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Section 2: Minority Ethnic Groups in the Labour Market


The 2011 Census found that Scotland's minority ethnic population was 211,000, which constitutes 4% of Scotland's 5,296,400 population. Figure 1 shows the largest ethnic group is the Asian, Asian Scottish or Asian British group, within which the Pakistani ethnic group is the largest sub-group.

Figure 1: Scotland's Ethnic Minority Population, 2011

Section 2 - Figure 1
Source: Scotland's Census

Figure 2 shows the ethnic minority population is largest in Glasgow (at 12% of Glasgow's population), while Edinburgh and Dundee both have proportions above 8%. Nineteen of Scotland's 32 local authority areas have an ethnic minority population of less than 2% of their total population.

Figure 2: Ethnic Minority Population as % of Local Authority Area Population, 2011 

Section 2 -Figure 2
Source: Scotland's Census

Employment Status

There is a marked difference between the employment status of Scotland's minority ethnic groups compared with the white population. Figure 3 provides a summary analysis of employment, unemployment and economic inactivity rates in 2013.

  • The employment rate in Scotland for the white population was 71.3%, compared with the minority ethnic group rate of 56.4%.
  • The unemployment rate was 7.6% amongst the white population and 12.8% amongst the minority ethnic population.
  • The economic inactivity rate was 22.7% amongst the white population and 35.2% amongst the minority ethnic population.

Figure 3: Employment, Unemployment and Economic Inactivity Rates, 2013 (%)

Section 2 - Figure 3 Source: Annual Population Survey (October 2012 - Sptember 2013)

These figures show why, at the UK and Scottish levels, narrowing the gap between the minority ethnic employment rate and the overall employment rate is a key policy goal. Over time, the employment rate gap between the white and ethnic minority had been closing until 2008. For example, in March 2008, the employment rates were 74.2% for the white population and 67.1% for the minority ethnic population - i.e. a 7 percentage point difference. However, since the onset of the recession the gap has widened to a 15 percentage point difference in September 2013. Similar trends can be seen in the unemployment rates and economic inactivity rates.

Women face particular disadvantage. Figure 4 presents the employment rates by different ethnic group and gender - and clearly shows the differences across these characteristics.

  • By ethnic group, employment rates range from 69.7% for Indians to 51.7% for Pakistanis/Bangladeshis. The white population employment rate was 71.3%.
  • By gender, females have lower employment rates than males across all ethnic groups. The gap in employment rates between genders does, however, vary.
    - The smallest gap is between Black/Black British males (55.2%) and females (52.0%).
    - The largest gap is between Pakistani/Bangladeshi males (64.9%) and females (37.5%).

Figure 4: Employment Rates by Ethnic Group and Gender, 2013 (%)

 Section 2 - Figure 4
Source: Annual Population Survey (October 2012-September 2013)
Note: An analysis of employment status by gender and age for Great Britain is available on the website


Looking at the jobs that minority ethnic groups do, Figure 5 shows the percentage of white and ethnic minority employees by broad industry. It shows that 34% of minority ethnic  employees work in retail and hospitality, compared with 19% amongst all white employees. Ethnic minorities are also more likely to work in transport and communications and banking, finance and insurance and are less likely to work in construction, manufacturing and public sector services. The lower proportion employed in public sector services could be an area of concern as public sector employers should be leading by example on equalities issues.

Figure 5: % of White and Ethnic Minority Employees by Industry, Scotland 2013

Section 2 - Figure 5
Source: Annual Population Survey (October 2012-September 2013)
Note:   Agriculture & Fishing and Energy & Water employment not included due to small numbers involved.
A sectoral breakdown by ethnic group for Great Britain is available on the website

By occupation, Figure 6 shows that 29% of minority ethnic employees work in professional occupations, compared with 20% amongst all white employees. People are also more likely to work in caring and leisure, sales and consumer service, and elementary occupations and are less likely to work in associate professional and technical, skilled trades, and process, plant and machine operative occupations - the latter two occupational types reflecting the lower numbers employed in construction and manufacturing.  

Figure 6: % of White and Ethnic Minority Employees by Occupation, Scotland 2013 

Section 2 - Figure 6 Source: Annual Population Survey (October 2012-September 2013)


Amongst S4 school pupils, pupils from minority ethnic groups tend to perform better in terms of attainment. Figure 7 shows the average S4 Tariff Scores (i.e. a points aggregate of their Standard Grades performance) and shows that many ethnic groups performed above the white pupil average of 187. For example, Asian Chinese pupils had an average S4 Tariff Score of 244. 

Figure 7: Average Tariff Score of S4 Pupils by Ethnic Group, Scotland 2011/12

Section 2 - Figure 7
Source: Scottish Government

For the working age population, data for Scotland's ethnic minority population is not available. Instead 2011 Census data for England and Wales is used as a proxy with Figure 8 showing the highest qualification held by ethnic group. Similar to school attainment, qualification levels are often higher amongst ethnic groups. For example, 29% of the white working age population have a degree qualification or above (i.e. Level 4 qualification) but amongst the Asian/Asian British ethnic group the proportion is 36%.

Figure 8 does, however, identify two potential issues for ethnic minority groups.

  • The uptake of apprenticeships by ethnic minority groups appears to be lower than the white population. This is supported by Equality and Human Rights Commission Scotland research that finds that less that 2% of apprenticeships in Scotland are taken by ethnic minorities although they are around 4% of the target population of 16-24 year olds.
  • Some ethnic minority groups have 'other qualifications' that may be difficult to transfer to the UK labour market.

Figure 8: Highest Qualification Levels Held by Ethnic Group in England and Wales, 2011

Section 2 - Figure 8
Source: Office for National Statistics

Section 2 - Side Picture

Key Points

1. Scotland's minority ethnic population is 211,000 or 4% of the population.
2. There are stark differences in the employment, unemployment and economic activity rates for people in the minority ethnic population compared to the white population.
3.  The recession has exacerbated labour market disadvantage for all minority ethnic groups. 
4. Women from minority ethnic groups are particularly disadvantaged in the labour market.
5. There is some evidence that people from minority ethnic groups are more likely to work in particular occupational sectors. This suggests particular difficulties with securing employment in some sectors.
6. There is also evidence that despite good qualifications people still face barriers in the labour market.
7. All employability services need to be aware of the barriers to work people from minority ethnic groups face and respond appropriately.