Skip to content

Census 2021

Census 2021 Banner

On this page, you will find the Cornish results from the Census undertaken in 2021.

The census happens every 10 years and gives us a picture of all the people and households in England and Wales. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, they undertake their own version of the census – that we can use to compare to local figures. To find out more about why the census is undertaken, take a look at the ONS Census history website.

The last census took place in 2011, so this release gives us an incredibly up to date view of what Cornwall looks like! Past 2011 at a glance Cornwall Census data and 2011 Census overview of headline figures are available for reference.

ONS have released a custom area profile which includes Parish and Ward geographies.

Below is the Cornish picture on releases that have already been published:

These statistics should not be compared to the Indices of Multiple Deprivation in England statistics. The IMD is an area-based index of deprivation whereas the census deprivation statistics are at a household level. The IMD remains the primary indicator to measure deprivation as it uses a much larger basket of indicators across broader themes. The next IMD release is expected in September 2023.

This release is insightful, but we do not recommend that the Census deprivation data is relied upon for policy setting purposes. But could help target delivery in our services.

For example, the household deprivation measure has some significant limitations. One of the primary drivers of deprivation in Cornwall is low incomes. This measure does not factor this into its definition at all. Cornwall has historically had good employment levels but has low wages so again this has the potential to mislead. Also, this measure uses “no central heating” as an indicator of deprivation. Yet it doesn’t consider if households are suffering from fuel poverty for example. 

The census has four area’s of deprivation that are compared, based on ONS selected household characteristics. Households were considered to be deprived if they met one or more of the following four dimensions of deprivation:

  • Employment: where any member of a household, who is not a full-time student, is either unemployed or long-term sick;
  • Education: no person in the household has at least five or more GCSE passes (grade A* to C or grade 4 and above) or equivalent qualifications. As well as no person aged 16 to 18 years is a full-time student;
  • Health and Disability: any person in the household has general health that is “bad” or “very bad” or is identified as disabled;
  • Housing: the household’s accommodation is either:
    • overcrowded, with an occupancy rating of negative 1 or less. (This implies that it has one fewer room or bedroom required for the number of occupants)
    • in a shared dwelling
    • has no central heating

In Cornwall..

The proportion of households deprived in Cornwall has fallen by 5.93% since the last census. This mirrors the fall seen in England and Wales average over the same period.

All areas of Cornwall saw an improvement in the number of households deprived by one of more dimensions (as outlined above). Yet, Cornwall still has a significant number of areas where over 60^ of households are deprived in at least 1 of those dimensions.

Analysis at smaller geographies reveals unseen pockets of household deprivation in Cornwall. It is therefore important to not just focus on the headline figures for the local authority. This is because difficulties at an individual household level are hidden within this data.

This briefing will be accompanied by our Demographic analysis very soon.

Here is the ONS general briefing on Demography and Migration.

Cornwall Council actively supporting are Veterans through the nationwide programme, ‘Armed Forces Covenant’. Please find more information on the Armed Forces Covenant webpage. In 2021, the Armed Forces Act was ratified into legislation. The legislation covers housing, healthcare and education. Cornwall Council first adopted our local Armed Forces Covenant in 2012.

This is the first time that data has been captured on Veterans within the Census.

The information captured informs us as an authority, and a county, of the pictures of veterans in Cornwall – with surprising results. Below we summarise the highlights, but for a more technical briefing please see the Veteran 2021 Census Topic Summary

The census data shows that Cornwall has 30,229 residents having previously served in the UK armed forces. This equates to 6.3% of Cornwall’s usual residents. This is nearly double of the UK average – sitting at 3.8%. Cornwall has the 7th highest percentage of all Upper Tier authorities in England and Wales. And the 13th highest number of all Local Authorities.

Percentage of the population aged 16 years and over who had previously served in the UK armed forces, 2021, local authorities in England and Wales

Within Cornwall, there are 28,198 households (11.26% of all households), with one or more persons who had served in the UK armed forces. The highest number of veterans residing in Cornwall are clustered around existing Military Bases. For example, such as Helston and Torpoint. Reflecting earlier analysis, Cornwall is in the top 10 of Upper Tier authorities whose households contain at least 1 veteran.

28,198 Cornish households (11.26% of all households) had one or more persons who had served in the UK armed forces within Cornwall. This compares to 10.7 million (7%) of all households in England and Wales.

To find out how Cornwall supports veterans please visit:

Here is the ONS general briefing the UK Armed Veterans release.  

On the 29th of November data relating to national identity, ethnicity, language, and religion was released from Census 2021.

In the lead up to Census day 2021 Cornwall Council ran the “Let’s tell them were Cornish” campaign. In absence of a Cornish tick box, people who wanted to identify as Cornish were encouraged to do so by writing in Cornish in the National Identity, Ethnic Group and Main Language sections. This was also accompanied by the examples being ‘Cornish’ on the forms as well as a ‘search-as-you-type’ facility on the online form.

