Towards a Robust, Resilient Wellbeing Economy for Scotland: Report of the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery

Report from the independent Advisory Group established by the Scottish Government to advise on Scotland’s economic recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

4. The challenges

Clearly different parts of Scotland and different sectors of our economy were facing challenges even before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Scottish Government's commitment to inclusive growth has a strong regional dimension, recognising the significant differences in economic opportunities, activities, levels of output and income per person that exist in different parts of Scotland. These derive in part from our particular economic geography, with large remote and rural areas, coupled with recent trends towards city-based economic growth and our post-industrial legacy.

Different sectors also face different challenges with some sectors, such as retail, hospitality and tourism, operating with relatively low productivity and wages but employing large numbers of people, sometimes with low skills. The rise of the 'gig' economy comes with challenges in some sectors. Regional and sectoral differences intersect to contribute to the significant social inequality that we observe in Scotland. In addition, big epoch-characterising issues such as climate change, artificial intelligence, demography and adaptation to EU exit may present different challenges across sectors and regions.

To these we can now add recovery from the Covid-19 health and economic crisis, which is affecting different sectors of the economy in different ways, and through which there is also likely to be localisation of some of these impacts where affected sectors and firms are concentrated.

4.1 Sectors and industries

It is all too evident that the virus and resulting public health measures are having a disproportionate effect on some sectors/subsectors, with some operating largely as normal, some adapting to new circumstances as best they can, and others almost wholly shut down. The Scottish Government has mapped sector vulnerability based on each sector's risk exposure in terms of viability (domestic and international demand) against international supply and labour market disruption. This is shown in Figure 9 and Figure 10, with the sizes of the 'bubbles' representing relative employment in each sector. Of course, it is important to bear in mind that there are large differences within sectors. For example, within retail, essential and online retail will not face the same challenges as non-essential high street retail. This sector also provides an example of where the effect of the pandemic is to accelerate existing trends already in train.

These channels are described in more detail below from a more forward-looking perspective as the global economy charts its way through recovery. Summary sectoral assessments of debt and digital skills are also included.

Exposure of Sectors to Labour Market Disruption and International Supply Chains

Figure 9 - Interaction of viability and exposure to labour market disruption
Figure description below

Figure 9 description

This figure shows how different sectors of the economy may be affected by labour market issues and overall viability post C19. For example Construction is highly impacted by labour market issues but has a low impact in the longer term overall. In other words it should recover relatively quickly. Arts, Entertainment and Recreation also has a high labour supply impact and is expected to have a high longer term impact from the crisis.

Figure 10 - Interaction of viability and exposure to international supply chains
Figure description below

Figure 10 description

This is similar to figure 10 but shows the issue of international supply chain exposure against the overall viability impact. Manufacturing is likely to be highly impacted overall on both measures whilst sectors such as accommodation & food services are less likely to be affected by supply chain issues.

Overall Assessment of Impacts on Sectors

Domestic demand

Incomes reduced and higher savings rates affect overall demand across the economy: particularly sectors most reliant on discretionary spending, e.g. Accommodation and Food Services (including Tourism), Arts, Entertainment & Recreation.

Caution over Covid-19 risks, affecting sectors reliant on face-to-face contact, e.g. Accommodation and Food Services (including Tourism), Retail (non-essential), Arts, Entertainment & Recreation

If there is subdued government expenditure in the recovery phase, this will affect sectors such as Construction, Accommodation and Food, Health and Social Work

Labour supply

Rising unemployment: economy-wide, but Accommodation and Food Services and Arts, Entertainment and Recreation unlikely to recover quickly

Workplace health & safety restricting working practices, e.g. manufacturing. Will ease over time.

Caring responsibilities - particularly parents (school closures) but any workers with dependents affected by Covid-19. These fall disproportionately to female workers, affecting sectors such as Public Admin & Defence, Education, Health and Social Work. Will also ease over time

Covid-19 has affected movement of people - especially across the EU. Greatest impact will be on seasonal workers. Affects sectors such as Accommodation & Food, Manufacturing and Agriculture

Shielding measures - especially in the short- to medium-term - may create labour shortages in some sectors. Sectors with higher than average proportions of workers with health conditions and hard to fill vacancies include Water Supply/Sewage, Health and Social Work, Education, Transport and Storage

Scarring effects of sustained unemployment (e.g. young people). Additionally, during summer a whole new cohort of those leaving education will be looking for work but with few opportunities, particularly in those sectors that previously provided entry-level opportunities, such as Accommodation & Food and Wholesale & Retail. Importance of inclusive recovery for women and minority ethnic communities, aligned with green recovery

