Scotland loses top spot in PwC’s Women in Work Index

Scotland has lost its crown as the leading area of the UK for working women after dropping to fourth place in this year’s PwC Women in Work Index, having topped the index in the last two years.

Scotland loses top spot in PwC's Women in Work Index

Having set a high bar, Scotland’s position at the top of the Index has been impacted by marginal declines across four of the five indicators used to compile the Index, while all other parts of the UK improved their scores. Between 2017 and 2018 Scotland’s performance declined very marginally on all indicators with the exception of the gender pay gap, leading to a 2% reduction in its overall score.

Given the small margin of decline, the movement at the top of the Index is more driven by English regions and other devolved nations seeing more rapid improvements over this period. Competition at the top of the index is close, and these improvements in other regions were enough to knock Scotland off the top spot.

However, of the 12 nations and regions measured for the index, Scotland was the only one that saw a fall in overall score.

The South West of England jumped ahead of Scotland to take the top spot, having improved on all five indicators measured for the index, with Northern Ireland and Wales also pushing ahead to take second and third places respectively.

The labour force participation level in Scotland dipped marginally between 2017 and 2018, from 73.5% to 73.3%. That was enough for Scotland to fall from fourth to fifth in this measurement. In addition, the gap in male and female labour force participation rates increased from 8.1% vs 8.5%.

The female unemployment rate increased from 3.6% in Scotland in 2017 to 4% in 2018, while the female full-time employment rate slipped from 58.74% to 58.68%. Overall employment figures in Scotland for the period show the employment rate was 74.1%, down 10 base percentage points, indicating that there is no gender bias in the fall of the number in employment.

Official data shows that in 2018, a total of 52,000 women were unemployed in Scotland, increasing by 5,900 since 2017, leading to an unemployment rate for women of 3.9% - in line with the total unemployment rate, therefore Scotland’s performance in the Women in Work Index can directly be linked to an overall drop in employment.

Scottish Government figures for the same period, show part-time employment accounts for 42.5% of all women’s employment compared with 13.1% of all men’s employment, while women’s share of self-employment fell 2.5 percentage points to 32% between 2016 and 2018.

The one indicator where Scotland continues to make improvements is in the gender pay gap. The country recorded 15% in 2018 compared with 16% in 2017. However, that was only good enough for third place in the table – behind Northern Ireland and Wales, but ahead of all nine English regions, and ahead of the 18% UK average.

Initiatives such as Tech She Can, an industry-wide plan to encourage more women to take jobs in technology, have the potential to further reduce the gender pay gap given the relative earnings potential of such skilled labour.

Claire Reid, regional leader for PwC in Scotland, said: “While it’s disappointing to see Scotland lose top spot in this year’s Women in Work Index, we must remember that we have set the standard in gender equality in the workplace and we are now seeing other parts of the UK respond to that.

“It is hugely encouraging to see Scotland’s gender pay gap improve, moving us up to third place in this important indicator. Overall, what this year’s Index shows us is that the work cannot stop, and in fact must gather pace. Although there are a number of factors that have led to the reduction of Scotland’s Index score, what is clear is that organisations need to continue to work on building inclusive cultures which provide women with the same opportunities as men.”

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