House of Commons Library

Ethnic Minorities in Politics and Government

Published Friday, March 4, 2016

Currently around 6% of Members of both Houses are from an ethnic minority background. This compares with 13% of UK population. The share of non-white population is the most proportionally represented in the Civil Service (11%), whereas the NHS has the largest share of ethnic minority staff (18%).

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Parliament

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

The number of ethnic minority female MPs in the House of Commons nearly doubled after 2015, from 1.5% (11 of 650) in 2010, to 3.0% (20 of 650) in 2015.

Population

The latest available estimate from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Annual Population Survey 2015 indicates that 13% of the UK population are from ethnic minority background.

Public bodies

Among Government agencies the non-white population is the most proportionally represented in the Civil Service. In 2015, 11% of Civil Servants were from minority ethnic 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 a mandatory requirement to disclose such information. Data on the ethnicity of Members is not systematically gathered and is an estimate based upon multiple sources.

Commons Briefing papers SN01156

Author: Lukas Audickas

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

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