Army jobs: Are there fewer young white British men?

General Sir Nick Carter saying: There are 25% less of the community that we used to recruit 10 or 15 years ago. Our traditional cohort would have been white, male, Caucasian 16 to 25 year olds and there are not as many of those around.

The claim: There are 25% fewer white men aged 16 to 25 for the Army to recruit from.

Reality Check verdict: The most up-to-date figures show that the number of white British men aged 16 to 24 rose 8% in England and Wales between 2001 and 2011. But the Army says over the years the proportion of white, male recruits of all ages who are willing and able to join up is shrinking due to changes in society and the Army needs to reach out to a broader community. We asked the Army for the statistics behind the 25% figure but haven't yet received a breakdown.

Head of the Army Gen Sir Nick Carter was on BBC Radio 4 on Wednesday morning talking about the Army's new recruitment campaign.

He said the Army had to try to appeal more widely across society because "there are 25% less of the community that we used to recruit from 10 or 15 years ago".

"Our traditional cohort would have been white, male, Caucasian 16- to 25-year-olds, and there are not as many of those around as there once were and our society is changing," he added.

The only reliable data set that breaks down population by age, gender and ethnic group is the census, which is conducted every 10 years.

The most recent one was in 2011, which found that there were 2,589,940 people identifying themselves as white British men aged between 16 and 24 in England and Wales.

That was an increase of just over 8% from the figure in the 2001 census.

But the Army says there are fewer eligible applicants from this group because of higher employment rates, a change in career expectations and changing demographics, including:

  • a more ethnically diverse population
  • more people going into higher education
  • an ageing population
  • an increase in health problems.

Army figures show 2,380 white males were recruited between April and October 2017, which was 72% of the overall inflow over that period (with the British army at 82,000 strong).

This compared with 10,620 in 2009-10, which was 81% of that year's inflow (when the British army was 101,800 strong).

In the Radio 4 interview, Gen Carter said: "What this campaign is about frankly is a recognition that we don't have a fully manned army at the moment, that the demography of our country has changed and that we need to reach out to a broader community in order to man that army with the right talent."

More staff needed

The Army does need to recruit more staff if it is to meet government targets.

The Conservative Party's 2015 manifesto said: "We will maintain the size of the regular armed services and not reduce the Army to below 82,000."

That did not happen, as this chart shows.

In the 2017 manifesto, the pledge had been changed to "We will maintain the overall size of the armed forces, including an army that is capable of fielding a war-fighting division."

At the time of the election in June, the figure for all UK forces service personnel - including the Army, the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force - was 196,399. The most recent figures we have are for October that year, when the number had fallen to 195,732.

UPDATE 19 April 2018: This story has been updated after the Army clarified Gen Carter had been referring to the number of young, white men from which the Army could recruit, not the overall number of young, white men.

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