Fife’s lowest ratings for education, jobs, life expectancy and mental health
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A Plan4Fife annual review said the Kingdom “gives some level of concern” in terms of education attainment, life expectancy, mental health, and employment.
“While healthy life expectancy overall has been reducing, Fife is reducing at a sharper rate than Scotland,” the review said.
“While Fife;'s employment rate has mirrored Scotland’s, it has been decreasing at a faster rate leading to a widening of the gap - and the proportion of the population in receipt of prescriptions for anxiety and depression is greater here than Scotland.”
The Fife Partnership Board - the community planning partnership for Fife - discussed the indicators at a meeting on Tuesday.
Councillor David Ross, Labour leader of the minority administration, said: “It’s been made clear that this is not a performance report: it’s just a statement of where we are.”
However, he said the impacts of poverty seem to be where the most concerning areas lie. “I know we’re all doing our best in those areas, but I think probably redoubling efforts and recognising the need to address that in the longer term as we recover is an important message coming out of here,” he said.
The employment rate in Fife remains at a historic high, and unemployment rate remains at a record low despite the red warning indicator.
Gordon Mole, Fife Council's head of business and employability, said the region's unemployment rate has traditionally tracked higher than the national average - and the red mark simply denotes that pattern.
“There are very low unemployment figures,” said Mr Mole. “Actually our issue in Fife is moving more people into employment to try to address the gap that businesses are having in recruitment. That’s our key problem, and that’s driven by economic inactivity which is a new and growing feature in Fife.”
Phil Martin, employer manager for Fife and jobcentre spokesperson, offered more insight into the current labour market.
“What our jobseekers are looking for certainly doesn’t in many terms match up with what employers are asking for at the moment,” he said. “We’ve got a huge demand for carers, but most of our jobseekers don’t particularly want to get involved in care so there’s a whole piece of work to be done to make it an attractive career starting from the lowest levels.”
Looking at other trends, more people than ever are looking for flexible hours and hybrid work to fit their lifestyle.
Cost of living:
The continuing cost of living crisis is the “elephant in the room, according to Councillor David Alexander, leader of the opposition SNP.
“If inflation doesn’t go down anytime soon things are going to get worse,” he said. “I’m very nervous about the next year. If these indicators are red now, I don’t know what we’re going to see in a year’s time.”
Mr Mole said the cost of living crisis has not resulted in a large number of redundancies or business closures throughout Fife, but added: "The longer it goes on the continued risk remains present. Inflation is having a substantial impact on small businesses but bigger businesses are not immune.”