Armed forces workforce

The main facts and figures show that:

  • as at October 2018, people from ethnic minorities (not including White minorities) made up 2.5% of officers in the UK regular armed forces, compared with 2.4% in April 2012
  • for ranks below officer, 8.8% of all armed forces personnel were from ethnic minorities, compared with 7.9% in April 2012
  • the Army had the highest percentage of people from ethnic minorities working both as officers and in other ranks, compared with the other armed forces
Things you need to know

The data is taken from human resources records by the Ministry of Defence on 1 April and 1 October every year.

The lower representation of certain ethnic minorities in the armed forces could in part be explained by eligibility criteria for joining, including nationality, security and health. For example, migrants to the UK won’t be able to join the armed forces unless they have:

  • the right to remain indefinitely in the UK
  • lived in the UK for more than 5 years if they are from a Commonwealth country

Since 2009, Gurkha personnel have been able to transfer into the Army. This may partially explain the larger proportion of people from ethnic minorities in the Army compared with the other armed forces.

These statistics relate to people whose ethnicity was declared. At 1 October 2018, the percentage of personnel in the UK regular armed forces who declared an ethnicity was 99%.

What the data measures

This data measures the percentage of people working in officer and non-officer ranks in the UK armed forces, broken down by ethnicity.

The data includes ‘regular’ personnel in the Army, Royal Air Force, and Royal Navy and Royal Marines. It does not include the reserve forces.

Part of this analysis lists the rank codes used by NATO.

Ranks beginning ‘OF’ are officer ranks ranging from OF-1 (junior officer like Lieutenant) to OF-10 (Field Marshal).

Ranks beginning ‘OR’ are other ranks, ranging from OR-1 (Private or Marine) to OR-9 (Warrant Officer I).

The ethnic categories used in this data

For this data, the number of armed forces personnel was too small to draw any firm conclusions about specific or broad ethnic categories. Therefore, the data is broken down into the following 2 broad categories:

  • White – White ethnic groups (including White British and White ethnic minorities)
  • Other – all other ethnic minorities

Ethnic groups and how data on ethnicity is collected

Armed forces personnel by ethnicity, service and rank

Percentage of armed forces personnel by ethnicity, service and rank

Officers Other Ranks
Service White Other ethnic groups White Other ethnic groups
All Services 97.5 2.5 91.2 8.8
Army 97.2 2.8 87.1 12.9
Royal Air Force 97.7 2.3 97.5 2.5
Royal Navy/Royal Marines 98.0 2.0 95.5 4.5

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • overall, people from ethnic minorities (not including White minorities) made up 2.5% of officers in the UK armed forces and 8.8% of other ranks as at October 2018
  • people from ethnic minorities made up 2.8% of officers in the Army, compared with 2.3% of those in the Royal Air Force, and 2.0% of those in the Royal Navy/Royal Marines
  • among personnel in other ranks, people from ethnic minorities made up 12.9% of those in the Army, 4.5% of those in the Royal Navy/Royal Marines, and 2.5% of those in the Royal Air Force

Armed forces personnel in officer ranks by ethnicity and service over time

Percentage of armed forces officers from ethnic minorities (not including White minorities), by service over time

Ethnicity Apr-12 Oct-12 Apr-13 Oct-13 Apr-14 Oct-14 Apr-15 Oct-15 Apr-16 Oct-16 Apr-17 Oct-17 Apr-18 Oct-18
% % % % % % % % % % % % % %
All Services 2.4 2.4 2.4 2.4 2.4 2.3 2.3 2.4 2.4 2.4 2.4 2.4 2.4 2.5
Army 2.8 2.7 2.7 2.7 2.7 2.7 2.7 2.7 2.8 2.8 2.9 2.9 2.9 2.8
Royal Air Force 2.3 2.3 2.3 2.3 2.3 2.3 2.2 2.1 2.2 2.2 2.1 2.0 2.2 2.3
Royal Navy/Royal Marines 1.8 1.8 1.8 1.8 1.8 1.8 1.8 1.9 1.8 1.8 1.9 1.9 1.9 2.0

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • overall, between April 2012 and October 2018, the percentage of officers from ethnic minorities (not including White minorities) in the UK armed forces rose slightly, from 2.4% to 2.5%
  • in the Army, the percentage of officers from ethnic minorities remained relatively stable, at 2.8% in both April 2012 and October 2018
  • in the Royal Air Force, the percentage of officers from ethnic minorities remained constant at 2.3%
  • in the Royal Navy / Royal Marines, the percentage of officers from ethnic minorities increased from 1.8% to 2.0%

Armed forces personnel in non-officer ranks by ethnicity and service over time

Percentage of armed forces personnel from ethnic minorities (not including White minorities) in non-officer ranks, by service over time

