1. About this page

This is a summary of statistics about ethnic diversity in 9 public sector organisations, as well as independent court and tribunal judges. It shows:

  • how ethnically diverse these workforces are
  • any changes in diversity over time
  • whether diversity targets have been set

It is based on a selection of data published on Ethnicity facts and figures, or that is due to be published soon, and is the first in an annual series.

There are some important differences in the data. For example, NHS figures cover England but armed forces figures cover the UK. Figures are a snapshot from a single day in 2018 or 2019 and only reflect where ethnicity is known.

The main findings are:

  • NHS doctors are by far the most ethnically diverse workforce
  • firefighters are the least ethnically diverse workforce
  • there has been little change in the ethnic diversity of public sector workforces between 2014 and 2018

2. Public sector staff

In 2017, 16.0% of working age people in England and Wales were from ethnic minorities (excluding White minorities), according to population estimates from the Office for National Statistics.

Of the 12 workforces included in this report, 4 have a percentage of ethnic minority staff that was higher than this.

Percentage of public sector staff from an ethnic minority (excluding White minorities)

Chart showing that NHS medical staff are the most ethnically diverse, and firefighters are the least diverse

The most diverse workforces are:

The least diverse workforces are:

Diversity among ethnic minorities also varies within workforces. For example, although almost 1 in 3 NHS doctors are Asian, the proportion of doctors from a Black, Mixed or Other background is far lower. Similarly, non-legal members of tribunals have a higher proportion of Asian staff (12.2%) than the other ethnic groups combined (5.1%).

The highest proportion of Black staff can be found amongst children’s social workers. Around 1 in 10 (11.1%) are from a Black background, compared with 3.8% of the working age population in 2017.

Percentage of public sector workforces by ethnicity

Workforce Asian Black Mixed Other White
NHS medical staff 32.2% 4.6% 3.2% 4.3% 55.6%
Children’s social workers 5.3% 11.1% 3.3% 1.2% 79.0%
NHS non-medical staff 8.4% 6.3% 1.6% 2.1% 81.7%
Non-legal tribunal members 12.2% 2.1% 1.3% 1.7% 82.6%
Civil servants 6.7% 3.2% 1.5% 0.5% 88.0%
Tribunal judges 5.6% 1.8% 2.0% 1.7% 88.9%
Teachers 4.6% 2.2% 1.3% 0.6% 91.4%
Armed forces staff 2.1% 3.7% 1.5% 0.5% 92.2%
Court judges 3.6% 1.1% 1.8% 0.9% 92.6%
Police officers 2.9% 1.2% 2.1% 0.7% 93.1%
Prison officers 1.3% 2.7% 1.3% 0.6% 94.2%
Firefighters 0.6% 1.3% 1.7% 0.4% 95.9%

3. Public sector staff: change over time

From 2014 to 2018 – excluding workforces with missing data – the percentage of workforces from ethnic minorities went up by between 0.3 and 2.5 percentage points.

Percentage of public sector staff from an ethnic minority (excluding White minorities) between 2014 and 2018

Chart showing that between 2014 and 2018 the ethnic diversity of each workforce has increased except for firefighters and armed forces

Only workforces with data in both 2014 and 2018 have been included.

The NHS saw the biggest increases of:

Change was slowest amongst firefighters and the armed forces, where figures have broadly stayed the same.

Rising percentages do not always mean that staff numbers are going up. For example, the number of ethnic minorities working as firefighters, tribunal judges, non-legal members of tribunals, prison offers and members of the armed forces, has gone down, but not as much as White staff. We cannot provide this level of analysis for the Civil Service because they do not publish staff numbers.

