The Blog for Culture Vultures

Satiate your inner Culture Vulture with regular news and posts about cultural awareness, doing business abroad, working in a multicultural environment, HR diversity and global mobility.

33 Tips on Working in Multicultural Teams

33 Tips on Working in Multicultural Teams

Do you work in a culturally diverse team?

Here are 33 invaluable tips that will help improve communication, trust and team-spirit.

 
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British....what is it?

Louise Bawden asks the people of London (and from abroad) what they define as quintessentially British.

 



 

What is British? Let us know what you think:
1) Leave a comment below
2) Tweet us @_kwintessential
3) Post a comment on our Facebook page
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The NHS: Shocking Cost of Poor Translations



It’s always shocking to hear of taxpayers’ money going to waste in vast quantities: especially when it’s easily avoidable. Likewise, it’s always shocking to hear of suffering or death where this is easily avoidable. One of the key concerns for the NHS in the current savings drive is to ensure that services can be provided efficiently: helping people with healthcare needs for the lowest possible spend. When lives are on the line, quality cannot be compromised: price cannot be the bottom line.

A recent Freedom of Information Act request revealed that over £59,000 is spent on translation services2 every day in the UK3 within the NHS: and the immediate response to this information was panic. Advice was given to find a cheaper solution in machine translations, or cutting foreign language provision in favour of plain English. Responses were centred around cutting costs and minimising provision, with little concern for solutions that worked for both provider and user. However, experts in the fields of linguistics can point out the flaws of approaches that put translation costs as the bottom line; and can suggest logical ways of reducing costs and maximising efficiency without compromising on provision- indeed often offering savings in the long run.

One such expert is Katy Pritchard of Kwintessential. With an in-depth knowledge of both the public sector and the translation industry, she has today released a video outlining where the NHS could save money without compromising on quality.

In the video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7aTO08AVyc), Katy outlines how literal translations can be more costly than they are effective. Translations must not only reflect the original meaning of a document, but they must also be suitable for their target audience. In order to ensure that translation spend is efficient, producing a well tailored piece, and ensuring that it is made available in an appropriate manner is vital. Machine translations are unable to correctly and consistently translate grammar and contextual meaning. In the long run this can mean that time spent producing flawed and unusable translations will result in unnecessary suffering. In the long term, providing well translated information to assist patients with prevention offer the opportunity to save money in the long term.

Translation in the health industry gives a high return. It really is a case of spending to save, but this spend must be in the right area. Imagine if the NHS Direct website was multi-lingual. Surgeries and hospitals up and down the country would no longer need to translate their own documents on conditions or treatments, as they would be available centrally. Not only would this save the repeated spend, but also hours of administrative and doctors’ time would be saved as patients could access information online without the need for an appointment and in-person interpreters. These provisions would be available to all regardless of where they lived.

Developing a Translation Memory is critical. Translation Memory is a tool which records the translation of specific words, phrases and sentences, with consideration given to their context, which can then be used in future translations. This technology, which is very different from literal online machine translations such as Google Translate, can provide a considerable cost saving as words that have been used in a set context before do not need to be charged for translation again. The user gains all of the benefits of a high quality human translator with a good knowledge of the subject matter, and documents can be produced consistently and cheaply up and down the country.

Translation and interpreting facilities are essential provisions in the modern day NHS, but unfortunately are not ones that are ingrained into its structure. Living in a multicultural society it’s inconceivable to suggest that we should preclude individuals who need healthcare - who are already facing enough barriers in accessing this due to cultural norms or expectations - from being able to communicate with experts or understand the information which they need. Before panicking when sourcing translation in the NHS, the industry encourages provisioners to work smarter; and to reap the rewards.

