Scotland's Labour Market: People, Places and Regions – Protected Characteristics. Statistics from the Annual Population Survey 2021

Summary publication of results from the ONS Annual Population Survey January to December 2021, presenting analysis on the labour market by protected characteristics including age, sex, disability and ethnicity.

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Concepts and Definitions

Rates: Rates represent the proportion of the population or subgroup with a certain characteristic. They allow changes in the labour market to be interpreted in a wider context by accounting for changes in the population or the number of people who are economically active. Rates can be calculated for different age groups.

For headline employment, economic activity and economic inactivity, the reference population is those aged 16 to 64. For unemployment, the reference population is the active population aged 16 and over. Thus, people aged 65 and over who continue to be economically active are included in the base while those who are economically inactive will not.

Economically active: The population who are either in employment or unemployed.

Economic activity rate: The number of people who are in employment or unemployed expressed as a percentage of the relevant population.

Economically inactive: People not in employment and who do not meet the criteria for unemployment. This group includes:

  • those who want a job but who have not been seeking work in the last 4 weeks
  • those who want a job and are seeking work but not available to start
  • those who do not want a job

For example, students not working or seeking work and those in retirement.

Economic inactivity rate: The number of economically inactive people expressed as a percentage of the relevant population.

Employment: There are two main ways of looking at employment: the number of people with jobs or the number of jobs. These two concepts represent different things as one person can have more than one job. The number of people in employment is measured via the Labour Force Survey and consist of those aged 16 and over. Employment measures the number of people who did at least one hour of paid work or had a job they were temporarily away from. People who do unpaid work in a family business and people on Government-supported training and employment programs are also included. This is in accordance with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) definition.

Employment rate: The proportion of people aged between 16 and 64 years who are in employment.

Unemployment: The ILO definition of unemployment covers people who are 16 years and over:

  • without a job, have been actively seeking work in the past four weeks and are available to start work in the next fortnight


  • out of work, have accepted a job and are waiting to start it in the next two weeks

Unemployment rate: The proportion of economically active people aged 16 and over who are employed.

Model Based Unemployment: In 2003, ONS developed a statistical model to improve small area estimates of unemployment. Supplementary information from the claimant count is included in the estimates. Claimant count is a count of the number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance and Universal Credit claimants in the "searching for work" conditionality group. As it is an administrative measure, information is known for all areas. It is also highly correlated with unemployment. The model is said to borrow strength from the claimant count. The model also includes a socio-economic indicator and a random area effect.

More information about the methodology can be found in the ONS Model Based Unemployment Guidance.

Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET): People who are:

  • not classed as a student
  • not in employment
  • not participating in a government training programme

Sex: Sex is self-reported by respondents participating in the Annual Population Survey (APS). No documentation is asked for by the interviewer or provided by the respondent. Hence, analysis is based on 'sex' rather than 'gender'.

Disability: From 2014, the definition of disability is based on the 2010 Equality Act definition. This harmonised definition is based on self-reported health conditions. A condition will have lasted 12 months or more and have a substantial impact on a person's ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. The 2010 Equality Act superseded the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995, for Great Britain but not Northern Ireland. The DDA was the basis of the published APS estimates prior to 2013.

Ethnicity: Questions on ethnic group have been asked in the APS since its start in 2004. Changes made in January and April 2011 brought the questions in line with 2011 Census data. As such, a break in the series exists before 2011 and only data from 2011 onwards is included.

When asked "what is your ethnic group?" respondents have the following options to choose from:

  • "White"
  • "Mixed/Multiple ethnic groups"
  • "Asian/Asian Scottish/Asian British"
  • "African"
  • "Caribbean or Black"
  • "Arab"
  • "Other ethnic group"

Other questions ask for more detail about respondent's ethnic group. Yet it is often not possible to publish detailed estimates due to the robustness of the sample. As such, "Minority Ethnic" includes all ethnic groups excluding those who answered "White" to the first question.

The favoured term for "Minority Ethnic" is "Mixed or Multiple; Asian; African; Caribbean or Black; and Other ethnic groups". Choosing the term "Minority Ethnic" aids narrative and provides a concise terminology. The ethnic groups defined as "Minority Ethnic" are minority populations in Scotland.

In Scotland, minority ethnic groups may suffer labour market disadvantages compared to white groups. "White" includes ethnic groups such as "White – Polish" and "White – Gypsy or Irish Traveller". Such groups may also suffer disadvantages in the labour market.

Further information on Classifications and harmonisation is available on the ONS website.



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