6. Summary and conclusions
This report presents an analysis of the differences in the skills content of jobs between Scotland and the other countries in the UK using data drawn from the 2006 Skills Survey. Using a wide range of measures of skills - broad skills, computing skills and generic skills - we investigate differences in the skills content of jobs.
The results reveal that jobs in Scotland are characterised by lower skills content than the UK average across almost all measures of skills considered. However, many of the differences are small in magnitude, and not significantly different from zero. However, there are some large negative differentials which are statistically robust. Most notable in terms of their magnitude is the significantly lower computing skills content in jobs in Scotland. For example, respondents in Scotland were more than 10% less likely to report that the use of computers is essential in their jobs, or that they used computers in a complex or advanced manner, or that the internet was important for their job than the average UK worker. These are large differences.
Coupled with the lower computing skills content in jobs in Scotland, respondents also reported lower use of number skills and literacy skills, both on average, and also for these skills at a high level.
We then turned to investigate whether the lower skills content of jobs in Scotland could be attributed to the sectoral or occupational distribution of jobs in Scotland and, in particular, whether the lower levels of skills content is because Scotland has a disproportionate share of jobs which use lower levels of skills. Our decomposition analysis reveals that this is not the case - whether considered by industry or occupation, it is the lower skills content of jobs within industries and within occupations in Scotland that dominates the negative differential between Scotland and the UK average, rather than because of differences in the sectoral or occupational composition of employment in Scotland.
Computing utilisation, and IT more generally, is important for productivity. Bloom et al (2007) have suggested that the acceleration in US productivity in the late 1990s can be attributed to their earlier and more widespread adoption of IT than in the UK and the rest of Europe, coupled with its more effective utilisation through appropriate workplace organisation, which together began to pay dividends in terms of increased productivity. While the utilisation of computing skills has been increasing over time in the UK, Scotland still lags well behind the UK average as shown above. While we cannot draw causal inferences from the observed patterns, the results do suggest that at least part of the relative productivity gap (given its skills base) between Scotland and the UK as noted in Section 2 may be due to the lower skills content within jobs in Scotland, particularly in relation to computing and IT skills.