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May 13, 2021updated 17 Nov 2023 2:58pm

Survey finds growing UK journalism workforce of nearly 100,000 still lacks ethnic diversity

By Charlotte Tobitt

The number of working journalists in the UK has gradually increased over the last three years to nearly 100,000, according to analysis of the Office of National Statistics Labour Force Survey.

But analysis of the data by research consultant Mark Spilsbury for the NCTJ suggests the proportion of non-white journalists has changed little in recent years, with non-white journalists comprising 8% of the total compared with 12% of the general UK workforce.

The totals should be treated with some caution because they are aggregated from four quarterly surveys of 60,000 households and 150,000 over-16s each. The survey has a margin of error of 6,000 and journalists make up about 0.3% of the UK workforce. Journalists are defined as those in the category: “journalists, newspaper and periodical editors”.

In 2018 the survey estimated there were 78,000 journalists in the UK. By 2020, this had increased to 96,000 –  the highest figure ever recorded in the Office for National Statistics’ Labour Force Survey.

This compares with an estimated 55,000 journalists in 2007.

The Annual Population Survey, also put together by the ONS, put the total of journalists on 103,000 in 2020. This survey also has a margin of error of 6,000, meaning the two figures could statistically be the same.

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The NCTJ report did not find any “underlying changes” in the proportions of journalists from BAME groups or lower social groups despite years-long concerns over a lack of diversity in the industry.

But it said an increasing proportion of women in the industry and journalists becoming younger and having higher levels of qualifications all appear to be continuing trends.

It concluded: “The continuing increase in the ‘graduatisation’ of journalism could be acting against attempts to increase some aspects of diversity. Entrants to higher education are not themselves representative of the wider population.

“To the extent that journalism continues to increasingly recruit from a pool which is itself under-representative of BAME and lower social groups, it is likely that under-representation will continue.”

There is still a greater proportion of white journalists (92%) than the workforce as a whole (88%). This is a decrease from 94% in 2018 but remains higher than the 90% figure from 2016.

The data does not break down the proportion from different non-white ethnic groups due to the small sample sizes.

The data suggests that around 75% of journalists come from the highest social class based on the occupation of their parents, versus 45% of the general working population. It also suggests 89% of journalists have a degree-level or higher qualification, compared to 48% of the overall UK workforce.

Younger, more female workforce

For the first time the Labour Force Survey data suggests there are more women (53%) in journalism than men. Previously the industry was made up of 54% men in 2018 and 56% in 2016.

The UK workforce is 48% women overall.

It should be noted that, with the same margin of error of 6,000, the Annual Population Survey continued to find more men (54%) than women in journalism.

The NCTJ’s report suggests the journalism industry is also getting younger: the proportion aged under 30 is up from 16% two years ago to 23%, while the proportion over 40 decreased from 64% to 48%.

However, the survey suggests there are proportionally fewer journalists at either end of the age spectrum compared to the overall workforce. Some 67% of journalists are aged between 25 and 49 compared to 57% overall.

Since 2016 the survey finds that the proportion of journalists with a work-limiting disability has increased from 10% to 16%, meaning the industry is now in line with the UK average.

Joanne Butcher, chief executive of the NCTJ, said: “The headline result for the NCTJ in this really useful report is that under-representation of diverse groups in journalism and reliance on graduates continues.

“We need to do more to encourage and support those diverse groups into journalism, promote alternative, non-graduate entry points, and encourage employers to recruit from this talent pool. Apprenticeships, foundation courses and initiatives like the Community News Project are becoming even more important.

“At the same time, we will encourage those who share our values in the higher education sector to recruit a more diverse intake and to offer NCTJ-accredited courses and qualifications.”

In February last year, the NCTJ called for more publishers to pay into its Journalism Diversity Fund amid an industry-wide push for greater newsroom diversity.

It is now supported financially by 18 media organisations: BBC, Bloomberg, CNN International, DMG Media, Dow Jones, Financial Times, Google News Initiative, Insider Inc, ITV News, Newsquest, News UK, NLA media access, PA Media, The Printing Charity, Reach Plc, Reuters, Sky, and Yahoo UK.

Picture: Shutterstock

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