For the purposes of this factsheet, public sector also includes education (FE/HE). Not-for-profit sector incorporates regulated charities/third sector, housing associations, social and community enterprises, including credit unions.  


Austerity measures continue to affect UK public sector finance and budgets. The public sector has significantly transformed in Scotland since 2008, and the commissioning of services has been impacted, particularly those around personalisation/social care.  

Public Sector  

In 2015, in the UK public sector, employment decreased by 22,000 from Q4, 2014 to 5.372 million, which is its lowest level, on a headcount basis, in 16 years. Compared to Q1, 2014, public sector employment fell by 59,000. Employment in UK public corporations, at 180,000, was 3,000 higher than at Q4, 2014 and is 282,000 lower than the figure from two years ago, following the reclassifications of Royal Mail PLC and Lloyds Banking Group into the private sector.  

The independent analysis from IFS (Institute of Fiscal Studies) suggests that a further decrease of 580,000 jobs in the UK public sector will be needed by 2018/19. This is significantly higher than the reduction of 375,000 jobs in 2010/14 period.  

Scotland has over 580,000 employed in public sector, representing 21% of total employment in Scotland. Data from ONS (Office of National Statistics).  

Not for Profit  

The Scottish third sector encompasses an estimated 45,000 voluntary organisations, employing around 138,000 people contributing to the well-being of people and communities across all parts of Scotland. The “regulated third sector” encompasses around half of all voluntary organisations.  

Scotland's regulated third sector’s total income rose to its highest ever level, reaching almost £5 billion in 2013. Turnover is now four times that of the Scottish food and drink industry (£1.03 billion) and equal to the Scottish creative industries (£5 billion). The largest 4% of organisations employ 73% of the sector’s staff. Social care-related organisations are the major employer, followed by housing and health.  

The charity sector is regulated by OSCR, who have valuable resources on market and individual charities in Scotland. It also hosts a Charity Register where you can search for details of specific charities in Scotland. Similarly, the Charity Commission regulates the sector across England and Wales.  

SCVO (Scottish National Council for Voluntary Organisations) and NCVO (National Council for Voluntary Organisations) are the membership organisations for Scotland and England's charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises. Both organisations' websites offer valuable resources and market information on the sector.