According to the 2021 PRCA census, 99,900 people currently work in the industry – the highest figure to date, and up slightly from the 97,000 employed at the time of the previous study.
The PRCA also found that nearly 10 per cent of the workforce was furloughed after March 2020 and two per cent were made redundant.
Research for the study was carried out by 3Gem, and was based on survey responses from 541 PR and comms professionals across the UK.
Shifting working patterns
Against the backdrop of the pandemic – during which working from home where possible was mandated by the Government – the survey asked whether people would return to the office once the restrictions ended.
Only 16 per cent of respondents said they would be returning to the office full-time and 13 per cent said they would be working remotely full-time from now on.
But the remaining 63 per cent said they would be working remotely part-time, revealing a marked shift in the working patterns of the industry.
A little over two-thirds of PR and comms practitioners are women, a proportion that has remained broadly stable for several years, and the median age of people working in the industry is 38.
Nearly half were educated in a state school and three-quarters have a degree, the survey found.
Asked about their nationality, 84 per cent said they were British while more than six per cent said they were EU nationals and four per cent said they were from outside the EU. A further five per cent said they held dual nationality.
Ethnicity, disability, and sexual orientation
Asked about their ethnicity, 87 per cent of respondents said they are white, down two percentage points on last year’s figure, and 13 per cent identified as non-white.
Of the 13 per cent, 3.5 per cent told the survey they are of mixed ethnicity, three per cent are Indian, two per cent are black African or Caribbean, and nearly two per cent said they are black British.
Asked about their sexual orientation, 84 per cent said they are heterosexual, five per cent identified as gay or lesbian and four per cent said they are bisexual, an increase in representation of three percentage points since the previous study.
About one per cent said they preferred to describe themselves in another way and six per cent chose not to disclose their sexual orientation.
The representation of people working in the industry who say they have a disability also increased slightly from last year, up one percentage point to five per cent.
Respondents were asked to rate their company or organisation’s performance in promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Just over two-thirds rated it as “good” – up six per cent on last year – while nearly a quarter described it as average.
However, nearly 10 per cent of respondents said their organisation’s performance was “poor” in this area.
The PRCA said the industry had clearly taken steps to make the workplace more diverse and inclusive, but employers “should not be complacent” because some staff clearly felt they were not doing enough in this area.
The study revealed a worrying uptick in poor mental health across the industry, with 40 per cent of respondents telling the survey they had suffered from or been diagnosed with mental ill-health – an increase of six per cent on the previous study.
The PRCA said additional research showed that 90 per cent of people in the industry had struggled with their mental wellbeing to some degree during the last 12 months, with many feeling stressed because of the pandemic or their workloads.
More than one-third of respondents said they carried out work-related tasks outside office hours every day, while 10 per cent said they did so once per week.
Asked to rate their organisation’s approach to wellbeing, 63 per cent said it was “good” and nearly10 per cent said it was “poor”.