Percentage of public sector staff from an ethnic minority (excluding White minorities) over time

Workforce 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
NHS medical staff 41.4% 41.5% 41.2% 40.9% 40.9% 40.8% 41.1% 41.9% 42.9% 44.4%
Children’s social workers 20.0% 21.0%
NHS non-medical staff 13.7% 14.0% 14.3% 14.6% 15.0% 15.4% 15.9% 16.7% 17.5% 18.4%
Non-legal tribunal members 15.2% 15.8% 15.7% 16.3% 16.7% 17.4%
Civil servants 9.3% 9.3% 9.4% 9.7% 10.2% 10.6% 11.2% 11.6% 12.0%
Tribunal judges 9.4% 9.6% 9.3% 9.5% 10.1% 10.2% 10.6% 11.1%
Teachers 6.2% 6.4% 6.6% 7.0% 7.3% 7.5% 7.9% 8.2% 8.7%
Armed forces staff 7.1% 7.2% 7.1% 7.0% 7.0% 7.5% 7.6% 7.8%
Court judges 5.2% 5.8% 5.8% 5.9% 6.5% 6.6% 6.8% 7.4%
Police officers 4.7% 4.8% 5.0% 5.1% 5.3% 5.6% 5.9% 6.3% 6.6% 6.9%
Prison officers 5.4% 5.6% 5.8% 5.8%
Firefighters 3.5% 3.5% 3.7% 3.8% 3.8% 3.8% 3.9% 4.1%

Missing data is either not available or, in the case of 2019 data, has not yet been published.

4. Leadership

NHS medical staff have the highest percentage of leaders from ethnic minorities. In 2019, around 2 in 5 consultants were from an ethnic minority.

Percentage of public sector staff from an ethnic minority (excluding White minorities) in leadership roles

Chart showing that 39.3% of NHS consultants are from an ethnic minority

Leadership figures are not available for children's social workers, firefighters, court and tribunal judges, and non-legal members of tribunals. Definitions of leadership vary between workforces. The definition of senior civil servants used in this report differs from the definition used on Ethnicity facts and figures.

The armed forces and teachers had the least diverse leadership.

For every 100 officers in the armed forces, around 2 were from an ethnic minority. For every 100 headteachers, around 4 were from an ethnic minority.

Leaders tended to be less ethnically diverse than the wider workforce. This can be explained to a certain extent by the fact that leaders are often older, and older age groups are generally less ethnically diverse. The exception was amongst prison staff, where senior prison managers were more diverse (8.3%) than prison officers (5.8%).

Percentage of public sector staff in leadership roles by ethnicity

Workforce Asian Black Mixed Other White
NHS consultants 30.7% 2.9% 2.3% 3.5% 60.7%
NHS very senior managers 4.8% 1.2% 0.8% 0.2% 92.9%
Chief inspectors and above 1.7% 0.8% 1.4% 0.1% 96.0%
Headteachers 1.5% 1.0% 0.8% 0.2% 96.5%
Armed forces officers 0.7% 0.4% 1.1% 0.2% 97.5%

Figures for senior prison managers and senior civil servants are not available by ethnic group, so do not appear in the table.

5. Leadership: change over time

From 2014 to 2018 – excluding workforces with missing data – the percentage of leaders from ethnic minorities changed by between -0.2 and 3.6 percentage points.

Percentage of public sector staff from an ethnic minority (excluding White minorities) in leadership roles between 2014 and 2018

Chart showing that between 2014 and 2018 NHS consultants became more ethnically diverse but police chief inspectors did not

Only workforces with data in both 2014 and 2018 are included.

The biggest increase of 3.6 percentage points was amongst NHS consultants, or 3,772 more consultants from an ethnic minority background.

There were smaller increases in the armed forces and amongst teachers. The ethnic minority representation in the leadership of the armed forces increased by 0.2 percentage points, or an additional 40 staff at officer level. The headteacher workforce increased by 0.3 percentage points, or an additional 90 headteachers.

The number of ethnic minority leaders is often very small, so even a small change in numbers at this level can have a big impact on the percentages.

