By Gavin Mochan

As expected, Scotland’s unemployment rate has risen again to now stand at 4.6 per cent. In people terms that’s up to 128,000, the highest number of people unemployed in this country since the fourth quarter of 2016.

Even though the cause is undoubtedly the same – Covid-19 – the catalyst for this increase is the reduction in Government contributions towards the wages of furloughed staff. Originally set at 80% of wages up to a limit of £2,500 per month, Government contributions reduced to 70% in September and will fall to 60% in October before the scheme comes to a close at the end of that month.

It is only at that point that we will see the true destruction in jobs by the coronavirus pandemic.


Unemployment figures are usually a lagging indicator but in this case, with employers asked to contribute a small amount more, we can see their clear intention. It is beyond a shadow of a doubt that unemployment will exceed 10% of the working population aged between 16 and 64.

Putting this into context, Scotland’s hasn’t seen double digit unemployment since 1994. The last recession of 2008 saw the rate top out at 8.9%, and that took until 2010 to emerge. Come the 31st of October, we could exceed these levels overnight.

It seems that young people, men and those over the age of 50 will be most affected. There are circa 563,000 16 to 24-year-olds registered unemployed across the UK, accounting for 41% of all unemployed.


Men make up 56% of the 128,000 people currently unemployed in Scotland, perhaps reflecting the fact that they are more exposed as women have a higher tendency to be in part-time employment. And when you are over 50 it takes you significantly longer to find employment compared to younger counterparts – 49% in this age category have been unemployed for 12 months or longer, compared to 13% of those between 16 and 24 years of age.

In the case of youth and those over 50 years old, employers are perhaps undervaluing the contribution each can make. In many ways these two demographic groups, at opposite ends of the spectrum in their careers, complement one another.

Seasoned members of staff often act as informal mentors for younger employees. These partnerships can help close the skills gap for entry level workers, boosting their productivity and saving the business the operational burden of setting out more formal development plans for staff – a win-win, it would seem.


Employers have been driving a slow but consistent recovery since April. In August there were 38,000 jobs advertised online across Scotland. Admittedly, that is down 48% on the same period a year earlier, but it’s a 128% improvement since “ground zero” in April.

But unemployment will inevitably get worse before it gets better. With that in mind, and given the Chancellor’s reluctance to extend the job retention scheme, it’s imperative we avoid the double-whammy of a messy Brexit by securing a trade agreement with Europe before the current transition period comes to an end in less than four months’ time.

Gavin Mochan is Commercial Director at s1jobs.