Notes

    1. Kwintessential was established in 2003 and offers linguistic services and cultural awareness training.
    1. ‘Translation’ is rewriting text from one language to another. ‘Interpretation’ refers to oral translation only. The report linked below incorrectly uses the two terms interchangeably.
  1. http://www.2020health.org/2020health/Publication/Professional-Development/Translation-Services.html


 

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5 Bristol Restaurants for a Culturally Diverse Valentine's Day

5 Bristol Restaurants for a Culturally Diverse Valentine's Day
It’s that time of year again! Valentine’s Day arrives on February 14th and it’s time to start booking in your restaurant for the evening. If you are looking for something culturally stimulating this year, check out our top 5 suggestions for restaurants in Bristol we believe will give you a taste of something different. All the restaurants offer to stimulate your senses through the food and ambience that represent their cultures.

Shanghai Nights


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London’s Top 5 Culturally Diverse Restaurants for Valentine’s

London’s Top 5 Culturally Diverse Restaurants for Valentine’s
It’s that time of year again! Valentine’s Day arrives on February 14th and it’s time to start booking in your restaurant for the evening. If you are looking for something culturally stimulating this year, check out our top 5 restaurants in London we believe will spice up your night. All the restaurants offer to stimulate your senses through the food and ambience that represent their cultures.

Shaka Zulu




  • Style: South African

  • Address: Stables Market, Camden, London, NW1 8AB

  • Tel: 0207 428 4922

  • Website: http://www.shaka-zulu.com/

  • Valentine’s Deals: none

  • About: London’s largest South African restaurant opened in August 2010 with a special royal blessing from the Zulu King, HRH Goodwill Zwelithini.

  • Set over 27,000 sq ft in The Stables Market, Camden the restaurant boasts carved wooden murals covering every inch of Shaka Zulu’s walls and ceiling. On the lower floor they have a display of 20ft high warrior statues. The main A La Carte restaurant is located on the lower level and features open flame grills and offers diverse cuisine from all parts of South Africa showcasing the originality and flair of the culture. They also serve game meats, such as Kudu, Ostrich and Springbok from Namibia!

  • Value: £20-£40 per head


Pearl Liang

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HR Directors, Basil Fawlty and Global Communication

HR Directors, Basil Fawlty and Global Communication


Some recent findings by The London School of English show language and culture are still not getting the attention they deserve within companies today.In fact, the spirit of Basil Fawlty seems to live on within some British businesses!

Despite the Government pinning hopes on UK PLC exporting, it brings into question whether UK companies are thinking globally or relying on the rest of the world to think and act in such a manner?

The findings suggest that, "UK-based businesses could be risking international growth by failing to invest in cross-cultural, language and communications training."

The results spwan from research carried out that questioned 100 HR directors on their attitudes towards language and communication skills and their approach to training.

These centenary research results show a shocking lacking of regard for our international, non-native English speaking business partners,” says Timothy Blake, Chief Executive of the London School of English. “The Brits may be reluctant to learn other languages, but this research suggests that we are not even prepared to invest in the training required to adapt our own language, accents and behaviour to help non-native English speakers understand us.”

Headline findings in the report include:

•    78% HR Directors questioned did not consider it necessary to train native English speakers to moderate their vocabulary when negotiating with non-native English speakers
•    98% believed their non-native English speakers could communicate effectively in English.
•    Although 67% of those questioned believed that it was “very important” for business people to have a good cultural understanding of their trading partners; only 23% would offer training.
•    Only 4% believed the “Basil Fawlty” approach of speaking “more loudly” would be effective in communicating with non-native English speakers.

Worrying stuff isnt it?

by +Neil Payne
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New Zealand teachers to improve knowledge of Maori culture

New Zealand teachers to improve knowledge of Maori culture


New Zealand Education Minster, Pita Sharples, has launched a new initiative ‘Tataiako’ that aims to help teachers to improve their understanding of Maori culture. The resource, which acts as a set of guidelines, enables teachers to reflect on their past cultural sensitivity, to assess their existing knowledge,  and also to take responsibility for improving their cultural awareness for the future.