Mental health impact of lockdown on employability skills of workforce: all sectors

Skills Shortages & Gaps: sectors particularly affected pre-Covid-19 were Manufacturing, Hotels & Restaurants, Wholesale & Retail, Business Services and STEM employers

International demand

Perceptions about UK public health security may affect recovery in some sectors, such as Tourism and Hospitality

Economic impacts abroad (fall in demand, mass business closures or further lockdowns) could see markets collapse for some sectors of the Scottish economy, e.g. sectors relying on international demand such as Scotch whisky and chemicals. Also, some reliant on a small number of international markets (such as refined petroleum, pharmaceuticals and aquaculture) can less easily spread risk.

Travel restrictions could hinder services exporters who deliver their services in person, especially engineering services, education, accommodation and food services

A slow recovery in the aviation industry would see continuing increased air freight costs which have risen as the number of flights has plummeted. This would affect higher value manufacturing and specialist sub-sectors such as oil and gas equipment and scientific instruments.

Covid-19 response risks accelerating economic nationalism/ protectionism raising costs and reducing Scottish businesses' competitiveness. Would particularly affect those sectors reliant on exports for a high proportion of turnover

Brexit: increased barriers with the EU could compound difficulty of Covid-19 recovery. Sectors particularly reliant on EU trade include oil and gas and food (particularly seafood)

International supply

Business failure/disruption internationally will have affected supply chains for Scottish business, especially sectors relying on international markets for intermediate inputs such as manufacturing sectors, but also wholesale and retail.

Increased search costs for businesses, but also opportunities through supply chain reorganisation

Second waves/rolling public health measures could see businesses finding it more difficult to source international intermediate inputs or the cost of inputs increase. Sectors that rely heavily on a small number of markets could be most at risk

Building resilient and sustainable supply chains for "green recovery"; seizing opportunity from supply chain re-organisation

Brexit: increased barriers with the EU could compound difficulty of Covid-19 recovery, affecting sectors particularly reliant on EU in their supply chains, such as manufacturing.


Highly geared firms or those with poor liquidity may be less resilient to the crisis. Need to support businesses rebuild working capital. Key impacts are likely to be on investment growth, including on innovation. In the long term this will act as a drag to productivity growth - already a challenge. Capital financing will be required to help facilitate a green recovery.

Sectors with highest levels of indebtedness are often the same as those identified as being hardest hit by the pandemic.

Sectors considered to have to poorest liquidity are: Accommodation and Food Services, Water Supply & Waste Management, Construction, Retail & wholesale. Transport & Storage, Administrative and Support Services

Electricity and Gas Supply is considered to have the highest level of gearing. Other sectors with high levels of gearing are: Transport and Storage, Accommodation and Food Services, Real Estate Activities


Digital technology, skills and connectivity are key as firms adapt to new ways of working. Firms without the necessary skills, technology, or connectivity could struggle to adapt. Across Scotland, there are a number of sectors with considerable digital skills gaps. Skills gaps relating to digital technology are most prevalent in: Agriculture, Hotels/Restaurants (taken to be roughly equivalent to Accommodation and Food Services) and Retail. There is also a regional dimension whereby digital connectivity is poorer in rural areas.

Edinburgh Business School Pulse Survey

The Edinburgh Business School Pulse survey was launched with the support of the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI) contributing to the call for views from the Group. The survey consisted of 10 questions related to opportunities for change in working practices, access to finance and working environments. The survey attracted 206 responses from businesses across various sectors of the economy.

The overall response from the Pulse survey provides insight into the way in which business practices across size and sector may change in the medium term and more immediately post Covid-19 crisis. From the responses it is evident that there is agreement about the lasting impact of the pandemic on working practices, digital equality and skill requirements going forward.

There is uniform agreement on the requirement and likelihood of increased remote working, even when it is deemed safe to return to office environments. Survey responses also clearly indicated businesses' plans to revisit space requirements. This was truer for bigger businesses and notably truer for public and charitable organisations than it was for private business.

Other important insights were the need for reskilling within businesses to enable new working practices and a simplification of funding mechanisms to better suit companies of all sizes and resources but with limited concern related to access to finance, at least in the medium term. This was true across company sizes and sectors.

