Current employment rates in Scotland are at a near-record high, and we have become used to thinking that the labour market is in good health.
However, Scotland has a lower birth rate than all other parts of the UK, as well as 29 of the 36 OECD member countries. Our population is also ageing fast: by 2041, the pension-age population is projected to increase by 265,000, while the working-age population is only projected to rise by 38,000. In addition, recent population growth in Scotland has been driven by positive net migration – more people have been coming than leaving. But migration to Scotland, which was already lower than that to England, has been falling in recent years. Looking ahead, there is enormous uncertainty over the impact of Brexit on future immigration rates.
The defining challenge of the future will therefore be a shortage of workers. And, given Scotland’s ageing population, the health and social care sector is likely to be particularly affected by labour shortages.
This report seeks to refocus attention on the labour supply challenges heading Scotland’s way – and what we can do to meet them.