The important aspect of this particular programme is that it looks to establish a long-term reflexive attitude within the teaching commuity. The stress is not to enforce rules or test teachers, but instead to encourage them to contemplate upon their own experiences and behaviour throughout their careers.

New Zealand is popular with tourists from all over the world and is famous for accommodating and welcoming their needs. However, as with every country, it is vital that it considers the cultural integration of its own citizens before true pluralism can be achieved. It is not about a short-term activity-based integration or homogenizing of migrant communities, it is about the existing people of New Zealand having respect for the cultures of their own islands.

“Engaging in respectful working relationships with Maori students and their families” (quoted from: New Zealand news platform ‘Stuff’) is a key point taken from the new guidelines. It extends from the classroom discussion and integrity of cultural awareness to broader social integration of different communities within New Zealand (school) life. A further three guidelines outline “sincerity and respect towards Maori beliefs, language and culture”, taking responsibility for the learning of Maori students and the deliberate recognition of Maori student’s heritage as the core competancies for teachers to work for.

The main need is to understand the importance of identity to Maori students and their communities. Without understanding the unique perspectives of these children and young adults, you cannot fully engage in understanding how school and learning can and will come across to them.

Statistical evidence over the past decade has shown that students from a Maori background are falling behind those children from other ethnic groups. Improving cultural awareness will not only improve the continuity of Maori childrens’ lives, but will also make it easier for communication to exist between schools and Maori communities on the issue of education.

Finally, from the development of more culturally aware and skillful teachers should come the formulation a of more respectful, united and happy student population.
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Police Translation Costs Soar

Police Translation Costs Soar


A new report has highlighted the fact that the police force across the UK has spent over £82 million over the last three years on translation services. It is thought that the police have had to fork out such a large chunk of their budget so that they can effectively communicate with migrant criminals, victims and witnesses.

In 2004 the EU allowed Poland and other eastern European countries to join its ranks and since then translation costs have been soaring.

It is estimated that the police spend approximately £75,000 a day on translators which could equate to 3,542 extra officers on the beat.

The latest figures have been highly criticised as they come at a time when the police force have had to take officers off the beat as a result of spending cuts. Some forces have had to impose pay freezes but it seems as though the costs of paying for translators is rising at a great rate. .

However, the police are aware that they need to serve all of the community and in areas where a diverse range of languages are spoken it is a must to be able to communicate effectively with the public.

The government are responding to the high spend though by imposing an £18 million cut this year on translation budgets.
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Is the Global Manager Dead?

Is the Global Manager Dead?


According to Professor C. A. Bartlett who co-authored “Transnational Management” nearly 20 years ago, the business world is a very different place to what is was back when he wrote the book.
The book is now in its sixth edition and Bartlett describes it as a continuous work and a passion of his. He has filled the book over the years with case studies that demonstrate how the world of business works and also highlights how the world of business has changed over the years.
One of the biggest changes in the way that the international world of business now works is with the way that many modern businesses now operate. Communication has come on leaps and bounds since 1992 (when the book was first published) and it is easy to forget how quickly connected we can be with people on the other side of the globe. The internet and email has broadened business horizons and made many more places reachable and the improvement of the spread of information and data has been a real boon to businesses everywhere. Skype, satellite phone and video conferencing have all broken down the barriers of international business.
The very fact that technology has broken down international barriers means that there really is no such thing anymore as the global manager, as almost every office worker now spends their time in a global environment.
International divisions now also no longer really exist like they used to in the 1960s and 1970s when the managers were sent abroad for long periods of time. The fluidity of today’s world means that many companies look to recruit managers from all over the world as travel is no such of longer an issue as it used to be.
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Diversity Training Imposed on Legal Clerks

