Economic Profile Economic Profile

Orkney's Economic Profile

Home to an enterprising and resourceful community, Orkney enjoys a very high economic activity rate.

Development work underway at Lyness in Orkney
Development work underway at Lyness in Orkney

The Orkney economy has had a traditional reliance on agriculture and fishing. However, over the last 20 years there has been a growth in employment in a number of economic sectors including manufacturing, tourism, food processing and, more recently, renewable energy.

In 2011, the population of Orkney was 21,349. This represents an increase of 10.9% since 2001 and compares to a 7.5% increase overall in the Highlands and Islands and 4.6% increase in Scotland.

According to the 2014 Orkney area profile, compiled by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Orkney has the following characteristics:

  • A business and employment base that compares closely to that of the Highlands and Islands.
  • Compared with the Highlands and Islands and Scotland, a higher share of employment by industry in agriculture, forestry and fishing, construction, and transport and storage.
  • Compared with the Highlands and Islands and Scotland, a higher share of employment by occupation in skilled trades and, to a lesser extent, elementary occupations.
  • Unemployment rates lower than across the Highlands and Islands and Scotland. The annualised Jobseekers Allowance claimant count rate in 2013 was 1.2 per cent in Orkney, 2.4 per cent in Highlands and Islands and 3.7 per cent across Scotland.
  • School attainment and school leaver positive destinations rates (i.e. not into unemployment) above the Scotland average.
  • An adult qualification profile close to Highlands and Islands and Scotland profile, but with marginally more Orkney adults with no formal qualifications, but also marginally more with graduate level qualifications.
A view of Kirkwall with agricultural land in the foreground
A view of Kirkwall with agricultural land in the foreground

Orkney house prices have been rising in recent years, although not at the same rate as the rest of the country. The latest average house price for Orkney is £123,000, compared to £155,000 in the rest of the Highlands and Islands.