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)
The most diverse workforces are:
- NHS medical roles, where 44.4% of staff are from ethnic minorities
- children’s social workers (21.0%)
- NHS non-medical roles (18.4%)
- non-legal tribunal members (17.4%)
The least diverse workforces are:
- firefighters, where 4.1% of staff from are ethnic minorities
- prison officers (5.8%)
- police officers (6.9%)
- court judges (7.4%)
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
|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%|
|Armed forces staff||2.1%||3.7%||1.5%||0.5%||92.2%|
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
Only workforces with data in both 2014 and 2018 have been included.
The NHS saw the biggest increases of:
- 2.5 percentage points for non-medical staff, or an additional 35,929 staff members
- 2.0 percentage points for medical staff, or an additional 5,151 doctors
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
|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%|
|Armed forces staff||–||–||7.1%||7.2%||7.1%||7.0%||7.0%||7.5%||7.6%||7.8%|
Missing data is either not available or, in the case of 2019 data, has not yet been published.
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
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.
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
|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%|
|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
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
|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%|
|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
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:
- armed forces staff: defence diversity and inclusion strategy 2018 to 2030
- civil servants: diversity and inclusion strategy
- NHS staff: Workforce Race Equality Standard and Interim NHS People Plan
- police: diversity, equality and inclusion strategy (PDF opens in a new window or tab) from the National Police Chief’s
- prison and probation staff: Tackling Racial Disparity in the Criminal Justice System: 2018 Update (PDF opens in a new window or tab) from the
Ministry of Justice
- judges and members of the judiciary: Judicial Diversity Committee annual report (PDF opens in a new window or tab)
- teachers: statement of intent on the diversity of the teaching workforce from the Department for Education
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%|
|NHS medical staff (2019)||England||90.9%|
|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.
8. Related reading
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)