Diversity Training Imposed on Legal Clerks


It seems that legal clerks are going to be required to undergo diversity training if they want to continue working successfully within the legal field.
Legal chambers are now seeking to protect themselves against the lack of cultural knowledge that their staff may have by making sure that diversity training is undertaken. The move comes after the 4 Square case where discrimination charges were laid at 4 Square’s door.
The regulator, the Bar Standards Board (BSB), is currently drawing up set of guidelines that will help to steer the legal profession through the minefield that is culture and diversity training. It is hoped that these guidelines will be approved and will be included in the code of conduct by the end of next year.
Legal companies are starting to realise the importance of cultural training and courses are filling up within hours of being made available to firms.
Legal companies have responded to the move saying that they welcome the new regulations that will require staff to be fully made up to date on cultural and diversity issues that are facing the UK at the moment.
More and more clients also expect their lawyers to know all about the dangers of discrimination so in order to give the clients what they need the firms need to make sure that all of the staff are brought up to speed.
4 Square barrister Aisha Bijlani has highlighted this issue after winning a claim against 4Square in which she accused the firm of racial and disability prejudice.
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Diversity Matters

Diversity Matters



Many multi-national businesses understand the importance of diversity and the crucial role that the inclusion of diversity training can play within a multicultural company.
It is a very well documented fact that diversity can bring along with it barriers within a multicultural work force this means that the business might not be as productive as it could be. This is something that many HR teams work hard on within the companies in order to make sure that the work force work as well with each other as the possibly can.
Multicultural business experts are warning international companies that the temptation to only pay lip service to diversity training should be avoided at all costs and that companies who ignore the challenges of a multicultural workforce do so at their own peril.
It is not just people from different cultures that are benefiting from the increased positive attitude towards diversity at work. The gay and lesbian communities are also starting to see a lot more inclusion in forward thinking companies. Companies who are embracing diversity have found that it makes for a dynamic and creative atmosphere that is conducive to high quality output and the growth of a company.
Many business experts think that the current modern work force is made up of four pillars of people, the members of each group belong to very different generations. The mains groups are "traditionalists", "boomers", "generation-Xers" and "millennials". Each group has their own idiosyncrasies and world views; as a result HR teams have to work hard on making sure that that every single group is included within the work force.
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Diversity Matters

Diversity Matters



Many multi-national businesses understand the importance of diversity and the crucial role that the inclusion of diversity training can play within a multicultural company.
It is a very well documented fact that diversity can bring along with it barriers within a multicultural work force this means that the business might not be as productive as it could be. This is something that many HR teams work hard on within the companies in order to make sure that the work force work as well with each other as the possibly can.
Multicultural business experts are warning international companies that the temptation to only pay lip service to diversity training should be avoided at all costs and that companies who ignore the challenges of a multicultural workforce do so at their own peril.
It is not just people from different cultures that are benefiting from the increased positive attitude towards diversity at work. The gay and lesbian communities are also starting to see a lot more inclusion in forward thinking companies. Companies who are embracing diversity have found that it makes for a dynamic and creative atmosphere that is conducive to high quality output and the growth of a company.
Many business experts think that the current modern work force is made up of four pillars of people, the members of each group belong to very different generations. The mains groups are "traditionalists", "boomers", "generation-Xers" and "millennials". Each group has their own idiosyncrasies and world views; as a result HR teams have to work hard on making sure that that every single group is included within the work force.
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Expat Tips - Moving to China

Expat Tips - Moving to China



When people decide that they want to move country with their work it can sometimes be a challenging time (especially if they are taking their family with them).

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Culture and the Michigan Fish Test

Culture and the Michigan Fish Test
The Michigan Fish Test provides a great view into a person’s psyche and is also a great way to see their perception of the world and culture around them. You see, not everyone looks at their position within the world and within their own culture in the same way. It all depends on how your culture nurtures you, as this will have a very clear impact on your perception of the world around you.

The Michigan Fish Test is an image that was developed to test a person’s view of the world. It is an image that is made up from an underwater scene, with larger fish and smaller fish in a watery environment complete with bubbles and seaweed.



