Publication - Research and analysis

Wider Payment of the Living Wage in Scotland – Issues for Consideration

Published: 27 May 2015

Reviews existing international research on impacts and practicalities of introducing the Living Wage and of promoting it through public contracts; and explores the views, experiences and suggestions for action of Scottish employers who have already introduced the Living Wage, Scottish Government contractors and stakeholder organisations.

Wider Payment of the Living Wage in Scotland – Issues for Consideration
2 Research Methods

2 Research Methods

2.1 The study was conducted using a combination of primary and secondary research methods, comprising:

  • a review of existing empirical and theoretical research on the impacts and practicalities of introducing the Living Wage
  • a series of in-depth interviews with:
    • Scottish Living Wage employers
    • Scottish Government contractors
    • stakeholder organisations representing key sectors and industries

2.2 All aspects of the study were carried out to the international quality standard for market research, ISO 20252.

Review of existing research

2.3 The secondary research involved a review of existing research, primarily focusing on academic literature in peer-reviewed journals. These journals provided high quality evaluations of the impact of the Living Wage in organisations, sectors and sub-sectors. Greater weight was given to such evaluations over descriptions of policy and projections or estimates of numbers affected that do not include such an evaluation. However, 'grey' literature was also reviewed, looking at descriptive experiences of the implementation of the Living Wage - for example, about the practicalities of requiring or influencing suppliers to take on the Living Wage through procurement practices. Framed by the key questions outlined in the first objective above, the review drew principally from the following categories of material:

  • Individual studies from the United States looking at the impact of different minimum wage and Living Wage levels on employment and other labour market outcomes. These studies take a wide variety of forms, ranging from qualitative descriptions of responses to the introduction of wage floors to quantitative "natural experiments", comparing two or more situations with different wage requirements. One type of comparison looks at workers within a single jurisdiction in companies covered and not covered by a wage floor, such as private sector workers in cities where ordinances cover those contracted by the public sector. Another compares outcomes in similar counties in two adjacent states with contrasting US minimum wages.
  • More extensive comparisons and meta-studies from the United States, seeking to generalise evidence of the impact of different wage floors. These studies have become increasingly sophisticated over the years. They allow one to observe the extent to which certain results are isolated to particular studies or contexts or more generally observed, to distinguish particular effects such as differences in regional economies and to make distinctions between studies with different degrees of reliability.
  • Observations of the effects of the Living Wage as implemented in the United Kingdom. These draw largely on the London Living Wage, which has been in place for a decade, but have not been able to provide as solid evidence on its effects as the larger US studies, mainly because it is intrinsically difficult to attribute overall labour market outcomes to implementation of a standard that (i) only affects a small minority of workers and (ii) is voluntary and therefore most likely to be taken up by companies who believe that they can do so without negative consequences on employment.
  • Other UK studies that attempt to project the impact of the Living Wage, by reviewing existing evidence, by interviewing employers and other stakeholders and through general analysis
  • Local/regional UK reviews, considering the implications of the Living Wage for various jurisdictions, including Manchester, Newcastle, Cardiff, Brighton and Wales, Some of these were commissioned in preparation for introducing the Living Wage by public bodies in these places.

2.4 Following a comprehensive review, the material identified as relevant to the key research questions was synthesised and analysed using a matrix method. This is a transparent and robust way of analysing data from textual sources and is similar to the approach adopted in much qualitative research. The content of the identified evidence was summarised and organised according to themes reflecting the four key questions outlined in the first objective above. The findings from the literature review were subsequently used to inform the content of the in-depth interviews (see below).

In-depth interviews

2.5 The primary research was conducted using in-depth interviews with senior members of staff from organisations selected to participate in the study (see 2.6 for an explanation of how organisations were selected). This method allowed the research team to explore participants' specific circumstances, experiences and views in detail. Further, it enabled the research team to probe on key points of interest as they emerged, in order to form as clear an account as possible of the perceived opportunities and challenges the Living Wage presents for different types of employers.

Sample profile

2.6 In order to select a suitable range of organisations for in-depth interviews, separate lists were obtained for: organisations who have already introduced the Living Wage; and Scottish Government contractors.

2.7 For organisations who have already introduced the Living Wage, the research team used two available listings of Scottish private sector employers that have introduced the Living Wage: the Living Wage Foundation's database of accredited employers; and Glasgow City Council's Living Wage Employers' list. The research team selected employers to ensure a spread of industry sectors and organisation sizes (see table 2.1).

