Differences between registration and workforce data

Workforce Data and Registration Data

The SSSC has two main sets of data on people working in the social service sector in Scotland. The first is usually referred to by us as the ‘workforce’ data and the second as the ‘registration’ data. Before looking at these two data sets in more detail we begin with the definition of “social services”. The current legal definition is set out in the Public Service Reform Scotland Act in sections 46 to 48 and in schedule 12. The term “social services” defines:

         - all registered care services

         - and all local authority social work services

 Workforce data

The workforce data aims to cover all those working in the above two categories. A total of around 208,000 people at 31st December 2021. The workforce data is a snapshot taken on one day in December each year of all those in employment on that day. It includes other professional groups such as teachers, nurses and occupational therapists as well as ancillary staff (e.g. business support) and auxiliary staff (e.g. catering staff in care homes) based in the services. The data set includes information on each individual’s employer, the service they are working in, the post they are in and some information about the individual themselves (e.g. age, gender). These data have been collected and published since 2008. They are published together in the official statistics annual social service workforce data reports which can be found here: https://data.sssc.uk.com/data-publications/22-workforce-data-report

 The response rates for the key variables in the workforce data are published each year in the appendices of the annual workforce data reports. Around 97% of care services and all local authority social work services provide workforce data to the Care Inspectorate and/or SSSC each year. Information on gaps in the workforce data are also available in the report. From this year (2023) following the publication of the first annual registration report the workforce data report contains information in the appendices explaining key differences between the workforce data and the registration data.

 The workforce like any data set has limitations. One is that the workforce data has no unique identifier for individual employees. This means workers in the sector cannot be tracked over time using this data and we are therefore unable to use it to look at the movement of the workforce. Another limitation is around the quality of the information provided on the qualifications held by the workforce and also on some of the equalities characteristics of staff.

 Registration data

The registration data covers many of the same individuals working in the social service sector as the workforce data. It aims to capture all those in active employment in specific roles and services within the social service sector, where mandatory registration is in place. A total of around 168,000 people, roughly 80% of the sector’s total workforce.

 The process of registering the sector’s workforce began in 2003 with the registration of social workers. Since then it has been gradually rolled out across most of the social service sector becoming mandatory for different groups of staff at different points in time (most recently support workers in housing support and care at home services in autumn 2020). Details of when registration became mandatory for differing staff groups can be found here: https://data.sssc.uk.com/registration-data

Certain groups and services are not captured by the Register. For example other professionals (such as nurses and teachers), ancillary or auxiliary staff and childminders. Unlike the snapshot nature of the workforce data the registration  data is updated on a daily basis by individual registrants and employers. Individuals required to register with the SSSC have a period of six months to make their application which means that the Register may not contain information on new employees until up to six months after they began in post. Time delays also occur with registrants or their employers not informing the SSSC in a timely manner about changes to an individual’s employment.

While the registration data may not give a snapshot of the workforce at a particular point in time it does have strengths that the workforce data does not have. For example the registration contains more detailed data on qualifications held by registrants than the workforce data does. It was because of this that it was used in the recent Workforce Skills Report published in autumn 2021 here: https://data.sssc.uk.com/data-publications/21-workforce-skills-report/272-workforce-skills-report-2020-2021

Another strength of the Register is that it contains a unique identifier for individual registrants which means that workforce movement can be examined using it. This was done most recently in a report on day care of children’s services published in June 2023, which can be found here: https://data.sssc.uk.com/data-publications/316-movement-of-day-care-of-children-registrants-report-2023

In addition the regulatory role of the register means that it is linked to data on complaints and investigations carried out by the SSSC regarding registered workers. A new annual report on this element is expected to be published later in 2023/24.


This short briefing sets out some of the key differences between the SSSC’s workforce data and its registration data. It also sets out some of the key strengths and limitations of each as well as how they complement each other. If you have any questions about this please contact us at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.