The test was put forward to two groups of people; one group from America and the other group from Japan. The study was interesting as the comments that came back from each group were strikingly different. The participants were asked to look at the Michigan Fish Test image for around 5 seconds and were then asked to comment on what it was they remembered from the picture. The answers provided an insight into the difference in culture between the two countries. The American group tended to only notice the larger fish and dismissed the peripheral images whilst the Japanese group tended to look at the image as more of a whole and commented on the environment as well as the characters.

Furthermore, when the image was changed slightly the Japanese group were able to point out the changes, whereas most of the American group were unable to do so.

The study showed that an individual’s perception of the world around them and of the people and things that they shared the world with was as a direct result of the way in which the world was positioned around them.
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Culture and the Michigan Fish Test

Culture and the Michigan Fish Test
The Michigan Fish Test provides a great view into a person’s psyche and is also a great way to see their perception of the world and culture around them. You see, not everyone looks at their position within the world and within their own culture in the same way. It all depends on how your culture nurtures you, as this will have a very clear impact on your perception of the world around you.

The Michigan Fish Test is an image that was developed to test a person’s view of the world. It is an image that is made up from an underwater scene, with larger fish and smaller fish in a watery environment complete with bubbles and seaweed.



The test was put forward to two groups of people; one group from America and the other group from Japan. The study was interesting as the comments that came back from each group were strikingly different. The participants were asked to look at the Michigan Fish Test image for around 5 seconds and were then asked to comment on what it was they remembered from the picture. The answers provided an insight into the difference in culture between the two countries. The American group tended to only notice the larger fish and dismissed the peripheral images whilst the Japanese group tended to look at the image as more of a whole and commented on the environment as well as the characters.

Furthermore, when the image was changed slightly the Japanese group were able to point out the changes, whereas most of the American group were unable to do so.

The study showed that an individual’s perception of the world around them and of the people and things that they shared the world with was as a direct result of the way in which the world was positioned around them.
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London Hospitals Spend £15m on Interpreters

London Hospitals Spend £15m on Interpreters



In areas such as London where there is large culturally diversity, it seems that hospitals are running up larger than average bills because they are having to employ interpreters so that patients who do not speak the language can understand the medical staff who are treating them.
Recent numbers indicate that around seven hospital trusts in London have run up large bills employing interpreters trying to tackle language barriers. It has sparked fresh outcry across London and the rest of the UK that people who come to England to live need to be able to speak the language.
The London NHS Trust said that its biggest bill was for £2.2million pounds to make sure that patients who did not speak the language had access to interpreters. The figures highlight the problem of immigration and language barriers. Nick de Bois the MP who published the findings said that it was a clear example of the cost to the country that people who do not speak the language can bring.
The survey was based on information from The University College London Hospital Trust which spent £1.6million, Guy's Hospital and St Thomas' Hospital paid £1.3million and Great Ormond Street Hospital and Homerton University Hospital  had to pay approximately £1.2million each.
At a time when the country is cutting back on spending it seems an unnecessary expense for London hospitals to be spending their budget on interpreters. However it is also true that hospitals still need to provide proper patient care and when patients are unable to speak the language it seems that the hospitals have no choice but to employ interpreters.
Communication is important when it comes to good hospital care but this is not always easy or cheap as these London hospitals have proved by having to hire interpreters.
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Interpreters "Operating" In Hospitals

Interpreters "Operating" In Hospitals



People often think that UK doctors are the pillars of UK society who you can trust implicitly, however it seems that the Europe is insisting on chipping away at the confidence that we have in our doctors.

This is due to foreign doctors entering the UK to work. According to recent figures not all doctors that enter the UK are assessed for their competency in the English language and as a result interpreters are being employed by the NHS to make the doctors understood.

European law states that as long as doctors are qualified to work in the UK health service then the General Medical Council are not able to refuse employment based on poor language skills. This has left the UK health service having to seek language interpreters to translate the language for foreign doctors.

Using interpreters creates an extra step in the medical process that allows for human error. If we need to start employing UK interpreters to translate the language for non-native speaking doctors there would be unnecessary bodies in the operating theatre and hospital wards. Interpreters have a difficult job and they can make mistakes due to the nuances of a language and errors are just not an option when you are dealing with lives.

