Civil servants are getting less religious, statistics reveal

Overall decline in belief comes despite increasing proportion of Muslim officials
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The proportion of civil servants who describe themselves as having no religion or belief has increased over the past year, according to statistics published by the Cabinet Office.

Close to three in 10 departmental and agency officials now state they have no faith. The exact figure of 29.9% marks an increase on 2022’s 28.9% and represents a significant hike from the 20.8% of staff who said they had no religion in 2019.

Christianity is far and away the most common religion among civil servants. The latest figures, which date from the end of March but have only been published this month, show 31.2% of officials describing themselves as Christian – down from 31.8% in 2022.

The number of civil servants declaring themselves to be Muslims has increased year-on-year. According to the statistics, there were a total of 18,220 Muslim civil servants, representing 3.5% of the total civil service headcount in March.

In 2022 there were 16,870 civil servants who described themselves as Muslim, 3.3% of the total civil service headcount.

The latest statistics show the proportion of civil servants declaring as Hindu was flat compared with 2022 at 1.2%, as was the proportion declaring as Sikh (0.8%); Jewish (0.2%); and Buddhist (0.2%).

More than one in five civil servants (21.1%) did not make a declaration about their religion for the statistics, which were collected for the Annual Civil Service Employment Survey.

A further 8.2% said they did not want to disclose their religious belief. That means the beliefs – or lack of them – of around 152,000 officials out of a total headcount of 519,780 are not recorded.

Excluding those non-responses and crunching the statistics on the basis of officials’ positive declarations about their faith would show the civil service to be 44.2% Christian, 4.9% Muslim, 1.8% Hindu, 1.2% Sikh, 0.4% Buddhist, and 0.3% Jewish.

The 2023 statistics included 16,830 respondents who described their religious beliefs as “other”, amounting to 4.5% of the set of those who answered positively about their faith. Of those “positive” responses, 155,655 officials said they had no religion or belief, representing 42.3% of the subset. 

Using the same methodology,  41.3% of respondents to the 2022 survey said they had no religion or belief.

Breaking down the statistics by department shows the Office for Standards in Education and its Welsh counterpart Estyn to have the highest proportions of staff who declare themselves to be Christian: 44.1% and 52% of total headcount respectively. Among the major departments, the Ministry of Defence came top for Christianity with 37%.

At the other end of the scale, 11.1% of staff at the Office of the Secretary of State for Wales declared themselves to be Christian.

Of the major departments, staff at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport were the least likely to declare themseslves Christian in this year’s statistics (21.9%) and most likely to say they have no religion or belief (49.7%).

Officials at the Food Standards Agency were the least likely to say they had no religion or belief, with just 10.7% providing that response. Among the larger departments, HM Revenue and Customs had the lowest proportion saying this: 22.9%.


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