Across the UK the amount of people working via self-employment has risen to its highest level in more than 40 years, according to figures recently released by the ONS (The Office for National Statistics.)
In the UK somewhere around 4.6 million people are now working for themselves, which equates to about 15% of the total number of people who are employed. Back in 2008 when the financial crisis was just starting that number sat at around 13%. However, over the same period those 4.6 million self-employed workers have also seen a significant drop in pay, with the average income falling by 22%.
As more and more people have found employment since 2008 (1.i million in total) there has also been a rise in the number opting to go it alone and work for themselves. Of that 1.1 million, 730,000 (two thirds of the new workers) now class themselves as being self-employed.
These figures from the Office of National Statistics are now being used to put the so-called drop in unemployment in the UK in a less flattering (for the government) light with the TUC describing them as ‘worrying.’ That’s because traditionally the pay of people who are self-employed (not including contractors) is much lower than those in salaried staff positions. Frances O’Grady, the General Secretary of the TUC noted that:
“The growth in self-employment is reducing people’s pay, job security and retirement income – and is likely to be reducing the government’s tax take too,”
A Need for Control
Nevertheless, the same figures do seem to highlight how there is a growing desire amongst workers to strike out on their own and have more control over what they do. A government spokesman noted that more and more people were aspiring to be their own boss, adding that:
“Self-employment has been a growing part of the labour market for most of the last 30 years, which is why we continue to support budding entrepreneurs”
Another major reason why the total self-employed rose was that less people moved out of self-employment during that same period. This trend was no doubt to do with the fact that workers over the age of 65 were continuing to work for longer and longer – indeed amongst this group over the last 5 years the self-employment rate has doubled.
Another factor suggested by the Office of National Statistics was that the downturn in the economy may have discouraged workers from moving to staff positions and encouraged them to stick with the self-employed working style.
The most popular jobs for self-employment and which saw a rise were: Construction (167,000 workers), Taxi Drivers & Chauffeurs (166,000), Joiners and Carpenters (144,000). Additionally there was a large rise in self-employment in accountancy, photography and management consultancy.