The latest job figures give yet another indication that all is not right in the Scottish economy – they are at best a mixed signal. It is good that unemployment fell by 25,000 over the summer and – unusually – recently Scotland outperformed the UK with a fall to 4.6 per cent, below the figure for the UK figure of 4.9 per cent.
But over the same period employment rates also decreased slightly, down 0.1 percentage points to 74 per cent. That is not a big fall granted, but coupled with the fall in unemployment it means that people are leaving the job market and are not economically active and that has to be a worry.
And on a broader note there is a more fundamental concern. The Scottish Trades Union Congress said the figures showed that there were 34,000 more women economically inactive than at this time last year.
Nicola Sturgeon, the country’s first female First Minister has made equality and improving the lot of women in the workplace one of the main planks of her administration, and she is absolutely right to do so.
She has thrown down a challenge to all public, private and third sector bodies to achieve a 50:50 gender split on their boards by 2020.
The First Minister put a major increase in childcare at the centre of her government’s economic plans to help women get on in the workplace, a policy that will see around £880 million a year invested in early learning and childcare by the end of the next parliament
And just in June she announced a pilot of a project to help women re-enter the workplace after a career break. There is no doubt of her commitment, but given the recent figures there must be questions about the effectiveness of the measures currently in place.