The UK General Medical Council has made a submission to the European Commission which is currently reviewing laws that allow doctors to practice freely across Europe. As there is no standardised medical qualification it means that is it hard to assess doctors that are not from the UK, let alone whether or not doctors are able to speak the language.

The GMC has known of cases where language interpreters have been needed in theatres and of cases when doctors operating on a patient have spoken to co-workers in a language other than English and this left confusion in the operating theatre.
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Bilingual Business @ Home

Bilingual Business @ Home



The benefits of launching operations globally have been well documented. Launching offices in places like India and China has allowed companies like Nestle and Google to harness the benefits of addressing consumers in their own language.
But you don’t have to go abroad to benefit from going bi-lingual. Your operations can stay at home and still significantly increase their consumer base through the use of additional languages.
1.    Cultural Diversity Online
Many countries are culturally diverse today, especially in urban areas, so launching websites that address the multi-lingual roots of your consumers can bring you big business at home. For example the USA has a population of 311 million people, of this number almost 50 million have Hispanic roots. Adopting Spanish-language websites could improve the uptake of internet shopping in this culture-group as they feel that their linguistic needs are being directly addressed. Furthermore on a practical level, roughly 12 million of these people are unable to speak English proficiently meaning that Spanish-language websites are the only way for them to access the web.

2.    Bi-Lingual in-store
However, not all companies want to make the investment in multiple websites, perhaps deciding that the translation output or the cost of personale to run these sites is too high. Some companies such as Home Depot have even found that multiple sites can cause problems where consumers believe they can purchase products in countries like Spain (because the website is in Spanish) whereas the company only currently deliver in the USA. Home Depot’s solution was the facilitation of bi-lingual communication in-store.
Spanish-speaking employees in-store were able to serve the quarter of Hispanic people who don’t speak English and the further fifty percent of Hispanics who, although proficient in English, prefer to communicate in their mother-tongue.

Of course companies can then expand their delivery or offices worldwide in response to the demand for their multiple lingual sites. Companies like Best Buy, NutriSystem, AFLAC and Vonage have all made moves to service their culturally and linguistically diverse consumer base.
So if you haven’t the money or just don’t want to make the move to global offices or delivery at the moment you can still benefit from making your company bi-lingual. Whether online or in-store people respond better when they feel their custom is appreciated; so bi-lingual could not only encourage people to use your services but also ensure they continue to come back to you in the future.
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2011 Census Translation Costs

2011 Census Translation Costs



The impending 2011 Census is projected to cost the United Kingdom Government £480 million; a large percentage of this cost is being taken up by the multiple translations of both the Census and its relevant advertisements.

The Census, which will be conducted on March 27th, is a legal requirement for all citizens over the age of 18 and is conducted once every ten years. The last Census was completed in 2001 and cost around £200 million. The significant increase in cost is said to arise from inflation coupled with the biggest ten-year growth in the population the UK has ever seen, which means significantly more Censuses are required than in 2001.

More people also means more censuses in more languages, because two-thirds of the population growth came from migrants who have settled in the UK in the last ten years. Furthermore because immigrant communities are amongst the lowest ‘turn-out’ groups for on-time completion of the Census, the Office for National Statistics (ONS- which organizes the survey) is placing extra money and manpower into ensuring this group completes on time. The Census will be translated into 56 languages, whilst 30,000 people have been employed to help immigrant communities and other low ‘turn-out’ groups to complete their surveys on time.

This expense has subsequently caused many to question the financial viability of the Census just two years from the 2008/9 economic crisis; some have even questioned the validity of continuing the Census at all.

On one hand the Census is important in that it provides a huge amount of practical information for the public services. It helps local councils assess how many primary school places are needed each year and in the future could be vital in planning elderly care for the increasingly aging population. Given the number of immigrants who have set up home since 2001 it is necessary to find out how these ‘extra’ people’s needs has and will affect our public services. Without compulsory surveying we might not be able to systematically gain this information from these communities.

