Scots workforce best educated in UK says CBI, Allander

Tracy Black

Scotland has by far the highest percentage of working-age population with higher education certificates “or above” in the UK “with a strong long-term upward trend” — according the annual CBI-Fraser of Allander Scottish Productivity Index.

However, the report also shows that Scotland’s percentage of “economic inactivity” between October 2022 and September 2023, due to “long-term ill” sickness, remains the highest of all the four UK nations at 31.7%.

The report said: “Scotland had the highest percentage of the working-age population with higher education certificates or above (50%), surpassing the UK average (43.5%), with an upward long-term trend since 2004, when the figure was 30.2%.

“By comparison, England’s figure is 43.2%, Northern Ireland (41.6%) and Wales (38.6%).

“There’s also optimism around job-related training. Scotland’s long and short-term figures continue to show a slight rise – from 26.4% in 2021-22 to 27.5% the following year.”

The report suggests “cautious optimism for the Scottish economy” as it continues to make a steady recovery from supply chain disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit.

The index highlights that “helping people back into the workplace after long-term ill-health and fixing infrastructure will contribute to a successful green transition and more resilient economy of the future as Scotland seeks to deliver green growth and the pledge of 2045 net zero.”

Tracy Black, CBI Chief Strategy Officer and Devolved Nations and Regions Ambassador, said: “Scotland has a highly educated workforce.

“We need to make sure they are contributing to sustainable economic growth by cultivating leadership skills, enhancing digital proficiency and integrating new technology.

“We must also provide chances for Scotland’s workforce to upskill and retrain for new industries as we make the switch to net zero, which will improve wages, job security and enhance productivity.”

Mairi Spowage, Director at the Fraser of Allander Institute at the University of Strathclyde, said: “There’s still plenty of work needed to improve workforce health with the indicators suggesting a worsening of the situation with regard to sickness absence and inactivity in the last year.

“This is supported by wider evidence, such as the increases in the numbers of people claiming disability-related benefits.

“There is an urgent need to get on top of pandemic legacy issues around long COVID and mental health, and to tackle the long waits for NHS treatment.

“A key plank of the National Strategy for Economic Transformation is on getting people back into the jobs market via investment in employability programmes.

“However, despite a 10-year strategy, NSET is already being reviewed and refreshed.

“Some of the investment needed to support people back into work has often been subject to in-year budget cuts in the last two years, which means it has not materialised.”