The islands are covered by the single tier local authority, Orkney Islands Council. Approximately 80% of the population lives on the Orkney mainland with 20% on the other islands.
Orkney enjoys a very high economic activity rate (the proportion of the population which is involved in employment or self-employment). In Orkney this rate is 83.7%, which is higher than Scotland as a whole (79.9% in 2007).
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 and tourism and more recently, food processing and renewables.
In 2009, the population of Orkney was 19,960. This represents an increase of 3.9% since 2001 and compares to a 3.1% increase overall in the Highlands and Islands and 2.5% increase in Scotland.
Unemployment in Orkney has been consistently below the rate for the Highlands and Islands. The most recent GVA figures for 2007 state that GVA per full-time equivalent employee was higher in Orkney than in the Highlands and Islands and Scotland for both the manufacturing and construction sectors, but lower in the services sector.
The female dominated sector of public administration, education and health is the largest employment sector, accounting for 36% of jobs in 2008. The construction and transport and communications sectors account for a higher proportion of employees in Orkney than in the Highlands and Islands.
The majority of workers in Orkney (70%) are employed by companies with fewer than 50 employees. This demonstrates the dominance of employment within small businesses in Orkney.
Business start-ups in Orkney were lower than in the Highlands and Islands in 2008. There were 3.0 new start-ups per 1,000 population in Orkney, compared to 4.0 in the Highlands and Islands.
Educational attainment levels in secondary schools in Orkney were above the Scottish averages in 2008/09.
Orkney house prices have been rising in recent years, although not by as much as in the Highlands and Islands or Scotland. In 2008, the median house price in Orkney was £95,500 compared to £117,750 in the Highlands and Islands and £114,500 in Scotland.
Further information on the economy of Orkney in available in our area profile report.