Agency staff levels hit 30-year high

More people are working in Britain's advertising agencies than at any time in the past 30 years. But almost half of them are in their twenties and only a handful are from ethnic minorities.

The industry's larger, but overwhelmingly white, workforce is highlighted in the latest IPA census figures, which show that 15,751 people were employed by 240 IPA agencies on 1 September 2005.The figure is 561 higher than at the same time in 2004, although six more agencies were included in the latest census.

The IPA said the growth in numbers had been driven by the buoyancy of the media and digital sectors. Women continue to make up half of the workforce.

Despite the fact that the population of the UK is ageing, 48 per cent of agency staff are under 30 and just 5 per cent are over 50. In media agencies, the bias towards younger staff is even more pronounced, with 64 per cent aged 30 and under.

The census also suggests that the industry is making slow progress in its efforts to ensure the racial make-up of advertising agencies more accurately reflects society as a whole. White employees accounted for 93.2 per cent of the workforce in 2005, a decline of just 1.7 per cent on the previous year.

Hamish Pringle, the IPA's director-general, warned that the growth in the number of agency staff may not last.

"A good 2004 resulted in the expansion of agencies in-to 2005," he said.

"However, there are signs of a downturn, indicated by the latest Bellwether Report, which suggests that agencies may contract during 2006."