From a government policy perspective the outputs of this survey provide insight into developments within future business practices and the possible support needed to accommodate such shifts. Such actions could include:

  • A simplification of funding mechanisms to aid in the provision of support as well as ongoing access to finance for businesses. This is likely to be particularly important to micro and small firms which may not have the resources held by larger enterprises to apply for such funding.
  • Increased connectivity between enterprise agencies, organisations such as Skills Development Scotland and higher education institutions' business education and research to foster rapid increased knowledge transfer.
  • An inclusive approach to IT infrastructure to ensure social mobility as both study and work feature higher use of digital platforms and creative solutions to unused office space in the medium term, and a proactive approach to the consequent drop in business rates which will impact local authority budgets as remote working patterns normalise.
  • Developing solutions geared towards vocational skills and apprenticeship outcomes, mimicking aspects of the German higher education model.
  • A requirement where government holds a stake in businesses (e.g. to maintain sector presence, support employment or to retain key skills) that structured help is provided with relevant academic expertise supervising student-led internships to address business improvement. This would (a) help businesses professionalise and (b) give valuable skills/experience to a student/graduate population who will face greater challenge securing work.

We sought to get a snapshot of the impact on different sectors and industries in different parts of the country through four channels: a programme of engagement orchestrated on our behalf by Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and South of Scotland Enterprise; direct discussions with a number of business and sectoral organisations; an open call for views; and a survey of businesses conducted on our behalf by the Edinburgh Business School at Heriot-Watt University, in partnership with the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI) see associated publication for full detail.

We are publishing the written inputs from our partners alongside this report; and we will publish a separate, more detailed, analysis of the full range of contributions we have received (which are listed in the annex to this report) in the coming weeks.

On the basis of this exercise, the picture is:

  • That sectors most dependent on physical presence, travel and discretionary spending by consumers - hospitality, tourism, culture and leisure - have been hit the hardest;
  • That plans for recovery need to recognise that some sectors will recover at a slower pace than others, depending on how restrictions are eased and how far and how quickly travel resumes;
  • That there has been a sharp increase in remote working in some sectors, but that this has been limited in some areas by both infrastructural and skills challenges;
  • That business resilience, particularly cashflow, is the key issue for all sectors, but that the situation varies widely;
  • That the issue of rebuilding confidence in supply chains is prominent;
  • That reskilling will be a key issue across all sectors;
  • That improving digital infrastructure will be a critical factor in improving the prospects for recovery; and
  • That businesses think there is a need for tailored sectoral approaches.

The Scottish Government is leading a wider programme of work to achieve a creative and ambitious approach to Scotland's renewal and which we anticipate will draw on the recommendations of this Group. As part of this work, the Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise are using a scenario thinking process to identify the potential implications of the pandemic for Scotland across a range of dimensions. In parallel with the work of the Group, the scenario thinking process is testing the resilience of key policy and delivery themes over the medium-term to 2025.

4.2 Places and regions

Ensuring that all regions and communities can prosper is important for both overall economic performance and ensuring that all areas have the opportunity to fulfil their potential. There were significant variations in regional social and economic outcomes prior to the current crisis. For example, output per head in Edinburgh was £47,632 in 2018 and £13,320 in East Ayrshire (Figure 11, top left).

This reflects, in part, the nature of growth in cities, which benefit from a concentration of economic activity, also drawing in workers from surrounding areas. In addition, some areas of Scotland still suffer the legacy of past industrial decline.

A similar pattern is seen in the variation of labour market, health and social outcomes. For example, the proportion of the population with degree qualifications varies from 11.6% in Shetland to 50.7% in Edinburgh.[12] The gap in outcomes has been fairly consistent over time - Figure 11 (bottom, left) shows the percentage point gap in the employment rate between the best and worst-performing local authorities over time.

Whilst output per head varies by region in Scotland, these differences are smaller than those in the UK and many other EU countries. However, countries such as Finland and Sweden have smaller regional differences in GDP per person than Scotland. As well as differences between regions, there is a high level of variation in income and economic activity within regions.[13]

Figure 11 - Regional indicators
Figure description below

Figure 11 description

This figure shows three different indicators GVA per head, the gap n 16-64 employment, the share of employment in most exposed sectors for each of Scotland's 32 Local Authorities. It also shows how the distribution of GDP per head is much more variable across the regions of the UK by a considerable margin compared with a range of comparator European countries including France, Sweden and Spain.

Regional exposure to the impacts from Covid-19 will vary due to the varied composition of industrial, workforce and wider population structures. As stated in the section above, Scottish Government analysis developed a sectoral risk rating based on exposure to international supply, international and domestic demand and labour market disruptions[14] which shows that the cumulative impact across the economic channels appears greatest for manufacturing, construction, retail and wholesale, accommodation and food services, and entertainment and recreation.

