Changing role of women in the Scottish economy.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)


One of the most significant drivers of the increasing number of women entering into paid employment in Scotland and the UK since the 1960s has been the changing structure of the economy which has shifted away from a manufacturing to a service based economy. As a result of this change there have been more employment opportunities for women in both the private service sector in areas such as retail and finance as well as in the growing public sector in areas such as health and education. However the shift in the structure of the economy has also been accompanied by a significant increase in the use of non-standard employment contracts such as part-time, temporary and zero hours contracts. In part this has been encouraged by successive UK government's desire to increase the flexibility of the labour market. So although there has been a significant increase in the number of women in the formal labour market, in 2015 42% of women in work were employed part-time compared to only 13% of men in jobs. The last ten years have also witnessed a rise in the level of self-employment, with the fastest increase amongst women. As a result in Scotland there has been a decline in the self-employment gender gap as women’s share of the total self-employed rose from 27.2% in 2004/05 to 34.4% in 2014/15. Evidence would suggest that women experience higher rates of underemployment compared to men both in terms of wanting to work additional hours or working at a lower level of skills than they are qualified to do. While increasing participation of women in the labour market in Scotland and the UK has contributed to a fall in the gender pay gap, it still remains significant. In part this is due to underemployment and part-time working amongst women but it is also a result of gender based occupational segregation. Women dominate employment in public administration, education and health. In terms of the gender split by industry and occupation not much has changed over the ten years between 2005 and 2015 despite the increase in the number of women in the labour market during that time. One reason for the persistence of occupational segregation is women’s over-representation among those undertaking unpaid work. This includes domestic, care, and voluntary work and contributes greatly to the wellbeing of individuals, households and communities. However its contribution to the economy is not measured in any of the standard economic indicators.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Scottish Economy: A Living Book
EditorsKenneth Gibb, Duncan Maclennan, Des McNulty, Michael Comerford
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781315660097
ISBN (Print)9781138960923
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017

Publication series

NameRegions and Cities



  • gender economy
  • employment rates
  • women and work
  • economic policy
  • pay gap

Cite this

Campbell, J., & Thomson, E. (2017). Changing role of women in the Scottish economy. In K. Gibb, D. Maclennan, D. McNulty, & M. Comerford (Eds.), The Scottish Economy: A Living Book (pp. 135-151). [10] (Regions and Cities). Routledge .