The census results tell us that;

Over 100,000 people in England and Wales said their national identify was Cornish, 25,000 more people than 2011. 16.9% of Cornish residents stated Cornish as their national identity compared to 13.8% in the 2011 Census. ‘Cornish Only’ identity figures rose almost 30,000 in Cornwall.

48,553 people in England and Wales listed their ethnicity as solely ‘Cornish’. Within Cornwall 42,778 of residents (7.5%) identified their Ethnic Group as solely ‘Cornish’. That is double the 2001 figures of 24,235, and 21,416 respectively.

Cornish main language speaker numbers have remained similar and the language is still in the top 5 of main languages within Cornwall (English excluded).
This figure should not be used to identify the number of Cornish speakers – it would be an underestimate as the Census only asked what people's main language is.

For the first time, less than half of the population described themselves as “Christian”. “No Religion” was the most common response in Cornwall.

For a technical briefing please see the Identity, Ethnicity, Language and Religion headline summary.

Please see the ONS general briefing for the Identity, Ethnicity, Language and Religion release for more detail.

Cornwall Council has published The Cornwall Transport Plan as part of our statutory duty under the Local Transport Act 2008. This plan addresses many key themes about transport in Cornwall. These include the impact of Climate Change and the use of Sustainable Transport.  

Please see the The Cornwall Transport Plan, our action plan around Climate Change and our Active Travel page for more information.

The Census shows how far people travel to work and what transport they use to get there, every ten years.

The UK response to the Covid-19 pandemic changed travel behaviour. This affected the 2021 Census figures. For example:

  • Many people across the UK began working from home on 23 March 2020, when the first UK Lockdown began.
  • Census Day (21 March 2021) and the week prior, fell during the ‘Roadmap out of lockdown’ phase of the UK response. Please see the ‘Roadmap out of lockdown' for more information.

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) state the data is not comparable between 2021 and 2011. More information is available on the summary from ONS.

Listed below are some of the highlights of the 2021 results from the Travel to Work report. The proportions are for those aged 16 and over and in employment:

  • Almost a quarter of people (24.7% - 62,832) in Cornwall reported working mainly at or from home in 2021. This proportion was lower than in the South West (30.4%) and in England and Wales (31.2%).
  • Travelling to work as a driver of a car or van remains the most frequently used method in Cornwall (56.1% - 142,649).
  • 9.8% (25,022) travelled to work by foot in Cornwall compared to 7.6% for England and Wales combined. This was more frequently used than cycling to work.
  • 1.3% (3,410) travelled to work by bus, minibus or coach in Cornwall.
  • 1.9% travelled to work using public transport in Cornwall. In comparison to 3.4% for the South West and 7.9% for England and Wales. Public transport includes bus, minibus, coach, train, underground, metro, light rail and tram travel.

For a technical briefing please see the Travel to Work Summary

For the ONS general briefing on Travel to Work for more detail

There has been growth in households living in the private rented sector, which now houses almost 20% of households. There has also been an increase in households that own their home outright and a reduction in households that own with a mortgage. Further analysis of the Census shows;

  • The 2021 Census data shows that Cornwall has seen growth in the private rented sector. An additional 10,766 private rent households in the last decade. This accounts for nearly 1 in 5 households in Cornwall.
  • The number of households who own their homes has increased since 2011. More households own their homes outright. But there is a reduction in households that own their homes with a mortgage.
  • 1.6% of households in Cornwall live in a caravan or other mobile or temporary structure. This is the 2nd highest percentage among upper tier authorities in England and Wales.
  • The percentage of households in Cornwall with no central heating has almost halved. It still affects 8,776 households, making Cornwall rank 3rd highest among upper tier authorities in England and Wales.
  • Cornwall also has the third highest percentage of homes using at least one renewable energy source out of 174 upper tier authorities in England and Wales (3.3%). 3.5% of households have no central heating
  • There has been a reduction in the proportion of households in Cornwall without a car or van (15% in 2021 compared to 17.3% in 2011). 5% of households didn’t own a car or van
  • 4.9% of usual residents in Cornwall report staying at a second address for more than 30 days a year, which is slightly lower than the England and Wales average. The most common reason for having a second address was ‘Another parent or guardian's address’ and it is mostly used for holiday use.

Please see the Housing ONS summary release for more information.

There has been an increase in people with a level 4 qualification whilst we have seen a decrease in residents with no qualifications

  • The proportion of people in Cornwall with Level 4 qualifications and above is slightly below the average for England and Wales.
  • The second most common category in Cornwall was Level 3 qualifications. This is followed by those with no qualifications.
  • There is a higher percentage of people in Cornwall with Level 2 qualifications compared to the national average.
  • There is a lower percentage of people with Level 1 qualifications compared to the national average.
  • The data shows that education levels in Cornwall are similar to the national average. There are some variations in specific qualifications and categories.

