Scottish Employer Skills Survey 2020

An Official Statistics Publication for Scotland

The Chief Statistician today published results from the Scottish Employer Skills Survey 2020.

The Scottish Employer Skills Survey (ESS) 2020 is a large-scale telephone survey of 3,497 employers in Scotland. 

Fieldwork was undertaken between 20 October and 22 December 2020.

It provides insight into employers’ views on skill shortages, skill gaps and employer led training activity.  It also provides new evidence on the skills related impacts of COVID-19 on employers.

Key findings include:

  • overall, 11% of employers had a vacancy at the time of the survey. This is a decrease from 2017, when 20% of employers reported having a vacancy
  • almost a quarter, 24%, of establishments with vacancies reported at least one that was hard to fill due to a skill-shortage issue. This equates to 3% of all establishments in Scotland
  • overall, 12% of employers had any skills gaps within their workforce. This was lower than in 2017 when 16% of employers had skills gaps
  • in total, 4% of all employees in Scotland were considered to have skills gaps
  • one third of establishments, 33%, had staff whose skills and qualifications were under-used. In total, 8% of employees were under-utilised in their role
  • overall, 59% of employers had provided some form of training to staff in the 12 months preceding the survey
  • just over a quarter, 26%, of employers said that COVID-19 had an impact on their training plans
  • just over three-quarters, 76%, of employers had accessed some form of government-backed support in response to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • in total, nearly two-thirds, 65%, of employers had furloughed at least one member of staff in response to the pandemic
  • one-in-eight employers, 12%, had either made staff redundant or were in the process of doing so at the time of the interview
  • nearly all employers, 96%, had changed their working practices in some way in response to the pandemic


The survey was conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic, with fieldwork between 20 October and 22 December 2020.  Results (including comparisons over time) should be considered within this context.  When comparing differences over time, it should be also noted that fieldwork for the 2020 survey (October to December) was carried out later in the year than for the 2017 survey (May to October).  This will mean any seasonal differences (for example, in recruitment patterns) will be reflected in figures and comparisons should be treated with caution.   

The full statistical publication is available on the Scottish Government website.  It includes the official statistics main report, supplementary data tables, slide pack and technical report.

This is an Official Statistics publication.  Official statistics are produced in accordance with the Code of Practice for Statistics.


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