Published: Friday, 9 December 2022

The majority of Oxford residents commute to work by walking or cycling – known as active travel – or using public transport, new Census data has revealed.

The new data, released yesterday by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), shows economic activity and work patterns across the UK.

Alongside commuting data, this data release also shows the types of jobs Oxford residents have and the number of students and retirees in the city.

The data comes from the Census that took place in March 2021. At the time, a ‘stay at home’ rule was in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is not possible to directly compare the new economic activity data to the previous Census in 2011 because the ONS has widened the age range (from 16-74 in 2011 to 16 and over in 2021) for all the datasets.

Commuting data               

The new Census data shows that, of those who were commuting to work, 38.8% of Oxford residents aged 16 and over used active travel to do so, including 17.2% who commuted by bicycle and 21.6% by foot.

The data also shows that even during the pandemic, of those who were commuting to work, 14.5% of Oxford residents did so by bus, minibus or coach.

This is significantly more than across Oxfordshire where, during the pandemic, 20.8% commuted by active travel and 5.6% by bus, and England, where 14.2% commuted by active travel and 6.2% by bus.

The number of Oxford residents who commuted to work by driving a car or van is significantly lower in Oxford (38.2%) than across Oxfordshire (64.7%) and England (65.0%).

The 2011 Census showed that 66.5% of households in Oxford own at least one car or van. This is significantly lower than in Oxfordshire (82.5%) and England (74.2%). The 2021 Census data for this area is expected to be released in January.

Oxford City Council is working with Oxfordshire County Council to introduce a trial of traffic filters on six streets in Oxford. The filters aim to reduce traffic levels and congestion, make buses faster and more reliable, and make cycling and walking safer and more pleasant.

The Census was carried out in March 2021 when a ‘stay at home’ rule was in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The data shows that, in March 2021, 38.8% of Oxford’s “economically active” residents – those who are working (in full- and part-time jobs) or are actively seeking work – were working from home. This compares to 37.9% in Oxfordshire and 31.5% across England.

Oxford remains a young city

The new Census data shows that 53.6% of Oxford’s residents aged 16 and over were economically active and in employment.

This is lower than the number for England (57.4%), but this is likely because 26.9% of Oxford’s population aged 16 and over are students, compared to 10% across Oxfordshire and 7.9% across England.

The new data showed that 3.2% of economically active Oxford residents aged 16 and over were unemployed, compared to 3.5% across England.

The percentage of those aged 16 and over who are retired in Oxford (12%) is also lower than for Oxfordshire as a whole (19.9%) and England as a whole (21.5%).

Types of jobs in Oxford

The Census data showed that the top five employment areas in Oxford are:

  • Teaching and other Educational Professionals – 8.1% (5,947 residents)
  • Caring Personal Services – 4.3% (3,126)
  • Sales Assistants and Retail Cashiers – 4.0% (2,929)
  • Research and Development (R&D) and Other Research Professionals – 3.9% (2,834)
  • Other Elementary Services Occupations – 3.7% (2,743)

Combined together into industries, the data shows that 23.4% of Oxford residents work in education, 19.0% work in human health and social work activities, 9.4% work in professional, scientific and technical activities, and 9.3% work in wholesale and retail trade, repair of motor vehicles and motor cycles.

Oxford City Council is working with partners, including both universities, to encourage the growth of knowledge-based industries – such as education, health and research – within the city.

Current and upcoming developments – including Oxford North, South Oxford Science Village, Osney Mead and the West End development – all focus on creating more knowledge-based jobs within the city.

Knowledge-based jobs are less at risk than jobs in other industries from automation.

The key focus for City Council, though, is working to ensure these new jobs benefit everyone who lives in Oxford, including by encouraging the use of local apprentices and paying the Oxford Living Wage.

The full economic activity data from the 2021 Census can be viewed on the ONS’s website.

“The new ONS data will not come as a surprise to people who live and work in Oxford. The city is famously young and dynamic, and, particularly since the Oxford Vaccine, we are known for our education, research and healthcare.

“Oxford City Council’s key focus is to make sure our successful local economy works for everyone who lives in the city by ensuring there are opportunity and training for all residents, and that all residents are paid a fair wage for their work.

“The City Council, alongside Oxfordshire County Council, is also focused on reducing congestion. With so many people already commuting by active travel and public transport, even during the pandemic, this is useful data to help inform future transport strategies.”

Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council

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