Service Apr-12 Oct-12 Apr-13 Oct-13 Apr-14 Oct-14 Apr-15 Oct-15 Apr-16 Oct-16 Apr-17 Oct-17 Apr-18 Oct-18
% % % % % % % % % % % % % %
All Services 7.9 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.1 8.1 8.0 8.0 8.0 8.0 8.3 8.6 8.7 8.8
Army 11.1 11.3 11.4 11.6 11.6 11.5 11.5 11.5 11.5 11.6 11.9 12.5 12.7 12.9
Royal Air Force 1.9 2.0 2.0 2.0 2.0 2.0 2.1 2.1 2.2 2.2 2.3 2.3 2.4 2.5
Royal Navy/Royal Marines 4.0 3.9 3.9 3.9 3.9 4.0 4.0 4.0 3.9 3.9 3.9 4.1 4.3 4.5

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • between April 2012 and October 2018, the percentage of UK armed forces personnel in non-officer ranks who were from ethnic minorities (other than White minorities) increased from 7.9% to 8.8%
  • of all the armed forces, the Royal Air Force has consistently had the lowest percentage of personnel from ethnic minorities in non-officer ranks, despite an increase from 1.9% in April 2012 to 2.5% in October 2018
  • the Army had the largest increase in the percentage of people from ethnic minorities in non-officer ranks, from 11.1% in April 2012 to 12.9% in October 2018
  • the percentage of people from ethnic minorities in non-officer ranks in the Royal Navy / Royal Marines remained between 3.9% and 4.5% over the period shown

All armed forces personnel by ethnicity and rank

Percentage of personnel within each specific rank by ethnicity

Rank code White Other than White
% %
All Officers 97.5 2.5
OF-1(D) 96.9 3.1
OF-2 97.5 2.5
OF-3 97.5 2.5
OF-4 98.1 1.9
OF-5 97.8 2.2
OF-6 and above 99.8 withheld to protect confidentiality
All Other Ranks 91.2 8.8
OR-1/OR-2 92.1 7.9
OR-3 84.7 15.3
OR-4 89.8 10.2
OR-6 91.8 8.2
OR-7 94.3 5.7
OR-8 94.8 5.2
OR-9 98.5 1.5

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

For the full name of each rank for each service of the armed forces, please download the data.

This data shows that:

  • out of all officer ranks, the highest percentage of personnel from ethnic minorities (not including White minorities) was in OF-1(D), the lowest officer rank, at 3.1%
  • out of all officer ranks where data was available, the percentage of officers from ethnic minorities was lowest in OF-4 (equivalent to Lieutenant Colonel in the Army), at 1.9%
  • for non-officer ranks, the rank with the largest percentage of personnel from ethnic minorities was OR-3 (equivalent to Lance Corporal), at 15.3%
  • the percentage of staff from ethnic minorities in non-officer ranks decreased as the ranks increased in seniority, with the highest ranks having the lowest percentages – 5.2% in rank OR-8 (Warrant Officer II) and 1.5% in rank OR-9 (Warrant Officer I)

Methodology

Methodology

Personnel statistics are derived from the Ministry of Defence’s Joint Personnel Administration (JPA) system. This is used for the administration of all armed forces personnel.

Extracts are taken from the JPA system each quarter and stored on a separate database to form a time series. The extracts are taken 6 days after the end of the month and calculate the situation as at the 1st of the month. This means that the statistics include data that may have been submitted to the JPA a few days late. However, some late reporting can affect the statistics – for example, when someone leaves or their status changes from untrained to trained.

The data goes through a series of automatic validation checks based on previous corrections. As a result of these checks, edits are made to the data to ensure basic data quality.

Once the data is confirmed as being accurate, the database is queried to produce the range of tables. These tables undergo several rounds of checking and scrutiny to ensure the outputs are accurate and consistent, before being published.

All personnel in the regular armed forces must be recorded on the JPA system for them to receive their pay. Therefore, the overall workforce figures are accurate. However, more detailed breakdowns can be less accurate, because some key information required for categorising individuals is recorded and updated centrally, whereas other information is added by individuals themselves.

Suppression rules and disclosure control

Data identifying fewer than 6 people is suppressed to protect confidentiality.

Rounding

In the charts, tables and commentary, percentages have been rounded to 1 decimal place.

In the data download, counts are rounded to the nearest 10. However, numbers ending in 5 have been rounded to the nearest multiple of 20 to prevent the systematic bias caused by always rounding numbers upwards. For example, a value of 25 would be rounded down to 20 and a value of 15 would be rounded up to 20.

Totals and subtotals are rounded separately, so may not equal the sums of their rounded parts.

Quality and methodology information

Data sources

Source

Type of data

Administrative data

Type of statistic

National Statistics

Publisher

Ministry of Defence

Publication frequency

Twice a year

Purpose of data source

The main purpose of these statistics is to:

  • inform policy and decision-making within the Ministry of Defence (MOD)
  • measure the performance of the MOD against government and Parliament targets
  • inform general debate in government, Parliament and the public

Download the data

Armed forces workforce - Spreadsheet (csv) 301 KB

This file contains the following: ethnicity, year, service, rank, NATO code, value.