However, despite the Census being labeled ‘compulsory’ almost three million people failed to complete the 2001 edition. Therefore can we really trust the validity of its results when groups such as the immigrant community are under-represented through non-completion? These skewed results might actually worsen our public services if the government subsequently under-estimates the level of care these communities need.

Aside from the practical implications, the Census is a core tool for academics and historians. Researchers can track trends in culture and society since its first implementation in 1801, meaning the Census effectively helps ‘write’ the history of the UK. Without this resource we could not look to the findings of the past in order to predict the possible challenges of the future.

Yet although the majority of people accept these benefits there is still widespread discomfort as to the cost of the Census when the UK has just come out of recession. Some people think that migrants living in the UK should be able to complete the Census in English (or alternatively Welsh) and dislike paying for so translations to be produced. Although it is impossible to know if this is just a Census concern or part of their wider doubts about high immigration levels and its affect on the economy and public services.

With more information available to the us and the government everyday through internet browser cookies and other virtual data storage, perhaps people just feel that it is time that the ONS relied on this existing information instead of spending so much on promoting a survey that many people fail to complete.
Continue reading

2011 Census Translation Costs

2011 Census Translation Costs



The impending 2011 Census is projected to cost the United Kingdom Government £480 million; a large percentage of this cost is being taken up by the multiple translations of both the Census and its relevant advertisements.

The Census, which will be conducted on March 27th, is a legal requirement for all citizens over the age of 18 and is conducted once every ten years. The last Census was completed in 2001 and cost around £200 million. The significant increase in cost is said to arise from inflation coupled with the biggest ten-year growth in the population the UK has ever seen, which means significantly more Censuses are required than in 2001.

More people also means more censuses in more languages, because two-thirds of the population growth came from migrants who have settled in the UK in the last ten years. Furthermore because immigrant communities are amongst the lowest ‘turn-out’ groups for on-time completion of the Census, the Office for National Statistics (ONS- which organizes the survey) is placing extra money and manpower into ensuring this group completes on time. The Census will be translated into 56 languages, whilst 30,000 people have been employed to help immigrant communities and other low ‘turn-out’ groups to complete their surveys on time.

This expense has subsequently caused many to question the financial viability of the Census just two years from the 2008/9 economic crisis; some have even questioned the validity of continuing the Census at all.

On one hand the Census is important in that it provides a huge amount of practical information for the public services. It helps local councils assess how many primary school places are needed each year and in the future could be vital in planning elderly care for the increasingly aging population. Given the number of immigrants who have set up home since 2001 it is necessary to find out how these ‘extra’ people’s needs has and will affect our public services. Without compulsory surveying we might not be able to systematically gain this information from these communities.

However, despite the Census being labeled ‘compulsory’ almost three million people failed to complete the 2001 edition. Therefore can we really trust the validity of its results when groups such as the immigrant community are under-represented through non-completion? These skewed results might actually worsen our public services if the government subsequently under-estimates the level of care these communities need.

Aside from the practical implications, the Census is a core tool for academics and historians. Researchers can track trends in culture and society since its first implementation in 1801, meaning the Census effectively helps ‘write’ the history of the UK. Without this resource we could not look to the findings of the past in order to predict the possible challenges of the future.

Yet although the majority of people accept these benefits there is still widespread discomfort as to the cost of the Census when the UK has just come out of recession. Some people think that migrants living in the UK should be able to complete the Census in English (or alternatively Welsh) and dislike paying for so translations to be produced. Although it is impossible to know if this is just a Census concern or part of their wider doubts about high immigration levels and its affect on the economy and public services.

With more information available to the us and the government everyday through internet browser cookies and other virtual data storage, perhaps people just feel that it is time that the ONS relied on this existing information instead of spending so much on promoting a survey that many people fail to complete.
Continue reading