The changing face of the Scottish workforce

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The number of jobs in Scotland fell by 14,000 between March and June 2020. However, underneath that headline figure lies a more complex story. This blog looks at the Workforce Job data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), published 14 September, to see what it can tell us about the changing face of the job market in Scotland.

About the data

We have looked at the non-seasonally adjusted data from the Workforce Jobs release as it allows us to look at the data in more detail than by using the seasonally adjusted data. For example, we can look at breakdowns by sex, working pattern and/or both for the whole of Scotland. Unfortunately, it does not allow for analysis at a local level or by age, deprivation, or race. More information on workforce jobs can be found on the ONS website.

14,000 fewer jobs

The headline number tells us that there were 14,000 fewer jobs in Scotland in June compared to March this year, but that doesn’t tell the full story. There are three points we need to look at to understand what is going on: 

  • change by industry
  • change by working patterns
  • employees versus self-employed.

Change by industry

There has been a large increase in 'Wholesale & retail' jobs and a large fall in 'Agriculture' and 'Accommodation & food services' jobs.

Let’s start by looking at how the jobs numbers have changed by industry. The industries which have seen the biggest decreases in jobs are “agriculture, forestry and fishing” and “accommodation and food services”. Combined, these industries account for a loss of 28,000 jobs. This is hardly surprising with bars and restaurants going out of business or laying off staff and stories of shortfalls of farm workers. It should be noted that both sectors are low paid, with the median hourly pay excluding overtime for “accommodation and food services” at £8.50 per hour, below the real-living wage, currently set at £9.30.

The sector that has seen the largest increase in jobs is “wholesale and retail trade”, this is unsurprising due to the increased demand placed on supermarkets during lockdown.  “Other services” has also seen a large increase of 11,800 extra jobs. This industry includes jobs in “hairdressing and other beauty treatment”, “physical well-being activities” and “repair of goods”. Again, these sectors are both generally low paid, with median hourly pay excluding overtime for wholesale and retail trade at £9.31 an hour.

Change by working pattern

While the number of part-time jobs increased, the number of full-time jobs lost was far higher.

While overall the number of jobs has fallen by 14,000, there is a stark contrast when looking at working patterns. The number of full-time jobs has fallen by 31,500 while the number of part-time jobs has increased by 17,400. In most industries which have seen an increase in the number of jobs, the majority of the growth has come from part-time jobs. For example, in “wholesale and retail” 7,300 of the additional jobs were full-time while 9,700 were part-time. “Other services” saw the largest increase in the number of full-time jobs, with an extra 8,900. This will be explored further later.

There was a large decrease in male full-time jobs.

There is also a clear split by sex. Overall, males saw a fall of 26,100 jobs while females saw an increase of 12,100. Looking at the fall in full-time jobs, there were 34,100 fewer males in full-time jobs, and 2,600 more females. While both sexes saw an increase in the number of part-time jobs, female jobs saw a far larger increase, 9,500 compared to 2,600.

Employees versus self-employed

The variation across the industries can also be seen in the change in the number of employee jobs and of self-employment. Overall, the number of employees has fallen by almost 23,000 while the number of self-employed jobs has increased by almost 9,000.

Again, when looking at employees and self-employed jobs, the industries that have seen the highest job losses tend to have the highest number of employee job losses. For example, employee job losses in “agriculture, forestry and fishing” and “accommodation and food” account for a loss of 28,000 jobs.

In some sectors the number of employee job losses have been offset by new self-employed jobs. For example, the majority of new jobs in the “other services” industry have come from self-employment. “Human health and social work services” bucks this trend, losing self-employed jobs but gaining enough employees that the industry saw an increase in jobs. This is probably linked to recruitment drives for new staff in the care and health sectors due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

The largest decrease came in employee full time jobs.

When looking at the change in working pattern, the number of full-time employee jobs fell  by 46,200, while the number of part-time jobs increased by 23,600. The opposite is true for self-employed jobs, with 14,500 extra full-time jobs and part-time jobs falling by 5,600.

The industry which has seen the largest increase in self-employed jobs for both sexes is “Other services”, which includes jobs in “hairdressing and other beauty treatment”, “physical well-being activities” and “repair of goods”. For females, the other sectors which have seen large increases are “human health and social work service” and “manufacturing”. While for males it is “financial and insurance” and “real estate”.


As we can see, underneath the headline figure of 14,000 fewer jobs, there is a lot more going on. The increase in part-time jobs has covered up for the larger losses of full-time jobs. Where full-time jobs have been added they are in lower paid industries or for the self-employed. Males appear from these statistics to have been harder hit than females. With the end of the furlough scheme scheduled for the end of the October, this fall in jobs may be much higher in the coming months.

Andrew Aiton, Data Visualisation Manager

Featured images sources from Canva and Pixabay