identity," he said, specifying that this will only apply to people over 16.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has published a recommended question which asks whether a person's gender identity is the same as their legal sex, and if not, asks them to enter what it is.
It said that the information is needed because "there are currently no official figures for those who identify their gender as different from the sex registered at birth".
Scotland's chief statistician has suggested that the question on biological sex should no longer be asked as it is an invasion of privacy for those who identify as another gender.
Relevant to medical treatment
Scotland's statistician, Roger Halliday, in draft guidelines published in December, said that questions about biological sex should only be asked where relevant to medical treatment. "Such a question is likely to breach an individual's human privacy", he said.
Diamond disagreed on Friday, saying it was "the right question to ask".
"The question on sex is precisely the same question as it has been since 1801 and we haven't... since that time breached any privacies," he said.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the census will be held largely online, Diamond said.
Scotland has postponed its census to March 2022 because of the pandemic, so UK-wide results will be collated later.
The last UK census was in 2011 and that included Scotland.
Several other countries including Nepal and Bangladesh have added a "third gender" option to censuses for people who are transgender.