2.8 For Scottish Government contractors, the research team used the main listing of contractors supplied by the Scottish Government. The list provided the details of organisations who had worked on Scottish Government procurement contracts in the last year. Again, the research team selected organisations to ensure a spread of sectors (public, private and third), industry sectors and organisational sizes (see table 2.2).

2.9 For stakeholders, a range of organisations representing key sectors and industries were selected by the research team in consultation with the Scottish Government. Stakeholders were selected to provide a broader perspective on the issues covered in the report, with a particular emphasis on sectors and industries that may be disproportionately affected by the implementation of the Living Wage.


2.10 Recruitment was carried out by members of the core Ipsos MORI research team. All potential participants were sent an advance letter, either via post or e-mail, outlining the purpose of the research and the reason their participation was being sought (see Annex B). Scottish Government contractors were also sent an information sheet providing basic information on the Living Wage and the Scottish Government's consultation on the Living Wage through procurement (provided in Annex C). Participants were then contacted by telephone and asked if they were willing to participate in the study.

2.11 Interviews were conducted with the managing director or another suitably senior member of staff in each organisation, for example an HR Director or Finance Director.

2.12 On recruitment, all Living Wage employers who agreed to participate in the research were screened to ensure they had taken a conscious decision to move to the Living Wage, having previously paid at least some of their employees at a lower rate.

2.13 The profile of Living Wage employers and Scottish Government contractors is shown in tables 2.1 and 2.2 below:

Table 2.1: Living Wage employers

Number of employees Number of respondents
Fewer than 10 3
11 to 50 3
51 to 250 2
251 to 500 1
More than 500 2
Total 11
Industry type Number of respondents
Business services 2
Financial and professional services 2
Manufacturing 2
Health care 1
Energy 1
Environmental 1
Hospitality 1
Total 11

Table 2.2: Scottish Government contractors

Number of employees Number of respondents
Fewer than 10 4
11 to 50 7
51 to 250 7
251 to 500 3
More than 500 8
Total 29
Sector Number of respondents
Private 20
Public 3
Third 6
Total 29
Industry type Number of respondents
Business services 3
Education 3
Creative and media 2
Energy 2
Environmental 2
Financial and professional services 2
Health care 2
Legal 2
Social care 2
Agriculture, Horticulture & Fisheries 1
Construction 1
Hospitality 1
Housing 1
Leisure 1
Manufacturing 1
Security 1
Total 29

Discussion guide and materials

2.14 All fieldwork materials were designed by the research team and agreed with the Scottish Government. The materials included discussion guides used by interviewers to guide the flow of discussions, which were informed by responses to the consultation on the Procurement Reform Bill and the findings from the literature review. Separate guides were designed for interviews with Living Wage employers, Scottish Government contractors and stakeholder organisations, allowing specific areas of relevance to be targeted within each (copies of the discussion guides are provided in Annex A).


2.15 In the first phase of the research, a total of 40 in-depth interviews were undertaken between 16 January and 7 March 2014: 11 in-depth interviews were undertaken with organisations who have already introduced the Living Wage and 29 in-depth interviews were undertaken with Scottish Government contractors.

2.16 Interviews with organisations that have already introduced the Living Wage lasted between 30 and 45 minutes. Interviews with Scottish Government contractors lasted between 15 and 30 minutes. The interviews were conducted by the Ipsos MORI researchers who had designed the discussion guide (and who then undertook the analysis and reporting).

2.17 An interim report was produced based on the information gathered from the first phase of the research. In the second phase of the research, the research team worked with a total of 8 stakeholders representing different sectors and groups of businesses. In-depth interviews were undertaken with each of the stakeholders and the interim report formed the basis of the team's engagement with the key stakeholders. Each interview lasted between around 60 minutes. Seven of these were conducted face-to-face, while the other was conducted by telephone. Interviews were conducted between 30 April and 28 May 2014.


2.18 With the permission of participants, all interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed for analysis. The transcripts and interviewer notes from the interviews were then systematically analysed to identify the substantive themes which emerged in relation to each question in the discussion guide along with key points and illustrative verbatim comments.

2.19 This ensured that the analysis of the data was rigorous, balanced and accurate, and that key messages or concepts were brought out. It was also flexible enough to allow links and connections across different themes or sub-themes to be made, and for moments of interpretive insight and inspiration to be recorded.

2.20 It should be noted that the findings presented in this report were based on the perceptions of the research participants and derived using qualitative data collection methods and analysis. The report is aimed to help develop a deeper understanding of the range of factors that shape views and perceptions of the research participants, as well as identifying key attitudinal tendencies. It was not within the scope of the research to assess the feasibility of research participants' suggestions for future action.


Email: Alison Stout