Percentage of public sector staff from an ethnic minority (excluding White minorities) in leadership roles, over time

Workforce 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
NHS consultants 30.6% 31.9% 33.0% 33.9% 35.0% 35.9% 36.8% 37.6% 38.6% 39.3%
Senior prison managers 6.0% 6.3% 8.2% 8.3%
NHS very senior managers 3.4% 3.8% 3.9% 3.9% 4.1% 4.7% 5.8% 5.8% 6.4% 7.1%
Senior civil servants 4.2% 4.3% 4.0% 3.9% 4.0% 4.1% 4.4% 4.7% 6.0%
Chief inspectors and above 3.2% 3.4% 3.7% 3.9% 3.9% 3.5% 3.6% 3.7% 3.7% 4.0%
Headteachers 2.5% 2.4% 2.4% 2.8% 3.2% 3.1% 3.2% 3.4% 3.5%
Armed forces officers 2.4% 2.4% 2.3% 2.4% 2.4% 2.4% 2.5% 2.5%

6. Progress towards targets

Three public sector workforces have targets to hire more staff from ethnic minorities:

  • the armed forces
  • the Civil Service
  • HM Prison and Probation Service

Recruitment targets will not necessarily lead to a more representative workforce if existing staff from ethnic minority backgrounds leave.

6.1 Armed forces

Target: 10% of all recruits to be from an ethnic minority by 2020.

Progress: 7.1% of all recruits were from an ethnic minority in the year to March 2019.

6.2 Civil Service

Target: 13.2% of recruits into the Senior Civil Service to be from an ethnic minority by 2025.

Progress: Unknown. Between 2014 and 2017, 5.7% of recruits into the Senior Civil Service were from an ethnic minority, which was partly why the target was set in 2018.

6.3 HM Prison and Probation Service

Target: 14% of all staff recruited to be from an ethnic minority (PDF opens in a new window or tab) by 2020.

Additional target: Leadership that reflects the ethnic make-up of the country by 2030.

Progress: Unknown. Due to a technical problem, less than 2% of new joiners gave their ethnic group in 2017/18. There are some related statistics, however. For example, 11.8% of people who accepted a job as a prison officer between April 2017 and March 2019 were from an ethnic minority.

The other workforces have no published targets.

These workforces have published plans or intentions to improve diversity:

7. Differences in the data

There are important differences in the data, including:

  • the geographical areas covered by the data
  • where staff can be recruited from (for example, the NHS can recruit from overseas but the armed forces mostly only recruit UK nationals for security reasons)
  • the percentage of staff for whom ethnicity was known

Data coverage and percentage of staff where ethnicity is known by workforce

Workforce Area covered Percentage of staff whose ethnicity was known
Armed forces staff (2019) UK 99.2%
Police officers (2019) England and Wales 97.4%
NHS non-medical staff (2019) England 95.8%
Tribunal judges (2019) England, Scotland and Wales with some minor exceptions (PDF opens in a new window or tab) 92.9%
Teachers (2018) England 92.9%
NHS medical staff (2019) England 90.9%
Firefighters (2018) England 90.5%
Non-legal members of tribunals (2019) England, Scotland and Wales with some minor exceptions (PDF opens in a new window or tab) 90.1%
Court judges (2019) England and Wales 86.3%
Children’s social workers (2018) England 82.8%
Civil servants (2018) UK 75.0%
Prison officers (2018) England and Wales 66.5%

There’s a difference in how the ethnicity of Chinese staff has been recorded between workforces. For most workforces, Chinese staff are included in the figures for Asian, but for teachers, police officers, children’s social workers and firefighters they are included in the Other ethnic group. See the full list of ethnic groups recommended for use by government.

Although the judiciary are independent office holders, they provide a significant public service. They are included in this report in recognition of the importance of judicial ethnic diversity.

A review of the issues affecting ethnic minorities in the workplace (Race in the workplace: The McGregor-Smith Review)

A review of the ethnic diversity of UK boards (The Parker Review)

A list of organisations that have pledged to improve their ethnic diversity (The Race at Work Charter)

An independent review into the treatment of, and outcomes for, ethnic minorities in the criminal justice system (The Lammy Review)

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