Data entry may be the new “typist”, younger women are more likely than older women to work in engineering, and two-fifths of farmers are aged 60 years or older.
These are just some of the unique details that census labour market data reveal about the roles people had as of March 2021, across England and Wales.
At that time, 1.1 million people said that they were sales and retail assistants, making it the most frequently reported job. But we can also look more closely to see which roles were more or less popular by age, or had more men and women, and how likely they were to be done by people with a disability.
More than three-quarters (76%) of bed-and-breakfast owners were aged over 50 years old, compared with around a third of the workforce in this age group overall. Half of heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers are also aged 50 years or older. But data analysts tend to be much younger.
In total, 27.8 million people aged 16 years and over said they were in employment at the time of the census, in March 2021. People on furlough were asked to record their employment as ongoing, but some people may have said they were out of work instead.
Census data are also different to our regular labour market statistics, which are based on a sample but updated more often. You can find out about those differences in our comparison article.
In the census data, we found a fifth of people in employment were in the top 10 most common roles, including more than 800,000 “care workers and home carers”. For each job, we can look at differences in age profile, how work varies for men and women, and types of employment.
See How many people do my job? to find out more about the people in a particular role. Data for detailed industry groups are also available.
One in five workers had one of the 10 most common roles reported in Census 2021
The top 10 most common jobs reported in the census, of those in employment, March 2021, England and Wales
“Farmer” has a particularly old age profile as an occupation, with 42% of people in this role aged 60 years or older and 29% aged 65 years or older.
For the whole working population, around 11% of workers are aged 60 years or older and only 4.3% are aged 65 or older.
This makes “farmers” one of the oldest occupations at the time of the census, with fewer than 11% of farmers aged under 30 years. It is also the occupation with the highest UK-born workforce (98%).
Almost 3 in every 10 farmers is aged 65 years or older
Proportion of people working as "farmers", by age band, Census 2021, England and Wales
However, farm workers, who may do more of the physical labour, are counted separately. People who do this job are often young, nearly a quarter of farm workers (23%) were aged under 25 years.
An occupation with an older age profile could also pose challenges for labour supply in future if not enough young people go into that type of work.
People working as “undertakers, mortuary assistants and crematorium assistants” are also generally older, with nearly 3 in 10 people in this role aged 60 years or older (28%). Only 1 in 10 (9.6%) of people with this occupation are aged under 30 years old.
Societal and technological changes could explain other age profiles for occupations.
In the 10 years from 2011, traditional industries such as manufacturing, print and reproduction, and publishing have seen a widespread decline, while computer programming and consultancy saw an increase.
At the time of the latest census, the occupation “typists and other keyboard professions” appeared to be a dying profession, with 60% of people doing this job aged 50 years or older. This means it had almost double the representation of workers aged 50 or older compared with the whole workforce (33%).
However, data entry jobs, which also require routine keyboard work, were mostly held by younger people, with 41% aged under 35 years. This is relatively high compared with 33% of people in that age group across the whole workforce. Only 18% of typists were aged under 35 years.
People working in data entry are generally much younger than typists
Proportion of people working in “typists and other keyboard professions” and “data entry”, by age band, Census 2021, England and Wales
Jobs surrounding printed information, such as librarians, library clerks and assistants, and print finishers and book binding workers, were also generally older in age profile. Around half of people in these roles were aged 50 years or older.
Data analysis type roles for computerised information had a much younger age profile. Around half of people employed as a “data analyst” were aged under 35 years old, with a similar picture for “actuaries, economists and statisticians”, and “business and related research professionals”. This last occupation type is very broad and includes job titles such as social media analyst, criminal intelligence analyst, and games researcher.
Digital data jobs are more popular than print-related jobs among younger people
Proportion of working adults employed in selected print and digital information occupations, England and Wales, Census 2021
“Actors, entertainers and presenters” also had a young age profile. This occupation category includes social media influencers, podcasters and Youtubers, alongside radio and TV presenters, theatrical actors, singers and performance artists.
However, related occupations such as “arts officers, producers and directors” and “authors and writers” had a more mid-career profile, perhaps reflecting the amount of experience required for such roles, with the largest representation between those aged 30 and 49 years. Occupations in IT, programming, web design and “graphic and multimedia design” also had a larger proportion of people aged 30 to 49 years.
Some skilled manufacturing trades had an older age profile, with nearly half of workers aged 50 years or older. These include “upholsterers” (49%), “footwear and leather working trades” (47%), and “glass and ceramic makers, decorators and finishers” (47%).
However, “carpenters and joiners”, “stonemasons”, “butchers”, those working in metal working, welding, and “plastic process operatives” were among the occupations that had a range of ages matching the whole population.
Some people aged 50 years or older left the job market during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. However, among those in this age group, there were fewer people who left the job market from skilled trades roles in 2021 than in 2019.
Some occupations had very strong differences in the number of men and women who worked in those roles.
Construction workers and people working in many manual trades were nearly all men; 99% of bricklayers and 98% of vehicle mechanics were men, while women were overwhelmingly represented in early education and childcare, as well as the education sector. Around 97% of early education and childcare assistants and practitioners were women.
In general, most teachers were female, except among higher education professionals, such as university lecturers, which were more evenly split (48% women compared with 52% men).
This matches the proportion across the whole workforce of 48% women and 52% men.
More men were involved in teaching jobs at higher educational levels
Percentage of people working in teaching professions by sex, of those in employment, Census 2021, England and Wales
These teaching professionals also tended to be older the higher the education level they worked in. Around a fifth of primary and secondary school teachers were aged under 30 years old. Primary and secondary school teachers were also the most common teaching jobs, accounting for half of all people working in education roles.
