New research finds huge rise in number workers switching to self-employment – and very few regretting it
Freelancers are now so vital to the economy they could pay for the NHS twice over. That’s the remarkable finding of a new landmark piece of research.
The same 10-year study suggests parents are increasingly turning to self-employment as a way to juggle work and family commitments, particularly dads.
Although the report by the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE) points to a big increase in the number of professional women embracing freelance life the majority of freelancers are men and the largest number are aged 40-60, ie likely to be parents.
IPSE has been conducting research into the state of the self employed sector in conjunction with Kingston University for 10 years. So for their latest report they looked at the changes over the decade since 2008.
The findings indicate that one in seven workers is now self-employed, that’s a 35% increase over the period studied. For highly skilled freelancers in fields like management and consultancy the increase has been even larger – a 47% jump since 2008.
However growth in the sector slowed considerably in recent years. Last year it grew just 1%, with the blame inevitably falling on Brexit uncertainty.
The so-called solo self-employed now contribute £275 billion to the economy – double the budget of the NHS.
Men make up more than half of all freelances and the majority are aged between 40-60. The biggest sector employing freelances is construction and building followed by the artistic, literary and media industries.
23% of freelancers chose to be self-employed to maintain or increase their income. Nearly as many say they did it to have better work conditions, which must include finding a work life balance that works better for them and their family. Only 3% say they had to take up freelancing because they couldn’t find another job and the vast majority say they are not looking to quit the self employed lifestyle to take a salaried position instead.
Freelancing however seems to be largely a southern phenomenon. The research found solo self-employed people across the country. But the largest concentration of freelancers is in London followed by south east England and south west England.
Summing up the research Professor John Kitching from Kingston University’s Small Business Research Centre said: “The rise of solo self-employment in the last 10 years has become one of the key competitive advantages of the modern UK economy, with freelancers alone contributing no less than £130 billion to business turnover.
“In the context of Brexit-driven economic uncertainty, this report has shown just how important self-employment is for ensuring that the UK’s labour market provides opportunities for a greater quality and quantity of work.”