Figure 11 shows the share of employment in these sectors where overall risk exposure to the economic effects of Covid-19 may be greatest across Scotland's 32 local authorities. Island local authorities and some urban areas have lower shares of employment in the most exposed sectors. Overall, local authorities that are rural or mainly rural have slightly higher shares of jobs in the most-exposed sectors. However, the number of jobs in the most exposed sectors is highest in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Fife.

Other factors, such as the level of international exports and the structure of the business base, will also impact on regional exposure to the impacts of Covid-19.

The Scottish Government has developed an index to assess relative resilience of local authorities across Scotland which considers the business base, existing deprivation and income levels, digital connectivity and productivity - factors which are likely to make areas more resilient to shocks (Figure 12).[15] This suggests that a number of areas that experienced industrial decline may be less resilient.

Figure 12 reflects the potential resilience of areas based on pre-crisis characteristics. It does not account for the relative severity of the impacts that regions will face, for example due to sectoral exposure.

Figure 12 - Index of regional resilience
Figure description below

Figure 12 description

This figure shows an index of regional resilience which indicates how Scotlands local authorities are likely to suffer differential impacts from the crisis. North Ayrshire is least resilient whilst Edinburgh is most.

There is considerable uncertainty regarding the economic outlook, and understanding the regional impacts and recovery paths will be important to ensuring that the specific needs of Scotland's regions are supported.

Nevertheless, the analysis above showing the wide divergence in exposure and resilience across different regions and local authority areas in Scotland has been underscored by what we have heard through our engagement in the course of our work.

From the many contributions that we have received - from the enterprise agencies, from individual local authorities, from COSLA, SOLACE and SLAED - it is clear that the challenges posed by the crisis have differing characteristics in different places around Scotland. There can be no 'one-size-fits-all' approach to securing the recovery that Scotland needs.

Different solutions will be needed in different parts of the country - which is why Scotland's recovery planning needs to be place-based, building on local assets and on the role and powers of local authorities and their partners. This is all the more important given the distinctive challenges faced by rural and remote communities. So we propose an approach to recovery and economic development that is grounded in local and regional approaches and partnerships, and the development and delivery of interventions at regional and local level that best reflect the characteristics of Scotland's diverse places.

4.3 People and skills

As set out earlier, pre-crisis employment was close to record levels but with the position worsening. Whilst Scotland has a highly qualified labour force with a growing proportion of people having high skills, there were already concerns about whether the nature of the labour market in Scotland meant that these skills were being fully utilised. This is demonstrated by the persistence of low pay, insecure work, underemployment and in-work poverty. And these issues will be exacerbated by the impact of the virus.

Young Scot Engagement Report

We commissioned YoungScot to convene a group of young people to discuss the particular impacts of the crisis on them and their concerns and priorities for the recovery. We are publishing their report alongside ours.

Key concerns expressed were the disruption of education and its effect on young people's future skills and employability; the likely sharp reduction in opportunities for both full- and part-time work and for apprenticeships; and the impact on financial security and mental health, particularly among the most vulnerable groups. But the group saw opportunities from a switch to remote working, if young people could access them; and from the chance to promote active travel and reduce carbon emissions.

The Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS)has summarised the impact on inequalities,[16] noting the vulnerability of low income households to this crisis, in terms of low levels of savings, higher likelihood of losing a job, disproportionate impact of school closures on childcare and a differential impact on mortality and morbidity. While there may be some less negative - indeed positive - impacts which may bring behavioural change, such as time spent by fathers with children, the disproportionate impact of the crisis is real. And it must be tackled.

The IFS has made it clear that: "Policymakers have rightly been consumed by the immediate response to the crisis, but attention should already be turning to the longer-term effects. If, for example, we can limit the severity of career disruptions now, or the extent to which small firms that had a productive future are squeezed out by larger established competitors, and if we can prevent a persistent widening of inequalities in health or educational progress, then the government's job in future years will be much less difficult than if it instead has to try to limit or undo the damage".

The sectors most affected by the Covid-19 crisis so far have been those most impacted by physical distancing guidance that has meant that businesses have had to close, employees have been unable to work, and demand for goods and services has been hugely reduced.

Labour Force Survey (LFS) data, covering the period up to end of April 2020, show weakening employment rates, with the self-employed and men seeing some reduction in employment. The largest changes are seen in the number of people temporarily away from work, including furloughed workers, which rose by 6 million at the end of March into April, leading to a large fall in hours worked.