Around three-quarters of people working in “science, research, engineering and technology” occupations were men (76%).
However, looking more closely at individual occupations shows some nuances.
There were more men who were “physical scientists” (73% men, 27% women), but this difference was less apparent for “chemical scientists” (62% men, 38% women) and “biological scientists” (56% men, 44% women).
There were more female “biochemists and biomedical scientists” (63% women, 38% men), and also slightly more women who were “social and humanities scientists” (53% women, 47% men).
Women are more likely to work in some scientific disciplines than others
Proportion of people working as scientists, by occupation type and sex, Census 2021, England and Wales
Within the broader category of science, research, engineering and technology, there were more men than women in all engineering roles for all age groups.
Almost half of female engineers were aged under 35 years (48%). For men who were working as engineers, around a third were aged under 35 years, similar to the whole working population.
Women working in engineering are generally younger
Proportion of adults working in engineering professions, by age and sex, Census 2021, England and Wales
This means that among engineers aged 50 to 54 years, there were around 10 men for every woman. However, among younger people aged 25 to 29 years old, this difference had roughly halved to 5 men working as engineers, for every 1 woman.
Healthcare professions typically had more women than men. Occupations involving therapy, psychology, and nursing were mostly held by women, but there was a more even mix of men and women among general practitioners (GPs), specialist doctors, paramedics and dentists.
Skills in healthcare, engineering, and scientific research all feature on the UK’s shortage list for Skilled Worker visas.
See our How many people do my job? interactive for information about a specific occupation.
The youngest workers, those aged 16 to 24 years, make up 10% of the total workforce, but they made up around half of the workers in some hospitality roles, including waiters and waitresses (50%), bar staff (48%), and coffee shop workers (48%).
Retail was the largest type of employment reported in census data, (4% of people working), at 1.1 million people. Young people aged 16 to 24 account for 1 in every 8 people working in retail (13%). People aged 25 to 29 account for another 12%.
Many of the top 10 jobs for this age group are lower paid, many are part-time roles, and some are seasonal. It is likely that the flexibility of such roles will be attractive for young people, and appealing ‘stop gaps’ for those who have recently left education.
The tendency of young people to hold these types of job, and work in hospitality and retail, may have left young people especially open to job losses and being unable to work during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Across the whole working population, women were twice as likely as men to work part-time (42% of women worked part-time, compared with 18% of men). Men had more than double the rate of women when it came to being self-employed (22% of men, compared with 11% of women).
Around 1 in 9 people in employment were aged 60 years or older (11%), but there were occupations where this was much higher.
Elected officers and representatives (everyone whose main job is being paid in an elected office, from local councillors to Members of Parliament and Members of the Welsh Senedd), had the oldest age profile of all occupations. Just over half of people with this occupation were aged at least 60 years old, and almost 2 in 5 (38%) aged 65 years or older.
Care escorts, who transport and chaperone people in need of care, and HGV drivers also had a larger proportion of people aged over 60 (this older age profile for HGV drivers has also been evidenced in other data sources). And around 3 in 10 of all clergy were in this older age group.
Quite a lot of jobs that had a higher percentage of people in older age groups also had higher rates of disabled workers. We define disabled workers as anyone who said they were limited “a little” or “a lot” in their day-to-day activities by a long-term health condition, either mental or physical.
Overall, census data show around 1 in 10 workers had a disability (9.6%). For care escorts, this more than doubled to 21%. This is followed by “elected officials” and “typists and related keyboard occupations”, “library clerks and assistants” and “artists”, among whom around 19% of workers were disabled. You can find more detail in our data for occupation by disability status.
For some senior or specialist professions, a generally older age profile is to be expected. These higher paid or skilled roles, such as headteachers, driving instructors, senior police officers and specialist doctors, typically require more workplace experience. None of these jobs were among the top 10 most common occupations for an age group until people are aged at least 40 years or older.
But the higher percentages of people aged 60 years or older in some less skilled roles, such as exam invigilators, could point to a return of a preference for part-time work later in people’s careers. The top 10 most common jobs for people aged 55 to 59 years old were also often lower paid roles, such as “street cleaners” and other “elementary cleaning occupations”.
Census 2021 asked those in employment to provide their job title and a job description. From this the data are coded to an occupation code. Census 2021 used the Standard Occupation Classification (2020 version) to classify a person’s occupation. As such, occupation data in this article is not comparable with data collected on Census 2011, which used the 2010 version.
Quality considerations along with the strengths and limitations of Census 2021 are provided in our Quality and Methodology Information (QMI) for Census 2021. Read more about the specific quality considerations in our Labour market quality information for Census 2021 methodology, Health, disability and unpaid care quality information for Census 2021 methodology and Demography and migration quality information for Census 2021 methodology. Further information on our quality assurance processes is provided in our Maximising the quality of Census 2021 population estimates methodology.
We apply statistical disclosure control to protect the confidentiality of census respondents. Differences in the methods used for statistical disclosure control may result in minor differences in data totals between census products. As we round all figures individually, table totals may not sum exactly.
Age profile analysis
To work out how similar occupations were to each other, or their wider occupational group, we used a formula called the “Jensen-Shannon distance”.
This method allowed us to compare the whole age profile for an occupation or group, rather than only comparing one value, such as median age.
The Jenson-Shannon distance tells us how different two probability distributions are to each other. It takes a value between 0 and 1, with 0 being that the distributions are the same, 1 that they are completely different. If the distance between two distributions was less than 0.1, we said the distributions were “similar”.
The formula we used involved the square root so that it is more comparable with traditional distance measures, rather than the standard formula for the method.
The Jensen-Shannon distance between distribution P and Q is
M is the average of the distributions, and D is defined as