The Declining Disability Employment Gap in Scotland

This report, published in collaboration with the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe), examines the reasons behind the growth in employment levels among disabled people in Scotland. In recent years there has been an increase in the disabled employment rate, which has contributed to a reduction in the disability employment gap. In order to understand why more disabled people are moving into work, the UK Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) published a report in 2023 which modelled four possible reasons behind this rise for the UK as a whole. Looking back to 2013, when the earliest comparable data on disability was released, they ultimately found that the change is primarily due to an increase in disability prevalence – that is to say, the increase in disabled employment is largely due to adults already in work moving into disability, rather than disabled adults moving into work.

However, there are several other factors at play – employment levels overall have been rising, there is evidence that disabled adults are moving into work at a faster rate than non-disabled adults, and the size of the working age population has changed over these nine years. Scotland, furthermore, has unique population challenges within the UK, and it’s likely that a study on the UK would fail to capture these nuances.

This research replicates the DWP’s model to see the reasons behind the changing disability employment rates for Scotland between Q3 2013 and Q3 2022. We also delve further into these reasons, looking at disability prevalence, employment rates, and demography between 2014 and 2022.


Allison is an Associate Economist at the Fraser of Allander Institute. She specialises in socioeconomic inequality and labour market dynamics.

Chirsty is a Knowledge Exchange Associate at the Fraser of Allander Institute where she primarily works on projects related to employment and inequality.