Access to employment – Welsh Government assessment

Progress assessment

Moderate progress

There have been legal or policy changes to improve human rights protections and evidence of some sustained progress in the enjoyment of human rights related to this issue. However on some of these rights, or for some groups, there has not been comparative progress

Employment is mainly a non-devolved issue, which limits the action that Welsh Government can take. The employment rate has increased in recent years, although it fell in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic. Progress has been made on delivering apprenticeships and certain commitments under the Prosperity for All strategy. However, unequal access to employment and apprenticeships persists across groups with protected characteristics, and Welsh Government policies do not specify how such inequalities will be addressed. There are concerns that the pandemic will lead to rising unemployment, and that a loss of EU funding will result in fewer targeted programmes to increase access to employment.

  • The employment rate for people aged 16 to 64 in Wales in the year ending June 2020 was 74.1% – an increase of 2.8 percentage points since 2016 – but the overall employment rate remains lower in Wales than in the UK as a whole.
  • Evidence shows a 1.3 percentage points fall in employment rates in Wales between January-March and June-August 2020, halting recent progress, but indications show that the Welsh Government’s Economic Resilience Fund helped protect around 75,000 jobs.
  • Unequal access to employment in Wales remains across protected characteristic groups. The gap between male and female employment rates did not decrease overall between 2016 and 2020, but there is evidence of a greater fall in men’s employment rates than women’s employment rates between January-March and June-August 2020. The employment rate for disabled people was 49.9% in the year ending June 2020, compared with 81.2% for non-disabled people.
  • Access to employment for young people in Wales has increased in recent years – the unemployment rate among 16–24 year olds fell from 13.7% in the year ending June 2016 to 11.2% in the year ending June 2020. But the unemployment rate for 16–24 year olds remains significantly higher than the unemployment rate for the population aged 16 and over (3.6%), and there are concerns that the pandemic could cause youth unemployment to rise sharply.
  • The Welsh Government funded childcare for an average of over 13,500 children per month before the pandemic.
  • Access to childcare remains a barrier to employment in Wales – support should be tailored to parents’ needs, including by expanding the offer to children under three.
  • In January 2020, the Welsh Government reported that it had delivered more than 74,000 apprenticeships and was on track to meet its target of 100,000 apprenticeships by 2022. But its action plan lacks targets to improve the diversity of apprenticeships – gender segregation remains, and ethnic minority people and disabled people continue to be under-represented.
  • The Welsh Government has made progress on a number of commitments to improve employability under its Prosperity for All strategy, including launching a new employability advice service for Wales, although its employability plan and economic action plan do not say how inequalities will be addressed.
  • The UK’s exit from the EU will affect the availability of funding for programmes to increase access to employment in Wales (between 2014 and 2020, Wales received €1,008m from the European Social Fund).

Read more about the UK and Welsh Governments’ actions on access to employment.

The assessment was made based on the evidence available up to 13/10/2020