The latest ONS Business Impact of Coronavirus Survey[17] results (covering 4-17 May) show that the proportion of the UK workforce on furlough, in businesses that have not permanently stopped trading, was highest in the Accommodation and Food Services (83.0% furloughed) and Arts, Entertainment and Recreation (72.6%) sectors. For Construction (40.5%), Transport and Storage (36.9%), and Admin and Support Services (31.0%) rates of furloughing were also higher than the average rate for all industries (28.1%). Furloughed rates were lowest in the Health and Social Work (6.1%) and Education (10.0%) sectors. Across almost all UK industries that responded, the proportion of the workforce made redundant was less than 1%.

But there are signs that this may not be maintained over time as the Job Retention Scheme moves towards its end. The UK Labour Market Review[18] published on 16 June, with more recent data, presents a less positive picture. Early indicators for May 2020 suggest that the number of employees in the UK on payrolls is down over 600,000 compared with March 2020. The claimant count increased in May 2020 to 2.8 million. This represents a monthly increase of 23.3% and an increase of 125.9%, or 1.6 million, since March 2020, although some of the change is due to greater eligibility due to changes to Universal Credit.

And the number of vacancies in May has fallen to a record low. There were an estimated 476,000 vacancies in the UK in March-May 2020; this is 342,000 fewer than the previous quarter, and 365,000 fewer than a year earlier; experimental single-month estimates indicate a decrease of approximately 60% of vacancies for May 2020 compared with March 2020.

Employee average pay growth slowed notably in April 2020, and the three months to April saw total pay fall in real terms for the first time since January 2018. Pay declined in industries where furloughing was most prominent, many of these being the lowest-paying industries, in particular accommodation and food service activities.

Scottish data, where available, confirms the UK position. For example, Burning Glass Technologies data shows online job postings in Scotland in April were 54% lower than this time last year, reflecting the significant drop in demand for staff from employers. The largest regional declines over the year were seen in Aberdeen City and Shire (-64%), West Lothian (-63%), and Glasgow (-60%), but every area in Scotland has seen at least a 33% fall in job postings on last year.

4.4 Impact on inequalities

A key feature of the crisis is how it is impacting differently on different groups. The higher rate of health impact on black and minority ethnic populations have been widely documented;[19] these differences are also stark across different socio-economic groups. The focus of the Group has been on the economic rather than health impacts of the crisis - these are also starkly different for different groups.

For example, Covid-19 job disruption is likely to have a disproportionate impact on women's employment, as a result of low-paid women being particularly affected by job disruption; and women are potentially faced with an increase in childcare responsibilities as a result of school and nursery closures in the shorter term.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR)[20] notes that young people are also likely to be hit hard in Scotland, as they are disproportionately concentrated in the sectors most affected by the economic shutdown, and so face heightened exposure to job loss or furlough. The IPPR estimates that 41% of young people in work in Scotland were furloughed in April, compared to 22% of all workers in Scotland.

This is similar to research from the IFS[21] that has found that workers under the age of 25 are two and half times more likely than those aged 25 and older to work in sectors that have been shut down and is reinforced by work from the Resolution Foundation for the Nuffield Foundation[22] that estimates that youth unemployment could rise by 600,000 across the UK, affecting the least qualified the most.

Whilst at the moment we have less in the way of hard data, the likely differential impact on those with a disability or from other groups, including black and minority ethnic communities, was a key insight from the responses to the call for views that the group received.

As articulated in the National Performance Framework, the Scottish Government has set itself the considerable challenge of eradicating inequality and has implemented various measures over recent years in order to deliver on this ambition. Despite these efforts, however, discrimination based on race, gender, religion, sexuality or disability persists in Scotland. In 2018, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission observed that: "The stark reality of inequality in Scotland today is that too often people are unable to realise their full potential, are excluded from positions of influence, and experience prejudice and discrimination in daily life."

It will be crucial for the Scottish Government to monitor the unequal impacts of the crisis. For example, the Scottish Commission for People with Learning Disabilities has suggested a redesign of the Scottish Core Survey questions to allow for learning/intellectual disability to be identified.

The impact of the crisis and the measures necessary to control it have not been felt equally across society. Instead, they have exacerbated existing inequalities. A large proportion of key workers - including frontline care staff, essential retail workers and public transport employees are people who already experience inequality, leading to the disproportionate burden that women and people from black and minority ethnic communities have shouldered in confronting the virus.

