Regional employment patterns in Scotland: statistics from the Annual Population Survey 2018

Summary publication of results from the Annual Population Survey 2018, presenting analysis on the labour market, education and training.

This document is part of a collection

Key Points


  • In 2018, 2,638,400 people (aged 16 years and over) were in employment in Scotland, slightly lower than in 2017. The employment rate was 74.1 per cent, slightly lower than the year before (74.2 per cent) and below the UK rate of 75.0 per cent.
  • Since 2008, the employment rate had increased in 18 local authorities and decreased in 14 local authorities.
  • The gender employment gap (which measures the difference between the employment rates for men and women) has decreased from 10.5 percentage points in 2008 to 7.6 percentage points in 2018.
  • The employment rate for young people (aged 16-24 years) decreased over the last year to 57.2 per cent in employment.
  • Since 2008, employment levels for 25-34, 50-64 and 65+ year olds have increased with those in employment aged 65+ almost doubling, rising from 49,000 to 89,000.

Types of employment

  • 1,911,900 people were in full-time employment in 2018 and 718,800 were in part-time employment.
  • 321,300 people in employment were self-employed, close to the highest level since the series began. Women accounted for an increasing share of self-employment from 26.8 per cent in 2004 to 34.5 per cent in 2016. However, women’s share of self-employment has fallen to 32.0 per cent over the past two years.
  • In 2018, 7.4 per cent of employees reported hours based underemployment, down from 10.0 per cent in 2012* and down from 8.0 per cent in 2017*.


  • 88,600 people aged 65 years and over were in employment in Scotland in 2018, almost twice as many as ten years ago. The most common reason for working past 65 years was being ‘Not ready to stop working’ reported by 55.4 per cent.
  • In 2018, the employment rate for those classed as disabled under the Equality Act 2010 was 45.6 per cent which was significantly lower than the employment rate for those not classed as disabled (81.1 per cent). In 2018, the disabled employment rate gap was 35.5 percentage points.
  • The employment rate for the minority ethnic population aged 16-64 was 55.4 per cent, lower than the white population with an employment rate of 75.1 per cent giving a gap in employment rate between minority ethnic and white aged 16 to 64 years of 19.7 percentage points.


  • 11.6 per cent (387,400) of the population in Scotland aged 16-64 years old have low or no qualifications (SCQF level 4 or below).
  • Scotland has a highly qualified workforce. 48.9 per cent of workers aged 16-64 years in Scotland have further or higher education qualifications (SCQF level 7+).
  • The employment rate for those aged 16-64 years with further or higher education (SCQF level 7+) qualifications was higher than for those with low or no qualifications (82.3 per cent and 51.0 per cent, respectively).
  • 35.8 per cent (772,300) of workers in Scotland aged 25-64 years in 2018 were graduates (SCQF level 9+), close to the highest on record (35.9 per cent).


  • In 2018, 117,200 people (aged 16 years and over) were unemployed in Scotland, increasing by 5,300 since 2017. The unemployment rate increased from 4.1 in 2017 to 4.3 per cent in 2018, above the UK rate of 4.2 per cent.
  • In 2018, 52,000 women (aged 16 years and over) were unemployed in Scotland, increasing by 5,900 since 2017. The unemployment rate for women increased to 3.9 per cent.
  • Since 2008, model-based unemployment rates have decreased in 28 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities.
  • The unemployment rate for young people (aged 16-24 years) has increased over the last year to 9.6 per cent.
  • 41.8 per cent of unemployed people in Scotland have been unemployed for 6 months or more.
  • 8.4 per cent of people aged 16-19 years were not in employment, education or training in 2018, a decrease of 0.1 percentage points from 2017 and a decrease of 4.8 percentage points from the peak in 2010* (13.2 per cent).

Economic Inactivity

  • In 2018, 777,600 people (aged 16 years to 64 years) were economically inactive. At 22.6 per cent, the economic inactivity rate is now the same as in 2008 and slightly above the UK rate of 21.7 per cent.
  • Since 2008, economic Inactivity rates have increased for those aged 16-24 years and decreased for those aged 50-64 years.
  • Increases in the level of inactivity since 2008 have been driven by increases in the number of students and the ‘other’ category. Over 50 per cent were inactive because they were long term sick (27.1 per cent) or students (26.8 per cent).
  • Economic Inactivity rates were highest in Glasgow City, Dundee City and South Ayrshire.
  • 20.9 per cent (162,700) of economically inactive (16-64 years) would like to work, the lowest percentage since the series began in 2004.
  • 160,200 people aged 16-64 years have never worked (excluding students aged 16-24 years in full-time education).

* Statistically significant


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