House of Commons Library

Ethnic Minorities in Politics and Public life

Published Friday, July 28, 2017

Currently around 8% of Members of both Houses are from an ethnic minority background. This compares with 13.6% of UK population. The share of non-white population is the most proportionally represented in the Civil Service (11.6%), whereas the NHS has the largest share of ethnic minority staff (18%).

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Parliament

Currently 8% of MPs in the House of Commons and around 6% of Members of the House of Lords are from an ethnic minority background.

The number of ethnic minority female MPs in the House of Commons increased from 3.0% in 2015 (20 of 650) to 4% in 2017 (26 of 650). Currently non-white female MPs make up 12.5% of all women MPs (208).

Population

The latest estimate from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Annual Population Survey 2016 indicates that 13.6% of the UK population is non-white.

Public bodies

Among Government bodies the non-white population is most proportionally represented in the Civil Service. In 2017, 11.6% of Civil Servants were from ethnic minority groups. This compares with 7% in the UK Armed Forces.

Among other public sector organizations the NHS has the largest share of ethnic minorities. 18% of all NHS staff and around 41% of Doctors in England are from an ethnic minority background. This compares with 5% of National Fire and Rescue service staff. 

Data collection

Analysis of ethnic minority representation is difficult, because ethnicity is both sensitive, and difficult to define. Work such as this generally relies on self-definition. The UK Census includes an ‘Ethnicity’ section, as do most staff surveys within major public services. However, it is not always a mandatory requirement to disclose such information. Data on MPs’ ethnicity is not systematically gathered and is an estimate based upon multiple sources.

Commons Briefing papers SN01156

Authors: Lukas Audickas; Vyara Apostolova

Topics: Ethnic groups, House of Commons, House of Lords, Members of Parliament, Parliament

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