Employment by occupation


Last updated 20 February 2018 - see all updates

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1. Main facts and figures

  • in 2016, a larger percentage of workers from the Black and Other ethnic groups worked in the lowest skilled 'elementary' occupations compared with the overall population

  • in the same period, a larger percentage of workers from the Indian ethnic group worked in professional occupations than any other ethnic group

Things you need to know

This analysis is based on the Annual Population Survey (APS), which is a ‘sample survey’. It collects information from a random sample of the population to make generalisations (reach 'findings') about the total population.

The commentary for this data includes only reliable, or ‘statistically significant’, findings. Findings are statistically significant when we can be confident that they can be repeated, and are reflective of the total population rather than just the survey sample.

Specifically, the statistical tests used mean we can be confident that if we carried out the same survey on different random samples of the population, 19 times out of 20 we would get similar findings.

As with all surveys, the estimates from the APS are subject to a degree of uncertainty as they are based on a sample of the population. The degree of uncertainty is greater when the number of respondents is small, so it will be highest for ethnic minority groups.

Smaller numbers of survey respondents from ethnic minority backgrounds mean that estimates for all other ethnic groups are more unreliable than estimates for the White group (which includes White British people and White ethnic minorities).

Results taken from a low number of responses are more likely to be affected by statistical variation, so observed changes might not reflect real differences. As such, caution is needed when interpreting short-term trends in the data, especially for sub groups (for example, a specific ethnic group, age group and gender).

When looking at data for ‘All’ groups, any values based on fewer than 30 responses have been withheld, and when further breaking down the data by ethnicity, any values based on fewer than 100 responses have been withheld. This is to protect confidentiality or because the numbers involved are too small to draw any reliable conclusions.

Data is sourced from the Annual Population Survey to get lower level details such as information by local authority area. Higher-level figures may differ slightly from reports published by the Department for Work and Pensions and the Office for National Statistics that also use the Labour Force Survey (LFS).

Changes were made to the LFS (and therefore the Annual Population Survey) ethnicity questions in January to March 2011, to bring them more in line with Census data collection on these topics. In April to June 2011 further changes were made to the ethnicity questions to bring them in line with Scottish Census data collection. As a result, there may be some inconsistencies with estimates from earlier than 2011.

What the data measures

The data measures the percentage of people from each ethnic group who work in particular types of occupation. It includes workers who are employed or self-employed.

The percentages are of the total number of people in that ethnic group who work in the UK.

The graphs and table show data for 2016 only. You can get data covering 2004 to 2016 if you download the data.

Within the ‘Caring, leisure and other service occupations’ group, ‘other’ includes occupations such as travel agent, hairdresser, housekeeper and cleaner.

The ethnic categories used in this data

Although data is collected for 18 ethnic groups, analysis by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is grouped under these broad ethnic categories:

  • Black/Black British
  • Indian
  • Mixed/Multiple ethnic groups
  • Pakistani/Bangladeshi
  • White
  • Other (which contains Chinese, other Asian and other ethnic groups)

Grouping in this way improves the reliability of the estimates and allows robust samples to be used.

BEIS’s analysis distinguishes between the Indian ethnic group and the Pakistani and Bangladeshi groups (which are combined). This reflects the different employment-related outcomes among different Asian ethnic groups, and is in line with other publications on the official labour market statistics website, Nomis.

2. Employment by type of occupation and ethnicity

Percentage of workers in different types of occupation by ethnicity
Occupation All Indian Pakistani/ Bangladeshi Black Mixed White Other
% % % % % % %
Administrative & secretarial 10 10 9 10 8 11 7
Associate professional & technical 14 13 11 12 19 15 12
Caring, leisure and other services 9 6 6 17 12 9 10
Elementary 11 9 11 16 11 11 14
Managers, directors & senior officials 11 11 9 5 8 11 10
Process, plant & machine operatives 7 6 17 6 4 6 7
Professional 20 32 18 20 22 20 24
Sales & consumer service 8 8 13 9 10 7 10
Skilled trades 11 5 6 5 7 11 7

Download table data for ‘Employment by type of occupation and ethnicity’ (CSV) Source data for ‘Employment by type of occupation and ethnicity’ (CSV)

Summary of Employment by occupation Employment by type of occupation and ethnicity Summary

This data shows that:

  • in 2016, a larger percentage of workers from the Black (16%) and Other (14%) ethnic groups worked in the lowest skilled 'elementary' occupations than the percentage of White workers (11%)

  • the Pakistani/Bangladeshi ethnic group had the highest percentage of workers in the 3 lowest skilled occupation groups combined, at 41%: elementary (11%), process, plant and machine operatives (17%) and sales and consumer service (13%)

  • 17% of Black workers worked in caring, leisure and other service occupations – the largest percentage of any ethnic group

  • 32% of Indian workers were in professional occupations, a higher percentage than any other ethnic group

3. Methodology

The APS contains 12 months of survey data.

It combines data from 4 successive quarters of the Labour Force Survey with rolling-year data from the local labour force surveys for England, Wales and Scotland.

The sample size is approximately 320,000 respondents.

Interviews are carried out either face to face or by telephone.


Weighting is used to adjust the results of a survey to make them representative of the population and improve their accuracy.

For example, a survey which contains 25% females and 75% males will not accurately reflect the views of the general population, which we know is around 50% male and 50% female.

Statisticians rebalance or ‘weight’ the survey results to more accurately represent the general population. This helps to make them more reliable.

Survey weights are usually applied to make sure the survey sample has broadly the same gender, age, ethnic and geographic make up as the general population.

The APS is weighted to reflect the size and composition of the general population, by using the most up-to-date official population data.

Suppression rules and disclosure control

The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy has suppressed:

  • estimates and confidence intervals that have a group sample size smaller than 10
  • estimates for where the number of people employed is less than 500


Percentages have been rounded to the nearest whole number. Totals may not add up to 100% because of this.

Related publications

Labour Force Survey quality methodology information

Annual Population Survey quality methodology information

4. Data sources


Type of data

Survey data

Type of statistic

National Statistics


Office for National Statistics

Note on corrections or updates

Higher-level figures may differ from those published by the Department for Work and Pensions and the Office for National Statistics that use the Labour Force Survey.

Publication frequency


Purpose of data source

The Annual Population Survey (APS) is the largest ongoing household survey in the UK and covers a range of topics, including:

  • personal characteristics
  • labour market status
  • work characteristics
  • education
  • health

The purpose of the APS is to provide information on important social and socio-economic variables at local levels, such as labour market estimates.

The published statistics also allow the government to monitor estimates on a range of issues between censuses.

5. Download the data

Employment by occupation - Spreadsheet (csv) 157 KB

This file contains the following: ethnicity, year, denominator, numerator, confidence intervals