Yesterday’s employment figures update from the Office for National Statistics contained several noteworthy data points – the headline, of course, being the drop in unemployment by a further 125,000. This latest fall means the UK’s unemployed population now stands at 2.34 million. The stats also revealed that more women are in work than ever before, comprising 14 million of the UK’s 30 million-strong working population.
For freelancers and contractors the news was similarly positive. In the fourth quarter of 2013 172,000 people became self-employed, bringing the national total to 4.37 million, or 14.5% of the UK’s total workforce. This is another record – there have never been this many self-employed professionals in the UK before. Notably, the number of individuals becoming self-employed was greater than the number of people finding work in the quarter.
PCG’s Economic Policy Adviser Georgios Nikolaidis said:
“This latest sharp increase in self-employment is more proof that the way we work is changing. The rise in those choosing to go into business on their own account is now outstripping the growth in traditional employment at a rate of almost three to one. The persistence of self-employment, growing uninterrupted from 2004 onwards, points towards a structural change in the labour market rather than a cyclical reaction to the financial crisis.
“Our research shows that the rise in those choosing to go freelance, a sub-set of the self-employed population, has been building momentum steadily in recent years despite the changing economic conditions. With an increase of 63% over the last decade through bad times and now good times, this should be recognised as a sea change in how we approach the concept of work in this country.”