Scottish Government Equality Outcomes: Religion and Belief Evidence Review

This evidence review was prepared to support the production of the Scottish Government's Equality Outcomes, with regard to religion.


Purpose of this document

1.1 This paper is one of a series written to inform the development of equality outcomes for the Scottish Government. Guidance from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) states that a range of relevant evidence relating to equality groups and communities should be used to help set equality outcomes that are likely to make the biggest difference in tackling inequalities.

1.2 The EHRC suggests the following criteria for selecting equality outcomes:

  • Scale - how many people are affected by the issue and how does the issue impact on their life chances?
  • Severity - does the issue present a risk to equality of opportunity for particular protected groups? Is it a significant barrier to opportunity or freedom?
  • Concern - do equality groups and communities see it as a significant issue?
  • Impact - is the problem persistent or getting worse? What is the potential for improving life chances? Is the problem sensitive to public intervention?
  • Remit - are you able to address the issue given your remit?

1.3 This series of papers provides evidence for some of the questions listed above - in particular, on the scale and severity of issues facing equality groups. It is intended that this evidence will feed into a process of engagement with equality groups and communities, to help develop the most relevant equality outcomes.

1.4 These papers seek to identify key facts and evidence gaps for the equalities groups in policy areas including: education, employment, poverty, housing, transport, hate crime, justice, public appointments, health, sport, and culture.

Key facts

1.5 Education: Muslims and Sikhs are among the adults most likely to have no qualifications, but young Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus are more likely than people from other religions to participate in post-compulsory education.

1.6 Employment: Church of Scotland and those with no religion have higher rates of economic activity and employment than the other religious groups, and Muslims have had the lowest employment rate since 2004. Gender differences are apparent, with twice as many Muslim men than Muslim women in employment. On average, Jews are paid more than Christians, who are paid more than Muslims.

1.7 Poverty: Muslims and Buddhists are the most likely religious groups to have a low income, although this is associated with their young age profile; Jews are likely to have the highest incomes. Roman Catholics are over-represented for residence in deprived areas. The welfare reforms are not expected to have an impact on the basis of religion.

1.8 Housing: religious patterning is apparent in housing tenure, with Sikhs and Jews most likely, and Buddhists and Hindus least likely, to own their own home.

1.9 Transport: the consultation reports reviewed to date have not identified any travel needs associated with religion.

1.10 Hate crime: the number of charges is increasing, but this may in part be attributable to increased awareness. Discriminatory attitudes towards Muslims are increasing, and are thought to comprise both religious and racial elements.

1.11 Justice: the proportion of Roman Catholics in prison is greater than their share of the population as a whole. Scotland's legal profession is dominated by those of the Church of Scotland and of no religion.

1.12 Public appointments: just over half of applicants in 2011-12 identified as belonging to a Christian denomination. The majority of these identified as Church of Scotland, with the remainder split between Roman Catholic and other Christian denominations.

1.13 Health: surveys show Hindus as the religious group with the best self-reported health and the most positive mental health scores. Health behaviours are mixed across religious groups, but in general, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists have less harmful behaviour than Christian groups.

1.14 Sport: Islam and Church of Scotland are the religions with the smallest proportions of people meeting recommended levels of physical activity. Muslims and Catholics have below-average levels of participation in sport.

1.15 Culture: cultural engagement and participation do not vary substantially by religion, but levels are generally higher for Christians and lower for Muslims. Cultural attendance varies with the type of event.

Gaps in the data

1.16 Small sample sizes are a severe constraint on the analysis that can be undertaken on data disaggregated by religion.

1.17 The Scottish Pupil Census does not collect information on religion, and data on students in Further and Higher Education do not include religion. Our review of education and religion is therefore based on the data that is contained in the Census.

1.18 Data on homeless applicants do not include religion.

1.19 Data including the religion of legal aid applicants may be published during 2013.


Email: Social Research

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