The Borders has earned an unenviable accolade – coming top in a league table of Scotland’s mainland local authority areas for people of working age with two or more jobs.
Between 2012 and 2014, the number of Borderers aged 16-64 working for at least two employers rocketed from 2,800 to 4,000 – a hike of 42% - according to figures published last week by the Scottish Government.
The surge, revealed in an audit of local area labour markets, will be further ammunition to Scottish Borders Council as it attempts to broker alliances with Dumfries and Galloway and the Edinburgh City Region.
Such deals will seek to raise the region’s eligibility status for major infrastructure funding – considered vital to encourage inward investment and well paid employment.
Official figures for 2013/14 showed that only £810,000 of EU structural funding found its way into the Borders by way of capital income.
And last month councillors heard that the gross domestic product (GDP) per head in the region, reflecting aggregate incomes, was just £17,000, compared to £24,000 in Edinburgh.
Berwickshire’s SNP MP Calum Kerr admitted this week that the two-job statistics were “deeply worrying”.
“I shall be writing to the Scottish Government to see if it can provide a fuller explanation,” said Mr Kerr.
“I suspect it will confirm that pay rates in the Borders are low and that hours of employment can be unpredictable which means people are having to take on two jobs to pay the bills.
“Of course, some people may be genuinely content with this, but others may be forced to work very long hours simply to stay afloat – something which deprives them of a social life, relaxation or spending more time with their families. I find this highly alarming, indicating it’s hard getting a good, well paid job in the Borders.
“In order to turn things around, we need to see an end to austerity and a programme of growth for local businesses and sorely needed improvements in our transport and communications infrastructure.”
While the proportion of multi-employed jobs in most of the rest of Scotland had been on the decline, the percentage in the Borders has leapt from 5.6% of the working population in 2012 to 7.5% in 2014.
Second in the league table is Argyll and Bute with 5.9% (2,200 people).