ONS COVID-19 Briefing: Coronavirus and Key Workers in the UK

Estimates of the numbers and characteristics of those who could be considered as potential “key workers” in the response to the coronavirus (COVID-19). Note: Key worker occupations are defined using the 2010 Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) and the 2007 Standard Industrial Classification of Economic Activities (SIC).

This is the latest briefing on the Healthy Suffolk website, but the ONS may have published further updates. You can find historical information and any further updates on the Office for National Statistics (ONS) website

Key points

  • In 2019, 10.6 million of those employed (33% of total workforce) were in key worker occupations and industries
  • Health and Social Care (31%) as the largest of key worker occupation group
  • 15% of key workers were at moderate risk from the coronavirus because of a health condition (though non key workers were at 14%)
  • 31% of key workers have children aged between 5 and 15 years; 16% have children aged 4 or under
  • Those key workers with dependent children, 6% were lone parents; 9% were households where both members of the couple were key workers


  • The largest occupation groups with key workers are, Health and Social Care (31%), Education and Childcare (20%) and Food and Necessary Goods (14%)
  • 58% of all key workers are women, 42% being male
  • Education and childcare employed the highest proportion of women key workers, at 81%, with women key workers making up 79% of health and social care. Transport occupation were predominately male, with 90%
  • A breakdown of the percentage of workforce key workers by district is shown below. All apart from Forest Heath and Mid Suffolk are above the national average; East of England as a whole has a lower than national average percentage:

    • Babergh: 39.6%  (2,000 people)
    • Forest Heath: 29.0% (1,000 people)
    • St. Edmundsbury: 38.1% (2,000 people)
    • Ipswich: 35.3% (2,000 people)
    • Mid Suffolk: 32.3% (2,000 people)
    • Suffolk Coastal: 39.4% (2,000 people)
    • Waveney: 29.1% (1,500 people)
  • Employees in food and necessary goods were most represented in the lowest-paid decile (the lowest 10%), with 9% earning under £146.26 per week. Employees in health and social care also earn lower wages, with 8% of them in the lowest-paid decile. Looking at the highest paid decile, the health and social care occupations are most represented here. Nearly 248,000 (9%) of workers earned over £961.79 per week