Scotland's contented, resilient and growing Capital: latest Edinburgh by Numbers

Edinburgh skyline

Edinburgh residents are some of the most content in the UK, according to the 15th annual Edinburgh by Numbers report. 

When polled last year, Capital citizens scored higher than average for personal wellbeing - including life satisfaction and feeling happy.

Alongside evidence of a highly educated and more active workforce than other major UK cities and above average wages, the latest data also points to Edinburgh’s resilience during the pandemic as one of the UK’s most economically productive cities.

But the city is growing rapidly, with Edinburgh’s population projected to grow by 58,946 to 586,566 by 2043.

Some of the key findings, as recorded in 2021, include:

  • Edinburgh scores highly for life satisfaction (7.48), feelings of happiness (7.26) and worth (7.71); but higher anxiety than has been recorded in previous years (3.6 vs. 2.99 pre-pandemic)
  • Edinburgh has an impressive 35 ‘Green Flag’ parks - not only the greatest number of any other city featured in the data, but more than double that of the nearest comparative city Birmingham (15)
  • Edinburgh has an economically active (79%) highly skilled (42.7%) workforce, with lower unemployment levels than the national average (4.4% vs 4.7%)
  • A higher percentage of the city’s workforce is educated to a degree level or above against other major UK cities (62.1%) and the average wage is £15.64 an hour, which is at least £1 higher than other major UK cities
  • In the ten years to 2020, Edinburgh’s population grew by 12.3% from an estimated 469,930 to an estimated 527,620 people; in the same period Scotland grew by 3.9%. 

Commenting, Council Leader Adam McVey said:

Considering most of these numbers cover the pandemic they paint a picture of an extremely resilient and positive city. We’re one of the happiest cities in the country and our economy, which has endured so much, remains strong. 

Edinburgh is still growing at a rate of three times the national average, highlighting the need to continue to invest in public transport and more affordable housing. Our residential population has increased by more than 10% in a decade and is predicted that this will continue. We need to manage this level of growth, both in terms of the impact on our frontline services like schools, housing and transport, and the impact on our environment.

While we’re at the forefront of tackling these changes, the magnitude of the challenge ahead of us means we need to maximise efforts to plan for the future. That’s one of the reasons the £1bn Council Budget we set aims to drive forward our net zero ambitions, tackle the cost of living crisis head on and spend millions on the future health of our communities. The investment we’re making now will prove vital as we prepare for what will be a period rapid growth and regeneration.

Cammy Day, Depute Leader, said:

A sense of optimism shines through the latest Edinburgh By Numbers and there is evidence of the resilience we’ve seen our residents and City display over the last couple of years. It’s heartening that of the people polled, most said they remain satisfied with life in the Capital and all of the work we’re doing to support businesses through Covid and create a fairer and more sustainable economy will also help the city. 

That’s not to say that we don’t need to remain ambitious. While we’ve always been a hugely successful city, competing on the global stage economically and culturally, we still have some way to go before this success if fair and equal. According to the data, average wages in Edinburgh are at least £1 higher than the national average. This is a good start but is distorted by Edinburgh’s wealth divide. Around 15% of workers still earn less than the Scottish Living Wage.

By outlining £1.1m to address poverty in our Budget we’ve demonstrated our commitment to closing the poverty gap and we need businesses and other organisations to do their part. We’re progressing our Living Wage ambitions, and we’ll continue to focus our efforts on boosting employment opportunities and encouraging others to follow suit and help those who face barriers.

Addiitonal information:

This is the 15th edition of Edinburgh by Numbers. Produced by the City of Edinburgh Council, the publication provides an annual statistical overview of Edinburgh and how we compare against other cities in Scotland and across the UK.

The data included here covers our population and how it is changing, our economy and our environment, alongside data on how people live, work and visit our city.

The figures appearing in this publication are the most up-to-date available to Council in January 2021. While every effort has been made to ensure a high degree of accuracy, the City of Edinburgh accepts no liability for any errors or misinterpretations. Some values may not sum to their respective totals due to rounding.

Published: March 8th 2022