Scotland's Labour Market: People, Places and Regions - Statistics from the Annual Population Survey 2020/21

Summary publication of results from the Annual Population Survey 2020/21, presenting analysis on the labour market, education and training.

Key Points

All data presented is for April 2020-March 2021, unless otherwise stated, and therefore provides estimates which are an average of the full year since Government policies related to the COVID-19 pandemic were introduced in March 2020. Comparisons are presented compared with the year before (April 2019- March 2020) and also the comparable period ten years before (April 2010-March 2011).

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has impacted the UK labour market, and the statistics in this release should be interpreted in the context of COVID-19. Employees who were furloughed during this time were classed as employed but temporarily away from work. It is too early to tell if changes over the last year are a short-term fluctuation or the beginning of a longer term trend. Please see the What you need to know and About this publication sections for more details on the interpretation of this data.


  • In April 2020-March 2021, 2,591,100 people (aged 16 and over) were estimated to be in employment in Scotland. The employment rate (16 to 64) was estimated at 72.8 per cent, lower than in April 2019-March 2020 (74.5 per cent) and below the UK rate of 74.7 per cent.
  • Since April 2019-March 2020, the employment rate had decreased in 23 local authorities and increased in nine.
  • The gender employment gap (which measures the difference between the employment rates for men and women) had decreased from 6.3 percentage points in April 2019-March 2020 to 4.7 percentage points in April 2020-March 2021, driven by the greater reduction in the employment rate for men compared with women.
  • Since April 2019-March 2020, the employment rate has decreased for men and women and all age bands up to 65 years.
  • In April 2020-March 2021, the employment rate for the disabled population was estimated at 47.4 per cent which was significantly lower than the employment rate for those not classed as disabled (80.2 per cent). In April 2020-March 2021, the disability employment gap was 32.8 percentage points, lower than the gap the year before which was 33.2 percentage points.
  • The employment rate for the minority ethnic population aged 16 to 64 was estimated at 65.1 per cent in April 2020-March 2021, significantly lower than the white population (73.2 per cent). This gives a gap in the employment rate between minority ethnic and white aged 16 to 64 years of 8.2 percentage points.

Industry Sector

The main source of statistics on employment by sector is business surveys rather than the APS, however, the APS allows a comparison of detailed characteristics of people who self-report that they are employed in these sectors. Estimates for April 2020-March 2021 show:

  • Young people (16 to 24) make up a comparatively high concentration of the workforce in: "Accommodation and Food Services"; and "Wholesale, Retail, Repair of Vehicles" while workers aged 50 and over make up a comparatively high concentration of the workforce in "Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing"; and "Water Supply, Sewerage and Waste".

Type of Employment

  • In April 2020-March 2021, an estimated 1,924,300 people aged 16 and over were in full-time employment and 664,400 were in part-time employment.
  • In April 2020-March 2021, an estimated 219,100 people aged 16 and over were underemployed, more than in April 2019-March 2020. Underemployment is where someone is in employment but would prefer to work more hours.


  • In January-December 2020, an estimated 9.7 per cent (324,700) of the population in Scotland aged 16 to 64 have low or no qualifications (SCQF Level 4 or below).
  • In January-December 2020, employment in high skilled occupations (e.g. functional management in finance, etc.) increased over the year while employment in medium and low skilled occupations (e.g. cleaners) decreased.


  • In April 2020-March 2021, it was estimated that 126,000 people (aged 16 and over) were unemployed in Scotland. The unemployment rate increased to 4.6 per cent, below the UK rate of 4.8 per cent.
  • Since April 2019-March 2020, model-based unemployment rates have increased in all 32 local authorities.
  • 41.2 per cent of unemployed people in Scotland have been unemployed for 6 months or more.
  • 12.4 per cent of people aged 16 to 24 were not in employment, education or training (NEET) in April 2020-March 2021, an increase of 1.9 percentage points from April 2019-March 2020 and a statistically significant decrease of 4.4 percentage points from April 2010-March 2011 (16.8 per cent).

Economic Inactivity

  • Over half (55.1 per cent) of the 809,200 economically inactive people (16 to 64) in Scotland were inactive because they were long-term sick or students. Increases in the level of inactivity since April 2019-March 2020 have been driven by increases in the number of those long-term sick/disabled and the "Other" category.[1]
  • The inactivity rate for those aged 16 to 64 in Scotland in April 2020-March 2021 was 23.6 per cent, higher than the UK rate of 21.5 per cent.
  • Since April 2019-March 2020, economic inactivity rates have increased for those aged 35-49 and 50-64.
  • Economic inactivity rates (16-64 years) were highest in Shetland Islands*, North Ayrshire and North Lanarkshire (all above 28 per cent).
  • 21.6 per cent (174,700), around one in five, of economically inactive (16 to 64) people would like to work, 0.9 percentage points above April 2019-March 2020, the lowest point since the series began in April 2004-March 2005.

Estimates marked with an * indicate they are based on a small sample size which may be less precise and should be used with caution.


1. All statistics and charts presented in this publication are sourced from the Annual Population Survey April-March datasets produced by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), unless otherwise stated.

2. Map data: Reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2021. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024655.



Back to top