Conversations on the labour market and its improvement are being held. The CIPD Scotland Conference in Edinburgh on 30 March featured a speech by former Scottish minister Richard Lochhead highlighting fair work and employment as the answer to the ongoing labour market issues. The speech was his last formal commitment as Minister for Just Transition, Employment and Fair Work as he has now been appointed Minister for Small Business, Innovation and Trade.
In recent months, the UK has seen labour market issues becoming more profound as more global events and changes in the economy happen. As mentioned by the University of Birmingham, the UK has been dealing with challenges in decreasing job vacancies, labour shortages as well as skills shortages.
The speech delivered by Lochhead at the CIPD Scotland Conference outlines possible strategies to combat these challenges.
Labour Market Overview
Most recent figures by the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that within the three-month period of October to December 2022, the employment rate was 75.6%, which is an increase of 0.2% compared to the previous period. As for the unemployment rate of the same period, it was reported at 3.6% – an increase of 0.1% from previous numbers.
The economic inactivity rate of that period was 21.4%, which is lower than the previous figure by 0.3%. Based on the report, the economic inactivity was driven by students, retirees and individuals with long-term health conditions.
Job vacancies in the period between November 2022 to January 2023 decreased by 76,000, amounting to 1,134,000 – which has been stated as the seventh consecutive quarterly downturn since the quarter of May to July 2022. Real-term pay growth, which has been adjusted to inflation, fell from October to December 2022 by 3.1% for total pay and 2.5% for regular pay.
Richard Lochhead Speech
Considering the various challenges the UK faces in the labour market, the speech delivered has outlined ways to address them. Fair work is described by Lochhead as the key to attracting individuals from various backgrounds to work, which in turn will benefit individuals, companies, and society and contribute to net zero transition.
Lochhead also addressed UK’s ageing population and the challenges that will come from it. In his speech, he discusses that the ageing population will lead to having fewer youth and more elderly which will require more people to join the labour market.
The way to do it, in his words, is through the offering of fair and inclusive work. Offering fair and inclusive work will benefit businesses, people and economic growth.
He also mentioned that one in five workers is considering getting out of employment due to inflexible arrangements. On this, he said that the Scottish government are “keen to build on this recent uptake of flexible working practices.”
Further, he highlights the Scottish government’s commitment to fair and progressive work. He mentions that the Scottish government will continue their work with various stakeholders to establish Scotland as a model of fair work, well-being, innovation and success.