Socio-economic background harmonised standard

We are currently designing harmonised standards for collecting data on socio-economic background. This will be added to the guidance on this page. This work is set out in the Government Statistical Service (GSS) Harmonisation Workplan.

You can find more information about this at the end of this guidance. If you would like to be involved with this work, please contact us at

What is harmonisation?

Harmonisation is the process of making statistics and data more comparable, consistent, and coherent. Harmonised standards set out how to collect and report statistics to make sure they can be compared effectively across different data collection in the Government Statistical Service (GSS). Harmonisation produces more useful statistics that give users a greater level of understanding about a topic.

What do we mean by socio-economic background?

Definitions of socio-economic background can vary. For this standard, we have used the Social Mobility Commission’s definition. This states that it is “the term to refer to the particular set of social and economic circumstances that an individual has come from. It permits objective discussion of the influence of these circumstances on individuals’ educational and career trajectories; and it can be objectively measured by capturing information on parental occupation and level of education.”

Inclusive Data Taskforce and GSS Harmonisation Workplan

In October 2020, the National Statistician established the Inclusive Data Taskforce. It was designed to improve the UK’s inclusive data holdings in a broad range of areas. This includes the nine protected characteristics of the Equality Act.

In September 2021 the Taskforce recommendations were published. Some of these recommendations specifically refer to harmonisation.

In response to the recommendations, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) oversaw the publication of an Implementation Plan in January 2022. This gives information about the current and planned initiatives across the UK statistical system. It refers to a GSS Harmonisation workplan, which was published in February 2022. This workplan includes reviewing, refining, and updating harmonised standards.

The workplan shows that a new socio-economic background harmonised standard will be developed. The work will include stakeholder engagement and question testing.

You can find updates on timelines and project activities in the GSS Harmonisation Workplan.

If you would like to be involved with this work, please contact us at

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