In the 2011 Census, 96% of the population in Scotland described
their ethnicity as 'white' (this includes people from Polish and
Gypsy / Traveller communities) whilst 4% described their ethnicity
as 'non white' (this includes people from Asian, African, Caribbean
and mixed backgrounds). The proportion of the non white population
in Scotland has increased by two percentage points since the 2001
census. Cultural minority groups such as Polish and Gypsies /
Travellers may also be classified as ethnic minorities when looking
at employability issues, although they are part of the above white
Whilst there are variations within the group, ethnic minorities
overall have lower employment and higher inactivity rates than the
general population. Annual Population Survey data for Scotland
shows that in 2012:
- The employment rate for ethnic minorities was 60% compared to
71% amongst the white population.
- The economic inactivity rate for ethnic minorities was 33%,
compared to 23% amongst the white population.
Of the ethnic minorities in work, many are employed in low
skilled and low paid jobs.
Ethnic minority groups can face a number of barriers to
- Lower levels of education and skills (among certain ethnic
minority groups only).
- Less proficiency in English.
- Little awareness of available support services and in some
cases perceptions that services will not understand their
- Discrimination from employers.
- Residence in deprived areas, which can lead to further
difficulties gaining employment (70% of ethnic minorities live in
the most deprived local authority districts in Scotland, compared
with 40% of the general population).
- Cultural issues - for example, there may be family pressure not
to register as unemployed.
In addition to the barriers above, ethnic minority women can be
particularly disadvantaged due to cultural pressures and
expectations. Annual Population Survey data for Scotland shows that
- The ethnic minority female employment rate was 47%, compared
with 68% among white females.
- The ethnic minority female economic inactivity rate was 47%,
compared to 27% for working age white females.
These figures hide variations across different ethnic minority
groups. For example:
- Pakistani/Bangladeshi female employment rate is 40%.
- Black African/Caribbean female employment rate is 53%.
- Indian female employment rate is 57%.
Policies and Interventions
The Scottish Government is committed to promoting equality of
opportunity and social justice for all of Scotland's residents. The
government is keen to tackle discrimination and prejudice and
challenge the systems, behaviours and attitudes that cause or
sustain these. It runs the One Scotland: No Place for Racism
campaign, aimed at tackling racism. The campaign is intended to
raise awareness of racist attitudes, highlight its negative impact
and recognise the valuable contributions that other cultures have
made to our society and ultimately end racism in Scotland.
The Scottish Government recognises the importance of increasing
employment rates for specific groups who are disadvantaged in the
labour market, including people from ethnic minority backgrounds.
Working for Growth, the refreshed Employability Framework published
in 2012, recognises this and sets out its expectation that where
appropriate, local employability partnerships will develop specific
interventions to support unemployed people from an ethnic minority
With low proficiency in English language being a barrier to
employment for some ethnic minorities, the Adult
ESOL Strategy for Scotland was launched in 2007. Following
this, national resources such as the
ESOL Curriculum Framework were developed, encouraging providers
and practitioners of ESOL to consider people's motivations for
learning the English language, including employability.
Employability currently remains a key focus in the learning and
teaching of ESOL in Scotland.
The Equality Act
Act (2010) is the main piece of legislation that addresses
discrimination and inequality in the UK. It brought together nine
separate pieces of legislation into one. The majority of the
provisions came into force on 1 October 2010. The following are the
characteristics which are protected under the Equality Act
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Religion or belief
- Sexual orientation
The law prohibits both direct and indirect discrimination
relating to any of these characteristics and individuals who feel
they have been discriminated against on any of the above grounds
can bring an action in court against the perpetrator. The law also
prohibits victimisation of persons who have brought action against
a perpetrator or given evidence in connection with proceedings
under the Act.
The Act prohibits discrimination across a broad range of areas
including employment, the provision of goods and services to the
public and the exercise of public functions. In addition a Public
Sector Equality Duty came into force in April 2011. It assigned
public bodies (and others discharging public functions, such as
third sector organisations) the following duties:
- Eliminating unlawful discrimination.
- Advancing equality of opportunity.
- Fostering good relations.
Specific duties within the Act require fit-for-purpose equality
monitoring to be undertaken, at both national and local levels. As
a result, a number of listed public authorities in Scotland are now
required to publish a set of equality outcomes and to report on
progress every two years. The specific duties also require the
listed public authorities to undertake Equality Impact Assessment
of new or revised policies and practices and to consider relevant
evidence when making their assessments.
- Heath, A., and Cheung, S.Y. (2006)
Ethnic Penalties in the Labour Market: Employers and
- Longhi, S. and Platt, L. (2008)
Pay Gaps Across Equalities Areas. Equality and Human Rights
- National Audit Office (2008)
Increasing Employment Rates for Ethnic
- Netto, G., Sosenko, F., and Bramley, G. (2011)
Poverty and Ethnicity in Scotland.
- Scottish Government (2013). Scottish
Government Equality Outcomes: Ethnicity Evidence
News / Events