Income and employment: key points

  • Income and employment are, along with education, key social determinants of population health and health inequalities.
  • Reducing the risk of poverty has direct benefits for children’s social and emotional development and adult’s mental health.  It is also likely to have long-term, indirect positive health impacts, by improving employment and educational outcomes.
  • Good work can protect working-age adults against physical and mental health problems and reduce the risk of premature mortality.
  • However, some types of work can be actively harmful to the physical and mental health of workers and their families, due to job characteristics and because they substitute out-of-work poverty for in-work poverty.
  • 520,000 working age adults in Scotland were living in relative poverty (before housing costs) in 2015/16; after housing costs, this increases to 650,000.  The proportion of working-age adults living in poverty in Scotland has fluctuated without clear change since 1994/95.
  • More than half the people living in relative poverty (before housing costs) in Scotland lived in households where at least one adult worked.
  • There are substantial inequalities in income and employment in Scotland:
    • After adjusting for household size, weekly incomes in Scotland in 2015/16 (before housing costs) varied from £240 in the poorest households to £912 in the richest households.
    • In 2015, single parent, single adult and large family households were most likely, and pensioner households least likely, to report they did not manage well financially in Scotland.
    • In 2015, demand for labour was weakest for those looking for work in sales occupations, managers or elementary occupations and strongest for caring occupations, professionals and associate professional occupations.
    • In 2015, worklessness was lowest in Aberdeen City and Shire and the Highlands and Islands, and highest in Glasgow and the Clyde Valley and Ayrshire.  
    • In the same year, demand for labour was relatively strong in Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire.  In all other regions of Scotland, the number of unemployed people exceeded the number of vacancies, with demand especially weak in Ayshire, Dumfries and Galloway and Fife.
    • People working in certain jobs (e.g. customer services, the building trades) and certain industries (e.g. food and beverage services, transport and storage) are at greater risk of multiple disadvantage from a constellation of low pay, limited opportunities, lack of control and sometimes risky working conditions.

Section updates:

  • The last major update of this section was completed in September 2017.
  • The next major update is due to be carried out by end September 2018.