Ethnic minorities still underrepresented among 'appointable' candidates for top civil service jobs

Civil Service Commission annual report reveals sharp drop in ethnic minority representation from application to appointment stages for 246 open competitions chaired by a commissioner
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By Katherine Hapgood

01 Nov 2022

Ethnic-minority applicants comprise 8% of candidates deemed “appointable” for the most senior civil service jobs last year, despite making up 25% of applicants, the Civil Service Commission’s annual report has shown.

The independent Commission regulates recruitment across the civil service, and its Commissioners chair recruitment panels in open competitions for the most senior grades in government. For SCS2 graded roles (Directors and equivalent), commissioners normally chair externally advertised recruitment panels, but for SCS3 and SCS4 roles (Directors-General and Permanent Secretary level), commissioners chair every competition.

The 2021-22 annual report shows that across the 246 competitions that were chaired by a commissioner last year, the average proportion of people from ethnic minorities decreased at each stage of the hiring process – making up 11% of shortlists and only 8% of those who were considered to have met the criteria necessary to be appointed

The retention of ethnic-minority applicants throughout the hiring process for senior roles was significantly lower than for the other two identified diversity groups in the report: women and those with a disability. The proportion of candidates with a disability remained similar throughout the process, starting at 6% at the application stage and dropping slightly to 5% at the end.

Women, according to the statistics, consistently punch above their weight in recruitment competitions chaired by a commissioner. Women made up 24% of applicants – a similar rate to those identifying as ethnic minorities – but 44% were deemed appointable candidates. 

Over the medium term, there has been an increase in the proportion of people from ethnic minority background applying for top civil service jobs. In 2016, statistics published by the Commission showed that ethnic minorities made up just over 11% of all applicants to senior jobs, with just 4.62% of those chosen for interview.

There were more than 98,000 appointments made across the whole civil service in 2021-22, of which some 83,000 were made through open competitions. The remaining appointments were made through “exceptions” to the Civil Service recruitment principles.

Of the 83,000 appointments made through open competitions, 22% came from an ethnic minority background where this was declared.

Baroness Gisela Stuart, first civil service commissioner said ‘You only need to look at the top ranks of the civil service to know that departments need to do more at senior levels to make the civil service more like the country it serves. As its regulator, we share our insights with departmental boards, Civil Service HR and the Government Recruitment Service to ask what more can be done to attract and develop talented and diverse fields of candidates to apply for senior roles.”

A government spokesperson said: “Recent data shows diversity among civil servants has increased and there is a higher proportion of people from ethnic minority backgrounds working in the civil service than ever before.

“We know there is more we can do and we remain committed to improving representation across all grades.” 

Officials from ethnic minorities make up 14.3% of the whole civil service – compared to 13.6% of the UK’s working age population – but only 9.3% of officials at Grade 6 and 8.7% of senior civil servants, according to the civil service diversity and inclusion dashboard from May 2022 published by the Cabinet Office.

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