Friday, 27 May 2016

Seven thousand Borders workers under-employed


Record numbers of Borders workers are currently underemployed, with no fewer than one in eight employees telling researchers they would like extra hours. A high proportion of part-time, lower paid jobs in the region, and the use of zero hour contracts may be among the factors behind the statistics.

At the same time, disproportionately high numbers of Borderers are holding down two jobs while the region has one of the highest percentages of workers aged over 65.

The data offers a fascinating snapshot of the make-up of the Borders economy, yet so far the numbers have not been covered by local media.

A report titled Regional Employment Patterns in Scotland was issued by the Scottish Government earlier this week with a series of tables displaying workforce categories for each of the country's 32 local authority areas.

Our analysis of the figures shows the Scottish Borders has the second highest percentage of workers in mainland Scotland claiming to be under-employed at 13.1 (7,100 employees in total). That proportion is only exceeded in North Ayrshire with 13.6%.

It seems surprising that the Borders has experienced a significant increase in this category within the space of 12 months. The 2014 data recorded 5,900 people 'under-employed' representing 10.5% of the workforce.

The latest level is even more dramatic and perhaps disturbing when compared to the figures of a decade ago. In 2005 the region had 3,400 (6.5%) workers in the under employed bracket.

It may or may not be a lifestyle choice, but the number of Borderers with two separate jobs is also the second highest on the Scottish mainland. The total in 2015 stood at 3,500 or 6.8%, a level exceeded only in Highland at 7.1%.

Does the upwards spiral from 2005 (2,600 workers or 4.7%) highlight low wages, more part-time working or identify a small army of workaholics?

There's a second place for the Borders too in the section covering the numbers of people above the age of 65 who are still at work.

According to the national employment patterns 12.4% of over 65s (3,300 individuals) remain in the workplace beyond pension age. Highland and Aberdeenshire (12.6%) are the only local government areas which exceed the Borders rate.

In 2006 - the first year for which statistics are available - a mere 1,600 pensioners (7.4%) were employed. So why the substantial increase? Poor level of state pension? Failure to save for retirement? Job satisfaction and enjoyment of work?

The variety of tables no doubt paint a picture of every local employment pattern in Scotland, and there will be lessons and information for those engaged in economic development and expansion. The trouble is, do any of our decision makers or those with influence bother to read and digest the available information?

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