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Geography and Environmental Science

Research project: Workplace Zones

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This Department for Transport (DfT) and Office for National Statistics (ONS) funded project aimed to develop methods for creating a set of output zones suitable for the publication of business statistics from the 2011 Census in England and Wales. The initial pilot project ran from 2009-2010 and has since been followed by various related ONS-funded research and development projects, some of which are still on-going.

The Department for Transport (DfT) and the Office for National Statistics (ONS) funded a pilot project by the University of Southampton to develop and evaluate potential methods for producing a set of output zones specifically designed for the release of workplace-related data from the 2011 Census.

Key findings

The Workplace Zones project developed a geographical framework for creating a set of output zones for the release of workplace-related data. Using methods and software (AZTool) developed by the Census2011Geog project, it produced automated methods for splitting or merging existing residential output areas which were either too large or too small (in terms of worker and workplace counts) in order to create a set of “workplace zones” which conformed to specified zone design criteria. These criteria (which were defined in consultation with a User Group) included minimum and maximum worker and workplace postcode counts, a target number of workplace postcodes per zone, compactness of shape and homogeneity of industry type. Splitting or merging the existing residential output areas, rather than designing a set of workplace zones from new, meant that users could readily match data published for the residential geographies with those published for the workplace zones, and vice versa, via the use of simple aggregations and look-up tables.


The methods and software developed by the Workplace Zones project were subsequently implemented by ONS to create the first ever set of workplace zones designed specifically for the output of census workplace-related data in England and Wales. Workplace zone boundaries for England and Wales were released by ONS in January 2013. We then proceeded to build on this work with the classification of workplace zones (COWZ), initially for England and Wales (COWZ-EW) and then for the whole of the UK (COWZ-UK). The latter dataset has been formally published by ONS

Related research groups

Population, Health and Wellbeing (PHeW)

Key Publications

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