EU Nationals living and working in Scotland

SVO Briefing April 2018

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The following briefing is based on SCVO analysis of data from the Annual Population Survey (APS) and Labour Force Survey (LFS), between 2015 and 2017. General figures on EU nationals living in Scotland are taken form Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament briefings.

Key findings




Non-UK EU nationals are a small but important part of the Scottish workforce, particularly in key areas such as hospitality and health. We estimate that EU nationals make up over 3% of the third sector’s workforce. These 3,500 employees are employed across a wide range of roles, from front-line to management. Reflecting sector employment patterns, it is reasonable to assume that at least half will be engaged in delivering health and social care services. In addition, many of these third sector workers from EU countries will have dependents with them in Scotland.

EU nationals in Scotland

In 2015 there were around 181,000 non-UK EU nationals living in Scotland, representing 3.4% of the total population. This is lower than for the UK as a whole (where non-UK EU nationals represent 4.9% of the total UK population).

Of the 181,000 EU nationals, 30,000 (16%) were under 16 years of age. Of the 152,000 EU nationals aged 16 and over:

  • 115,000 were in employment (75.9%)
  • 7,000 were unemployed (4.8%)
  • 29,000 were inactive (19.3%).

Around a third of EU nationals in employment in Scotland are working in the distribution, hotels and restaurant sector. The health and social work sector employs 12,000 EU nationals, accounting for 3% of total employment in this sector:









  • Those from EU accession countries have a higher employment rate than both other EU nationals and UK nationals in Scotland
  • A fifth (20%) of EU nationals working in Scotland are managers, directors, senior officials or in other professional occupations; around a third (31%) are in unskilled ‘elementary’ occupations
  • EU nationals are, on average, earning less than Scottish employees (£8.60 per hour for EU nationals compared to £11.10 per hour for all employees in Scotland)

EU nationals and Scotland’s third sector

  • EU nationals make up just over 3% of the Scottish third sector workforce.
  • In other words, 1 in every 30 third sector workers in Scotland is an EU national.
  • There are currently an estimated 3,500 EU nationals directly employed in the Scottish third sector, based on 2016 and 2017 data.
















According to APS data, around 3.5% of the Scottish workforce is employed in the third sector, higher than the UK figure of 2.7%. This works out as an around 90,580 Scottish third sector employees. However, based on SCVO and OSCR figures this figure is a slight undercount (due to factors such as the APS data relying on respondents self-reporting what sector they work on, and only looking at main jobs). SCVO analysis of OSCR returns indicate that there are at least 106,800 Scottish third sector employees.

Based on APS and LFS figures we estimate that around 3.3% of the Scottish third sector’s workforce is made up of EU nationals. Using the figure of 106,800 third sector employees, this works out as around 3,500 EU nationals directly employed in the Scottish third sector.

While the number of EU respondents in Scotland is too small for robust statistical analysis by sector, we were able to take the average across multiple survey periods, and check this against the UK figures for which more observations are available.


Ilse Mackinnon, Research Officer, SCVO 0131 474 6159

Data Sources

Scottish Government EU nationals living and working in Scotland briefing, 14 Mar 2017

SPICe EU nationals living in Scotland briefing:

Annual Population Survey and Labour Force Survey:

Data tables