Highest level of qualification - Census Maps, ONS

Level 4 qualifications include:

  • degree (BA, BSc)
  • higher degree (MA, PhD, PGCE)
  • NVQ level 4 to 5
  • HNC
  • HND
  • RSA Higher Diploma
  • BTEC Higher level
  • professional qualifications (for example, teaching, nursing, accountancy)

Level 4 or above:

  • Higher National Certificate
  • Higher National Diploma
  • Bachelor's degree or
  • post-graduate qualifications

Please see the Education ONS summary release for more information. 

56% of the 16+ population is economically active

Cornwall has a high level of self-employed, and part time workers

60% of people in employment work in wholesale, retail and motors, Health and social work, Construction, Accommodation and food services, and Education

  • The population of Cornwall aged 16 and over was 477,425, with 55.8% being economically active and 44.2% being economically inactive.
  • Cornwall had a lower share of economically active people compared to the England and Wales average. Cornwall had a higher share of economically inactive people.
  • Of the economically active people, 93% were employed, with 71% being employees and 22% being self-employed.
  • Self-employment accounted for 23.6% of all employed people in Cornwall. This was higher than the average of 17.1% across England and Wales.
  • A large portion of the employed people in Cornwall were part-time employees at 34.5%. Of the 174 local authorities, Cornwall was ranked third below Torbay and the Isle of Wight in terms of percentage of employed part-time workers.
  • The unemployment rate in Cornwall was lower than the England and Wales average.
  • The census shows that 46.7% of the population aged 16 and over were not in employment. This is higher than the England and Wales average due to a higher proportion of older people in the population.
  • There were 8,277 people classified as economically active students in Cornwall, with 74.7% of them being employed and 25.3% unemployed. The majority of these employed students were part-time employees, making up 85.8% of the total.
  • The largest sectors in Cornwall in 2021 were Wholesale, retail and motors, Health and social work, Construction, Accommodation and food services, and Education. These sectors made up 60% of all employment.
  • There have been a number of changes in the structure of employment by sector between 2011 and 2021. Overall, while ten declined in size, eight sectors grew.
  • The biggest declines in numerical terms were Manufacturing minus 2,889 (-15%), and Public admin etc, minus 1,490 (-9.6%). The largest increases were in Health & social work 6,778 (+20.5%), followed by Construction plus 5,298 (+24.1%).

Please see the Labour Market ONS summary release for more information.

Health inequalities persist with poorer health, disability and unpaid care a key feature of some of our most deprived areas

  • In Cornwall, 79.3% of residents reported good or very good health, with 6.2% reporting bad or very bad health. This is lower than the proportions reported for both the South West and England and Wales.
  • Whilst the proportions have remained relatively consistent, an additional 1,836 people identifying as having bad/very bad health compared to 2011. This is an increase of 5.5%.
  • The proportion of residents providing unpaid care in Cornwall is higher than the national and regional averages. Although it has decreased from 11.9% in 2011 to 10% in 2021 reflective of the trend in England and Wales.
  • Whilst most carers are providing less than 19 hours per week of unpaid care, a further 10,710 (2.0%) are providing between 20 and 49 hours per week and 17,516 (3.2%) are providing more than 50 hours per week.
  • An additional 1,660 people are providing unpaid care for 50+ hours a week compared to 2011.
  • 2,426 additional people are providing unpaid care for between 20 and 49 hours.
  • Disability affects 21.1% (120,000) of the population in Cornwall, making it one of the highest-ranking areas in England.
  • As would be expected there is some consistency in the areas reporting higher rates of bad/ very bad health and those reporting disability. 6 LSOA areas appear in the highest reported rates of both, 5 of these LSOAs feature in the 10% most deprived areas of England (IMD 2019).

Please see the Health, Disability and Carers ONS summary release for more information.

Nearly 3% of the Cornish population identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or other (LGB+)

First official data on the size of the transgender population in Cornwall is released to help support anti-discrimination duties under the Equality Act 2010 and aid allocation for resources

  • The latest census data in Cornwall reveals that 1,670 people (0.35%) identify as transgender.
  • Higher concentrations of transgender residents live in major population centres such as Falmouth and Newquay.
  • The data was collected to aid anti-discrimination efforts and resource allocation.
  • The responses from the survey were similar to those from the South West and England and Wales. 94% of the population aged 16 and over responded.
  • The majority of respondents (93.9%) identified their gender identity as the same as their sex registered at birth.
  • A total of 5.8% did not answer the question on gender identity, which is similar to the national average.
  • The 2021 Census in Cornwall also provided new insight on the population of LGB+ residents.
  • 3% of the population aged 16 and over identified as LGB+ (14,140 people). This is similar to the national average of 3.2% in England and Wales.
  • The most common responses among LGB+ residents were gay or lesbian (1.35%) and bisexual (1.3%).
  • The areas of Cornwall with a higher percentage of LGB+ residents tend to be located in the west of the county and around major population centres, which is a trend seen across England and Wales.

Please see the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity ONS summary release for more information.

Your feedback is important to us

Help us improve our service