Scotland’s labour market has performed particularly strongly in recent times, mirroring the strength of the UK labour market and breaking records on employment (75.9%, Feb-April 2019) and unemployment (3.2%, Jan-Mar 2019). Labour market statistics released in August 2019 showed that there were 121,000 more people in work in Scotland than the pre-recession peak (Mar-May 2008).

Furthermore, labour market records have also been broken for women and young people. Between February and April 2019, the employment rate for women in Scotland reached a record high of 72.7% and the unemployment rate for young people (16-24) fell to a record low of 6.1%.

Across a number of key labour market indicators Scotland has outperformed the UK as a whole. As of August 2019 unemployment in Scotland has been lower than in the UK for the previous 11 months and July’s labour market statistics (for Mar-May ’19)1 showed Scotland outperformed the UK on employment, unemployment and inactivity rates for women and young people.

A number of skills indicators show Scotland to have progressed in recent years and to outperform other nations;

  • Scotland is ranked 1st out of 36 OECD countries in terms of high-level qualifications;
  • In Scotland more people (47.4%) aged 25-64 are educated to tertiary level (levels 5-8) than any other country in Europe.
  • The proportion of Scotland’s working age population with a degree or professional level qualification has increased from 16.8% in 2004 to 29.6% in 2018.

Increasing skills levels in Scotland mirror enhanced access to full-time higher and further education. In 2017-18, 15.6% of Scottish domiciled students starting a full-time first degree came from Scotland’s 20% most deprived areas, an increase of 1.9 percentage points from 2013-14 (13.7%). In addition, the percentage of full-time Scottish domiciled students entering further education in college that came from Scotland’s 20% most deprived areas rose by 3.3 percentage points between 2006-07 and 2017-18 to 34.1%: the highest on record.

However, even as access to formal education has increased, in-work training has fallen. In 2018, 22.5% of 16-64 year olds in work received training at work, down from 31.2% in 2004.