Ukie releases its second Diversity Census, revealing the impact of the pandemic on the UK workforce

Ukie has released the results of the second UK Games Industry Census, providing new insight into the industry’s demographics and working habits.

The census was conducted by the University of Sheffield, and was completed by over 3600 industry workers in Autumn 2021 – who were asked about their personal characteristics and background, as well as their working practices.

Additionally, as this was the first census conducted entirely in this post-pandemic world, the census has expanded to include workers’ changing working habits, as well as their perspective on their workplace and the industry as a whole.

POST-PANDEMIC

The pandemic has, predictably, made an enormous impact on how and where people in the industry work. While other sectors may be pushing for a return to the office, it seems working from home is here to stay in the games industry.

Prior to the pandemic, 66 per cent of the industry reported working in the office – compared to nine per cent who worked at home, and seven per cent working under a hybrid model. By Autumn 2021, 80 per cent were working from home, eight per cent worked in the office and 11 per cent alternated between the two.

This dramatic shift, while of course caused by the stay at home orders, seems unlikely to be reversed anytime soon. Only 10 per cent of those surveyed said that they wanted to return to the office, with 52 per cent preferring a hybrid system and 38 per cent wanting to work from home full time. 

Another change since the last census is the alarming rise in mental health issues in the industry – which again, is likely exacerbated by the pandemic. 38 per cent of the UK industry workforce reported dealing with depression, anxiety, or both – compared to 31 per cent in 2020. Rates of anxiety and depression are higher among those in more junior roles, though the census reports a rise in depression and anxiety across all levels of seniority. 

People might not want to return to the office en-masse, but that doesn’t mean the industry isn’t generally proud of where they work. 87 per cent of those surveyed said that they were proud to tell people where they worked, with just 4 per cent either disagreeing or strongly disagreeing with this sentiment.  Despite this affection, 22 per cent were neutral towards the statement “I have a strong attachment to my employer,” while 10 per cent disagreed. 

That relative lack of attachment to any one particular employer may be linked to the respondents’ attitudes towards the UK industry as a whole. 85 per cent of those surveyed said that they were proud to tell people that they are a part of the UK games industry, and 66 per cent would recommend it as a great place to work.

With that said, there are some noticeable differences between people’s attitudes towards their own companies, and towards the industry as a whole. While 79 per cent felt that bullying and harassment was taken seriously at their own workplace, just 49 per cent felt it was taken seriously across the industry as a whole. 

Given the frequent, headline-grabbing stories of workplace harassment from across the industry, this is perhaps unsurprising. It’s an attitude that is also seen in regards to raising concerns about inappropriate behaviour at work. While 84 per cent of respondents said they felt safe to challenge inappropriate behaviour in their own workplaces, just 42 per cent felt the same about the industry as a whole – while 20 per cent felt that it was unsafe. 

Despite the serious issues raised in those figures, 95 per cent of respondents said that they intend to stay in the industry for at least a year, and 74 per cent for at least three years. These figures are slightly smaller in regards to staying at re spondents’ current employers (85 per cent and 49 per cent, respectively), though these figures are still high compared to other sectors. The Ukie census points out that 6 per cent of respondents to the Civil Service People Survey reported that they wanted to leave their current department as soon as possible, while 12 per cent wanted to leave within the next 12 months.

THE DEMOGRAPHICS

Demographically speaking, unsurprisingly little has changed since the previous census just two years ago. The industry is mostly young, with 61 per cent of respondents being 35 or younger, compared to 66 per cent in 2020. 

67 per cent of respondents identify themselves as male, 30 per cent identify as female and three per cent are non-binary. While this has grown from 28 per cent since 2020, that still puts the UK games industry significantly behind the overall workforce, of which women make up 48 per cent. 

The number of people selecting non-binary/other is higher than the estimated percentage in the adult population, which is 0.4 per cent – though these estimates are somewhat unreliable. The percentage of those identifying as non-binary has risen from 2 to 3 per cent since 2020.

As seen in the 2020 census, men are more likely to be in the most senior roles, though there has been a slight increase of women in both senior and lead roles (from 18 per cent and 19 per cent respectively to 22 per cent), but there has been not been a similar increase in the percentage of women in director and CEO roles.

Four per cent of respondents responded that their gender identity is not the one they were assigned at birth, leading the census to conclude that 4 per cent of the UK games industry is trans. The majority of this figure identifies as non-binary, and the overall four per cent figure is above the estimated figure of one per cent of trans adults in the UK – though as with the figures for the non-binary population, these figures are unreliable.

76 per cent of respondants are heterosexual, 12 per cent are bisexual, five per cent lesbian/gay, three per cent queer, two per cent asexual and one per cent pansexual. This would suggest that the UK games industry has a larger percentage of non-heterosexual workers than among the general population – the most recent estimate of the percentage of heterosexual people in the adult population is 93.7 per cent.

The industry remains a mostly middle class one, with 61 per cent of respondents reporting their social background as “managerial/professional” and 82 per cent of the industry has at least an undergraduate degree.

CAREER MOBILITY

In terms of career mobility, people aged between 26 and 35 are the most likely to be promoted, while those 41 and over are noticeably less likely to have been promoted and those aged 51 and over are the least likely. 

When separated by ethnic groups, those in the White/British or White/Other groups are the most likely to be promoted, though the census points out that this is partly explained by these groups being more likely to have people in the younger age groups, where promotions are more common. The disparities between the groups are more pronounced in terms of diagonal moves – getting a more senior role at another organisation. Those in the White/British group are the least likely to have made diagonal moves, while those in the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic category are the most likely.

What’s most noticeable here is the gap between promotions and diagonal moves, which is much larger in the White/British category (49 per cent promoted, 22 per cent diagonal) than for people in the ​​Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic category (46 per cent promoted, 35 per cent diagonal). This suggests a lack of promotion opportunities for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic workers, causing them to leave their current employers in search of career progression. 

Just 31 per cent of autistic people reported having been promoted – which is far lower than those reporting having other neurological conditions, and for those who did not report having any neurological conditions at all. For comparison, the percentage of autistic people making diagonal moves without any neurological conditions: 23 per cent and 24 per cent, respectively. 

“The result of this year’s games industry census shows that the industry has made progress on building an equal, diverse and inclusive sector, adapting well to the immediate challenges posed by the pandemic, but that plenty of work still lies ahead,” said Dr Jo Twist OBE, CEO of Ukie.

“We must ensure that initiatives like #RaiseTheGame, which has signed up 205 partners since 2020, continues to play a key role in driving forward meaningful long-term change to ensure we do not miss out from the opportunities of being a truly inclusive sector.”

“It’s essential to continue to pay attention to the makeup of who’s working in games relatively frequently,” said Dr Mark Taylor, Senior Lecturer at the University of Sheffield. “Even if it turns out that the games industry looks similar to how that should be compared with the broader creative industries context, where the effects of the pandemic have been unequally experienced.”

About Chris Wallace

Chris is a freelancer writer and was MCV/DEVELOP's staff writer from November 2019 until May 2022. He joined the team after graduating from Cardiff University with a Master's degree in Magazine Journalism. He can be found on Twitter at @wallacec42, where he mostly explores his obsession with the Life is Strange series, for which he refuses to apologise.

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