WHAT do christians
do all day?
The impact of Christians in the workforce cannot be understated. Firstly, the workplace is where Christians spend the majority of their time, providing the opportunity to influence in ways that only extended periods of salt and light can impart. Secondly, it is the place of realisation of the fruit of our labour, whether it is building, serving, engaging or transforming.
Finding one’s role in the workplace is however a complex process. Decisions must consider personal skills, pre-requisite qualifications, passion and paying the bills. A colleague of mine also stresses family influences. She was told she could only be one of three Ds: a doctor, a developer … or a disappointment! On top of these, Christians often carry a higher burden. This may start with deciphering a sense of personal calling, followed by questions such as ‘what does God want me to do?’ and ‘is it okay for a Christian to work for a bank?’
Career decisions have influence beyond the individual. In the information technology world I work in, decisions and strategies in areas such as Artificial Intelligence and big data will have profound influence in shaping our future society. It is the same in almost all other disciplines. The presence of a strong Christian voice in these fields is essential.
For these reasons, it is important to understand the make-up of the Christian workforce - where it is well-represented and where it is under-represented. Tracking this is not easy - data is fragmented and definitions can be vague. But the value of such knowledge is immense. It builds a framework to educate and encourage Christians, both in making career decisions and in building them up in the context they may already work in.
. But pulling it all together we can draw some key conclusions and answer the age-old question - what do Christians indeed do all day?
the older profile of Christians means that they are under-represented in fields dominated by younger workers, especially technology, arts and media
Christians are consistently over-represented in education (especially as principals)
almost 70% of politicians/legislators are Christian
church-going Christians are more likely to be involved in people-centred aid-related roles
Christians are consistently under-represented in science
TRACKING THE BROAD CHRISTIAN GROUP
Defining Christians is never an easy task and there are two views, both just as important as the other. I will start with the first view, which focuses on the broader group of Christians – that is, those who in the 2016 Census stated a Christian tradition as their religion. I will then look at the second view, which focuses on committed Christians who are likely to be regularly engaged in their faith.
Census data is reliable and comprehensive, and helpful for our purposes as the respondents are also asked about their occupation details. The ABS usefully classifies this data into the standard ANZSCO job typology classifications.
Below we can see the three job groups where Christians, as defined by the Census, are most proportionally over-represented (and under-represented). The top group is farmers (72.9% of farmers are Christian, which is 2.18% of all working Christians) while the bottom group is Information and Communications Technology (ICT) professionals. Neither is unexpected: farmers tend to be from high European-ancestry groups (which have high Christian rates), while in my ICT field large numbers of my colleagues are from South or East Asia (which have low Christian rates). Of further note is the high representation of Christians in education, which is not surprising as it is a people-centred field. At the other end we see low representation of Christians in the arts and media - it would be interesting to explore the reasons for this.
Top 3 and Bottom 3 Christian Job Categories (ANZSCO Level 2)
Below we see the same for the categories deemed 'influential' (which will be the focus of the rest of the analysis). This is not an exclusive list and does not suggest that some jobs are more important than others - all jobs are important to the functioning of a greater body, both in church and in society. Certainly there are many who see some jobs as closer to ‘God’s heart’ than others, particularly those jobs that involve helping the needy or the ‘least of these’ as described in Matthew 25:40. However, my reason for focusing on the categories I have chosen is that they are deemed to be influential in shaping the present and future of our society.
Unsurprisingly, ministers of religion are heavily Christian - 97.4% as stated in the Census (although they make up just 0.31% of all Christians). As we saw before, Christians also rank highly in education, both as principals (almost 69.3% of all principals are Christian) and more broadly as teachers. Politicians are a small but also strongly Christian group (holding great influence).
On the other hand, as mentioned earlier, Christians are under-represented and thus less influential among the key fields of technology, arts and media. The same occurs in science - it is little wonder that many see religion and science as being in opposition. Whatever the reason for low representation in these key disciplines, it is important that the church provides workers in these fields with the support they need and the encouragement to be aware of the importance they play in shaping society.
