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.

Quality and methodology information


The labour market in Scotland can be measured by both the Labour Force Survey (LFS) and the Annual Population Survey (APS).  The APS is the primary source for information on local labour markets. It combines results from the LFS with the English, Welsh and Scottish LFS boosts. This provides a larger annual sample of households. Compared with the quarterly LFS, the annual data is more robust. Estimates for local areas and smaller groups of the population are more accurate as a result.

The Scottish Government funds the boost to the LFS sample in Scotland. This takes the sample size from approximately 4,000 households to 13,000 households for the latest time period.

The data presented in this bulletin is available in the supporting tables and charts, and some is available on Nomis.

This statistical bulletin is likely to be used by other public sector organisations, businesses, academia and private individuals to identifying the key trends for Scotland in the headline labour market statistics by protected characteristics.

The LFS is the main source for headline labour market indicators at a Scotland level. The data for the labour market indicators from the LFS are updated monthly. The latest LFS data is published by the Scottish Government each month in the Labour Market Trends release. The APS, which is published quarterly, allows for a more detailed commentary on smaller areas and groups of the population in Scotland. This release uses data from the APS to provide more detailed information on the labour market in Scotland by protected characteristics.

The statistics in this release are used by the Scottish Government to monitor the headline statistics for the Scottish labour market by protected characteristics.  This release is also used to monitor progress against some of the targets in the Scottish Government's A Fairer Scotland for disabled people - employment action plan.

Related publications from this source are updated on the Scottish Government's Labour Market Statistics collections page, including the quarterly Labour Market Statistics for 16-24 years olds: Scotland and UK publication.

Publications have also been produced on the following topics: Disabled people in the labour market in Scotland and Non-UK nationals in Scotland's workforce. This source is also used to provide ad-hoc data queries for Scottish Government policy colleagues and for external stakeholders.

Wider context

In 2007, the Scottish Government introduced the National Performance Framework (NPF). It sets out the government's ambitions for society and the values that guide its approach. The framework sets out 11 National Outcomes that describe the kind of Scotland it aims to create. The framework measures Scotland's progress against the National Outcomes using a set of National Indicators. The set of 81 National Indicators includes:

  • Economic participation
  • Pay gap
  • Gender balance in organisations

National Indicators which can be broken down by equality characteristics are published on the Equality Evidence Finder


Estimates of employment, unemployment and economic inactivity are available from both the LFS and the APS. This release presents estimates from the APS. Estimates from the LFS are based on a rolling quarter and are updated monthly. LFS sample sizes are too low to produce reliable estimates for many protected groups, such as ethnicity and disability status.

Estimates from the APS are based on a rolling twelve month period, updated each quarter. The APS has a bigger sample size than the LFS so it is used to produce estimates for geographies and sub-groups of the population in Scotland. At Scotland level, the APS is a more robust measure than the LFS, but it is less timely and slower to adapt to changes in the labour market.

The data presented in this release is based on sample surveys. As such, these estimates are subject to an associated sampling error. The sampling error decreases as the sample size increases. It is the nature of sampling variability that the smaller a group is, the (proportionately) less precise the estimate is. For example, estimates for small groups of the population are subject to a higher degree of variability than those for larger groups.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) have published a detailed guidance note on sampling variability. Shading is one method used by ONS to indicate where estimates should be used with caution. The National Statistics marking for the APS reflects the larger sample size for headline estimates of Labour Market indicators by protected characteristics for Scotland. Confidence intervals also give an indication of the margin of error surrounding these estimates.

The background tables and charts published provide confidence limits for rates and proportions. Statistically significant changes are highlighted throughout the text. In some instances estimates are not available. This occurs when the estimate has:

  • a sample of 2 or less individual responses


  • a sample of between 3 and 10 individual responses and a coefficient of variation greater than 20 per cent

In some instances estimates are from a small sample size and may be less precise. In this instance they should be used with caution. This occurs when the estimate has:

  • a sample of between 3 and 10 individual responses and a coefficient of variation equal to or less than 20 per cent


  • a sample of between 11 and 25 individual responses

An article outlining the approach taken by ONS is available:

Measuring and reporting reliability of Labour Force Survey and Annual Population Survey estimates - Office for National Statistics



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