Oxfam publishes major new Our Economy report

A new Oxfam Scotland report says that instead of tackling inequality and poverty in Scotland, the existing economic model is making them worse and needs to change.

Our Economy: Towards a New Prosperity says too much power and wealth is held by too few people. 

The report challenges politicians, policymakers and businesses to focus on what is really good for the country rather increasing economic measures like Gross Domestic Product.

It says that for too many people in Scotland, work is no longer a route to a better life. Some 40% of those living in poverty in Scotland are in work – a figure that has risen substantially in recent years.

It also highlights the growing inequality at the heart of our economy, with the wealthiest households in Scotland 273 times richer than the poorest households.

Judith Robertson, Head of Oxfam Scotland, said: “The existing economic model is not working. Despite decades of economic growth, and a myriad of anti-poverty policies, the reality for too many Scots is a cocktail of high mortality, economic inactivity, mental and physical ill-health, poor educational attainment, and exclusion from the decisions that affect them.

“This is a structural problem caused by our economy. If we are serious about tackling these issues, then our politicians and policymakers need to make a fundamental change. Without that change, poverty and inequality will continue to shame us and drag all of us down for generations to come.”

Watch our film of Judith Robertson talking about Our Economy:


The paper outlines a series of policies which together challenge economic behaviours which damage Scotland’s collective prosperity, whilst promoting positive interventions.

The report is based on Oxfam’s work with local partners in Scotland. It shows that people in local communities have the appetite and ability to start building local economies that meet their needs, but need more help from government and greater recognition that their contribution goes beyond profit.

The proposals contained in Our Economy include:

  • Putting a duty on all public authorities to make sure their policies and initiatives reduce poverty and inequality – monitored by a new Poverty Commissioner for Scotland.
  • Building on the work of the Oxfam Humankind Index for Scotland to create a new measure of economic success, beyond GDP, which reflects what really matters to people.
  • Creating a Scottish Ethical Business Initiative (SEBI) setting out key aspects of acceptable behaviour for businesses operating in Scotland.

Judith Robertson added: “We need to create a new prosperity that will benefit everyone in society.

“At the heart of this new prosperity would be community-led economies which focus on the quality and distribution of growth – creating livelihoods for the many, not profits for the few. Our Economy shows this is practical and achievable. We just need the will to work together to make it happen.”

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Our Economy is being launched today at Oxfam partner The GalGael Trust, which provides training in traditional woodworking skills for people left without work for long periods of time.

Gehan Macleod of GalGael said: “The current economic structure simply doesn’t provide enough good jobs. Our experience shows it isn’t people from under-resourced communities that are deficient, it is the economy which is deficient in providing opportunities for all – opportunities that recognise people’s inner need to contribute to their communities as well as their outer need for a living wage. 

“We’ve seen time and again how those who’ve been labelled work-shy or unemployable love to graft if there is respect and dignity in the work. That is what the work in Our Economy looks like.”

The report has won support from across Scottish civil society.

Grahame Smith, STUC General Secretary, said: “If Scotland is to rebuild a fairer, more equal and sustainable economic and social model it is essential that strong civic voices contribute to the debate. This report, covering key areas such as employment and tax, forms one such contribution. Policymakers at all levels should take note and act”.

Martin Stepek, Chief Executive of the Scottish Family Business Association, said: “I applaud Oxfam Scotland for producing the challenging and radical Our Economy report. The current situation is morally and socially unacceptable. We have to change some fundamentals to create a fairer, happier society for all.”

James Proctor, Strategic Relations Officer at Co-operatives UK, said: “Scotland was the birthplace of early co-operative enterprise and the principle of working together for shared benefit is a fresh and vital one for our times. We warmly welcome this call for a new model of wealth creation, based on co-operative values of openness and equality.”