Working to make government more effective


Age of the civil service

The age of the civil service can have consequences on the skills available to the civil service.

Department for International Trade
Policy-focused departments, such as the Department for International Trade, are young and getting younger: over 60% of their employees are under the age of 40.

Since 2010, the median age of the civil service rose to a high of 47 in 2015 and 2016 before returning to 44. The senior civil service is older than the rest of the civil service, with a median age of 48 since 2019.

More civil servants are in the 50-59 year old age band than in any other, an increase since 2010 but lower than the peak of 32% in 2016. 38% of all civil servants were aged over 50 in 2022, up from 33% in 2010.

The percentage of civil servants aged under 30, which fell from 14% in 2010 to a low of 9% in 2014 following civil service recruitment freezes, is climbing again. The 40-49 age group has fallen from making up a third of the civil service in 2010 to 23% in 2022. Meanwhile the proportion of civil servants over the age of 60 has risen from 7% in 2010 to 10% in 2022.

How does age vary between departments?

Big delivery departments – the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), the Ministry of Defence (MoD), Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the Home Office (HO) – have older workforces; over a third of their staff are aged over 50, approaching nearly half at MoD and DWP. These departments are also getting older.

Policy-focused departments – the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), HM Treasury and the Department for International Trade (DIT) – are young and getting younger: over 60% of their employees are under the age of 40. Given they are the five biggest departments, the age profiles of MoD, DWP, HMRC, MoJ and HO drive the age profile of the civil service as a whole.

Understandably, therefore, their median ages are close to that of the civil service as a whole. In 2022, HM Treasury (34), DIT (35) and DCMS (35) had the lowest median ages; they were joined by the Cabinet Office and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) in having median ages under 40.

How does age change with seniority?

The senior civil service (SCS) is the oldest grade bracket: 44% are aged over 50. The median age of senior civil servants is 48 compared to 44 for the whole civil service.

The proportion of civil servants aged under 30 has gone up in all grades except SCS over the last decade – particularly at the Executive Officer (EO) and Senior Executive Officer/Higher Executive Officer (SEO/HEO) levels and Grades 6 and 7. The 40-49 age band has shrunk at every level except SCS since 2010, but especially at EO and SEO/HEO.

Institute for Government

Related content