The official population count, or Census, looks set to be scrapped after more than 200 years, it has emerged.
Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude, said the huge survey, which takes place every 10 years, was an expensive and inefficient way of working out the population of Britain.
He told the Daily Telegraph: “There are, I believe, ways of doing this which will provide better, quicker information, more frequently and cheaper.”
The government is looking at using sources such as public and private databases, possibly from credit reference agencies and the Royal Mail.
Britain has carried out a Census every decade since 1801, apart from 1941 during the Second World War.
The next one will take place in March next year, at an estimated cost of £482m.
It asks for detailed information including nationality, religious faith and marital status.
But Mr Maude said the Census was “out of date almost before it had been done”.
Population counts could be done more regularly, he said, using information from the organisations like the Royal Mail, councils and the government.
“This would give you more accurate, much more timely data in real time. There is a load of data out there in loads of different places,” the minister said.
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