Promising Practice

Cross-government project to develop monitoring standards for gender identity

In 2018, the UK Government Statistical Service and the Office for National Statistics initiated a project that aims to provide guidance across government to measure gender identity and increase the capacity to collect data and statistical literacy about gender identity.
United Kingdom
Institutional and structural guidelines
Build institutional capacity
Operational guidelines
Ensure comprehensiveness
Mainstream equality data
Enhance validity and reliability
Ensure representativeness
Improve comparability
Gender identity or expression


In this page:

Why was the practice needed?

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) and other government departments have identified a need to collect data on gender identity. Currently, no government departments routinely collect information on gender identity.

This project arose to address what respondents had been asking for and what organisations need to monitor gender identity to ensure equality. ONS’ 2021 Census topic consultation identified a need for data on gender identity for policy development and service planning; especially in relation to the provision of health services for transgender people. The introduction of the Equality Act 2010 further strengthens the user requirement for those with the protected characteristic of gender reassignment. The Act introduces a public sector Equality Duty, which requires that public bodies consider all individuals when shaping policy, delivering services and interacting with their own employees. They must also have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between different people when carrying out their activities.

More specifically, the Government Equalities Office (GEO) recently produced the LGBT Action Plan, which names the development of monitoring standards for gender identity as a joint aim of the GEO, Government Statistical Service (GSS) and ONS.

These standards will be freely available to the wider public and private sectors. GEO and ONS will provide guidance and support to departments looking to implement monitoring in their services to ensure that it is consistent, proportionate and safe.

How was it implemented?

GSS, as a provider of advice to government researchers and statisticians, aims to provide guidance across government to measure gender identity, increasing the capacity to collect data. The process will involve engaging with cross-government stakeholders, to collect and define data needs.

ONS, as the national statistical institute, will share experience in defining concepts and testing questions, thereby increasing statistical literacy about gender identity. ONS will test whether and how a gender identity question could be included in the Labour Force Survey (LFS).

The testing experience and results will be shared, and a standard will be developed. The existence of a standard will provide government departments with a way to measure gender identity across all their surveys.

The standardisation of data collection across government surveys will also allow for an easier comparison of data.


  • The output will be a GSS harmonised question for gender identity, similar to that already established for sexual orientation.

Key success factors

  • To ensure valid and reliable data, ONS/other data collectors will test the potential question(s). ONS has demonstrable and shareable expertise in this area, having already tested a question for the 2021 Census.
  • To ensure wide acceptance and use of the developed question, the ONS/GSS will lead a series of expert workshops to understand the needs of various government departments. It will also ensure the end products meet needs.
  • ONS has worked closely with a wide range of gender identity stakeholders in the development of a census question – these stakeholders will be involved in the development of questions for a harmonised standard.

Technical information

  • Data sources covered: Administrative data; Household or individual surveys; Victimisation surveys; Diversity monitoring.
  • Areas of life covered: The areas covered will be determined by the departments that choose to use the question.
  • Target audience: Mainly government departments; academics and other experts will benefit as data users
  • Duration: July 2018 - July 2020 (tentatively)
  • Geographical scope: National
  • Leading institution: Office for National Statistics (ONS) and Government Statistical Service (GSS)
  • Other organisations involved/consulted: Government Equalities Office. In addition, a range of NGO, civil society and charity stakeholders will be consulted, such as Stonewall, Equalities and Human Rights Commission
  • Financial & human resources: Budget: No information provided; Source of the budget: This project is funded largely from the Census programme, as part of a commitment to ensure learnings (in terms of question development and topic expertise) from the census programme are exploited for future non-Census benefit (see 2021 Census design), and partly by the GSS Harmonisation team which is funded to develop and encourage use of harmonised questions across government; Staff: No information provided.


Office for National Statistics (ONS)

Email: Gender (dot) identity (at) ons (dot) gov (dot) uk

Government Statistical Service (GSS)

Email:gsshelp (at) statistics (dot) gov (dot) uk