Selected Job Category Representation across All Christians
Average represents the rate of the given variable (in this case 53.4% of all workers are Christian)
The Census data also allows us to explore employment by denomination. Below we can see the most over-represented and under-represented jobs for a selection of denominations. There are similarities in the top categories of employment for Catholic, Anglican and Uniting church members (principals, politicians), but they differ at the lower end. These differences are driven by a number of factors. The established Protestant denominations, which typically have an older demographic, fall short in arts and technology for age-related reasons. Catholics fall short in different areas due to their multi-cultural make up. Likewise, Eastern Orthodox, a very different demographic group again, instead has high levels of members working in technology, and as lawyers and chief executives. The fluid 'nfd' (no denomination given) group skews to people-centred job types, unsurprising given that this group tends to be younger and more left-leaning. Theology and church culture will influence career choice, too, particularly with respect to how churches perceive mission. What this all means is that different denominations face different challenges in their ability to reach and influence sectors of society. Those denominations most balanced in age and ethnicity are also the most balanced in skills that are crucial both inside and outside of the church.
Top 3 and Bottom 3 Selected Job Categories by Denomination % = Percentage of total workers belonging to given denomination
As discussed, a limitation of the above results is that they do not consider the impact of age. Christians are considerably older in general than the wider population. To balance this, I have filtered results to compare peer groups of the same age. I have done this below for those in their 20s, as looking at this group flags the areas where Christians may be more influential in the future, as well as where a Christian voice may struggle to be heard. We see that, even among the younger group, Christians remain under-represented in technology, arts and media (although they are closer to the average). Even though this skewing is partly due to the cultural make-up of employees in this sector, as explained earlier, it does not diminish the concern. It is vital that the church encourages young people into these fields, particularly given the increasing overlap of technology and ethics. Furthermore, the church will struggle to engage with society without these skills. Promisingly, the influence in education remains strong, which is great news as this field is key in shaping the next generation.
Selected Job Category Representation across Christians in their 20s
TRACKING THE NARROW CHRISTIAN GROUP
We now turn to the second definition of Christian, namely, those who are actively involved in their Christian faith. This is probably around 20-25% of the broad Christian group. Isolating this group is tricky as the Census does not consider the level of faith involvement. One way to get around this is to use other data sources; the NCLS (National Church Life Survey) is a fantastic source that I will come to. A second method is to isolate the Census denominations that largely include active members, as measured by regular church attendance. While the Anglican and Catholic Census numbers will have high percentages of 'nominal Christians', we know that those who identify as Pentecostal will largely be active. Below we see how the job profile of Pentecostals compares to the working population.
Selected Job Category Representation across Pentecostals
This group has disproportionately high levels of representation in social and welfare roles, in education and in the arts and media. Even in technology, there is marginal over-representation in the Pentecostal church (although this may be because Pentecostals are more multi-cultural than most denominations). This is backed up in the NCLS survey (K. Jacka and M. Pepper, ‘Pews are filled with people-helping tech-savvy professionals’, ncls.org.au/news/people-helping-professionals, May 2018), which showed that 15% of church-goers claim to be employed in a technological role (albeit with a wider definition). The same survey shows that 35% of church-goers work in people-centred roles. Nonetheless, church-goers remain lagged behind in science, policing and law.
We can complete the loop by focusing on Pentecostals aged in their 20s (as seen below). This may seem an insignificant group, but the NCLS shows that up to 29% of church-goers in their 20s are indeed Pentecostal. Some numbers are small (politicians, principals) due to the young age of this demographic, but again we see a very strong leaning towards social and welfare jobs, which confirms the pattern among the broader Christian group as discussed earlier. There are also strong skews towards education, arts and media.
Selected Job Category Representation across Pentecostals in their 20s
As in much data analysis, conclusions are reliant on tying together fragmented findings. Several things are clear. Firstly, the older profile of Christians (both in broader and narrower definitions) means that they are under-represented in fields dominated by young workers, especially technology, arts and media. But there is considerable correction when age-to-age comparisons are made. Whatever way we look at it, education is a field where Christians are over-represented, which provides an opportunity for Christian values to be imparted to the young. When we focus on active church-goers, there is evidence that Christians are heavily involved in people-centred roles, especially in aiding those in need. With the exception of Pentecostals, there remains less influence in technology, an area that is increasing pivotal in shaping social ethics and values. This is even more so the case in science, where Christians are consistently under-represented.
Regardless of the field of work, there is an onus on churches to encourage their people in their fields of skill and interest. This requires empowerment and opportunity. These skills can be utilised effectively both inside and outside of the church. We can be grateful for the strong Christian voice in education. Any further ways to encourage Christians into and within the fields of arts, media, technology and science must be found, in order to ensure a Christian presence in these key areas that will shape our future society.
(profiling full-time ministry workers, how hard they work, gender pay inequality)