In addition, measures to control the virus have presented distinct challenges for older people and disabled people (including those who are physically disabled and those with mental health conditions) associated with increased need for physical distancing, shielding, loss of normal health and care arrangements and the impacts of isolation. Additionally, as primary informal and unpaid carers, women have also experienced additional pressures from juggling childcare and home schooling alongside paid work.

In setting the direction of Scotland's economic recovery, we must seek not only to mitigate inequality but to reduce it. Not only do we owe it to those groups and communities who have been at the forefront of responding to the crisis, and to those who have experienced the impacts of the lockdown most acutely, but we owe it to society at large to address pre-existing inequalities. As analysis by Close the Gap has highlighted, improving gender equality alone could add £17 billion to the Scottish economy. The downturn gives added impetus to ensuring that inequality is reduced and prevented across the board.

Early indications are that groups with protected characteristics (including intersectional characteristics) are more likely to suffer disproportionately in the recovery phase. To address this, the Scottish Government and its economic development partners must ensure that reducing and seeking to eradicate inequalities and advancing equality, rights and non-discrimination, are at the heart of the policy response.

In doing so, the Scottish Government must build on the approach that it adopted for the Framework for Decision-Making[23] which places upholding the principles of human dignity, autonomy, respect and equality at the heart of lifting lockdown restrictions. Similarly, these principles must be front and centre of economic recovery plans at all levels of government. Scotland can build on its commitment to equality and human rights budgeting and the progress that the Scottish Government has made towards embedding equality analysis and improving transparency in the budgeting process.

The first step towards achieving this will be ensuring that all groups across society are fully visible to policymakers and their lived experiences understood across the economic development landscape.

This requires adopting new approaches going beyond current methods to assess the outcomes and experiences of groups with protected characteristics, in order to provide greater insight into how recovery plans can actively reduce and prevent inequality. In its submission, the WISE Centre for Economic Justice suggested an intersectional approach to collecting and assessing data, in recognition of the fact that people's identities are shaped by many factors. Submissions by Engender and Close the Gap, among others, have further stressed the need for recovery plans to be informed by gender-sensitive and sex-disaggregated intersectional data, presented in the Scottish Government's Equalities Evidence-Finder, to ensure that the distinct experiences of men and women inform policymaking.

People experiencing discrimination and the resulting inequalities must also be given the opportunity to participate actively in decision-making to ensure their voices are heard. The expansion and activation of the measures in the Community Empowerment Act (2015) would provide a mechanism for this.

Finally, to ensure that outcomes for groups with protected characteristics focus and shape recovery plans at all stages, all levels of government should consider, integrate and report on action to reduce inequalities, advance equality and progress economic and social rights and wellbeing. This work should recognise that many of those most disadvantaged by Covid-19 are those who were already furthest from the labour market.

Public Attitudes Survey

We commissioned Mark Diffley Consultancy and Research to survey a representative sample of the economically active population in Scotland to explore their expectations of returning to work after lockdown. There were 1150 completed responses.

Headline findings from the survey are as follows:

  • A fifth of the sample (21%) reported that they had been furloughed; while a small proportion (3%) had become unemployed since lockdown. Women were more likely than men to be working part-time, and the converse is true for full-time employment;
  • As anticipated, there are higher levels of furloughed and unemployed staff in the Hospitality and Tourism sectors as well as the Wholesale and Retail sector. Furthermore, there is a higher proportion of workers in these sectors residing in accessible rural and remote small-town locations, which has implications for the rural economy in Scotland;
  • Three-quarters (76%) of those unemployed at the time of the research reported that it would be difficult to find a job as good as the one they previously had, after lockdown. There was particular concern expressed among young people on this issue;
  • There was a range of concerns in relation to returning to work among those currently working or furloughed. In particular, there were high levels of concern expressed regarding social distancing and health and wellbeing at work - 62% and 55% respectively;
  • Respondents reported that they are more likely to work from home (58% more likely) after lockdown, reducing their reliance on transport to and from work;
  • Around six-in-ten respondents (63%) reported that they are more likely to need flexible and home-working arrangements to meet their childcare responsibilities, reflecting the phased return to school, blending school and home learning that is anticipated from 11th August. A further 46% reported that they are more likely to need help to support the learning of their child at home when they return to work after lockdown; and
  • In terms of anticipated changes to working practices in the next three years, 77% 'strongly or 'fairly-strongly' agree that there will be more guidance on health and safety at work. Moreover, there is broad agreement (62%) that there will be more acceptance of flexible working arrangements in the next three years as a result of the lockdown in 2020.



Back to top