State of the Scottish workforce: IPPR Scotland urges living income for all to tackle growing disparities

23 August 2021

New analysis reveals women are nearly 50 per cent more likely to face low pay, among deepening disparities and inequalities across Scottish workforce

Research from IPPR Scotland published today reveals wide disparities in the Scottish workforce - with low pay and precarious work endemic – and women, disabled people and young people especially at risk of financial insecurity. Workforce polling for the think tank and new analysis shows that:

  • One in five workers surveyed in Scotland typically receive two weeks’ notice or less of their working rota.
  • Working women in Scotland are 44 per cent more likely to experience low pay than men.
  • Black and ethnic minority workers are 38 per cent more likely than white workers to experience low pay
  • Just one in three young people have a union or employee association at work.
  • Seven in 10 workers in ‘routine’ work are still in routine jobs a decade later

argues the Scottish government must take transformative action to deliver a fair work recovery that provides a living income for workers across Scotland. It defines a ‘living income’ as a policy aspiration where people have enough income to lead a good life. ‘Delivering a fair work recovery in Scotland’Released today, its report

The report urges the Scottish government to step up action to deliver fair work through recovery.

It suggests that in the recovery from Covid-19, a focus on job creation must centre on not just any jobs - but good quality jobs that offer decent pay, sufficient and reliable hours, good conditions, and opportunities to progress. The authors argue that investing in such jobs is good for people, businesses and the economy at large.

Indeed, the sectors hardest hit by Covid-19 are also some of Scotland’s lower paid sectors, and it is likely that they will need ongoing support and reform to rebuild following the pandemic. To drive up job quality, this ongoing investment should be made contingent on agreeing new Fair Work Agreements – similar to New Zealand’s fair pay agreements – that set minimum standards for quality jobs across a range of sectors.

The report also recommends action to lower barriers to getting into and getting on in work:

  • Abolition of upfront childcare costs for those in receipt of universal credit. (Currently UC only reimburses 85 per cent of childcare costs in arrears, leaving parents with potentially thousands of pounds of upfront costs.)
  • Extending education maintenance allowance (EMA) to young people in modern apprenticeships to minimise their financial insecurity.
  • A new lifelong learning offer that promotes in-work learning through an enhanced individual training account, worth at least £1,000 a year
  • New fair work levies on businesses failing to deliver on fair work criteria and tax rebates for those who do

IPPR Scotland’s latest report provides a roadmap to an economic recovery for Scotland that sees wellbeing, fair work and a strong economy as mutually linked goals. If we are to ‘build back better’ in the recovery from Covid-19, the report says a living income for all must be made an urgent priority.

Rachel Statham, IPPR Scotland senior research fellow, said:

“Fair work should provide a living income – but too many people in Scotland don’t have the pay, hours or working conditions they need to build a decent life for themselves and their families. Women, black and ethnic minority workers and young people are at greatest risk of being locked out of fair work.

“That’s why, as we look towards recovery from the Covid crisis, we must now step up efforts to make Scotland a fair-work nation. As a first step, Scottish government should come together with employers and unions to drive up pay, hours and conditions in those sectors hardest hit through the crisis, like hospitality, retail and social care.”

Mubin Haq, chief executive of Standard Life Foundation, said:

“Fair pay should be the norm in Scotland. Too many remain stuck on low pay and face poor conditions. We must properly reward those workers we all rely on. This requires action across a range of sectors from retail to social care. The aspiration is there - the recommendations in this report outline how we can turn those into action, creating a fairer Scotland for everyone.”

Download the report