PUBLIC sector union Unison has warned that too many care workers are on zero hours contracts and low paid, after new figures revealed one in 13 Scots work in the social care sector.

A spokesman for the union said increases in the numbers working in the sector were not enough to address demographic pressures.

He added: "The social care workforce carry out the vital care of very vulnerable people across Scotland. And the majority of the workforce are low-paid, which is a scandal.

"The high levels of zero hour contracts is simply unacceptable. We also know that the numbers on part-time contracts are deceptive. Although many have signed part-time contracts they actually work full-time, relying on getting extra hours from their employer to make ends meet.

"The result is a vulnerable workforce under a lot of personal strain who do not feel able to speak out about some of the problems they are seeing in the sector."

He was speaking after the Scottish Social Services Council annual survey revealed that 199,670 Scots now work in social services, the highest number since official records began being kept in 2008.

There were 10,000 more workers in the sector in 2014 than in 2013, a rise of 5.3 per cent.

The increase is thought to be due to changes to the way services are provided, with a growing emphasis on helping people live independently at home, as well as demographic changes such as the rising elderly population.

The biggest growth was in the voluntary sector, but the public sector also saw a 6.6 per cent increase, despite the climate of cuts and austerity.

Social services workers now make up 7.7 per cent of the Scottish workforce as a whole, according to the SSSC. However at least 10 per cent of all the people who work in social services are on zero hours contracts or similar.

Anna Fowlie, SSSC chief executive, said: "More than two-thirds of Scotland's social services, such as adult day care, care home services for adults, day care of children and housing support/care at home recorded a rise in staff numbers.

"The biggest rise in staffing is in housing support/care at home, which may reflect the major changes we have seen in the last few years, in the way that services are now available and developments to give people more say in the care services they use and how they use them."

Men make up only 15 per cent of employees in a sector which remains overwhelmingly dominated by women.