PCG finds rise in freelance mums

Friday 27 September 2013

Contractors have always known that the flexibility their way of working affords them is one of the most important perks of the job. It allows for much more variety in the projects that independent workers take on. However, a recent study commissioned by Professional Contractors Group (PCG) hints at how the freelance lifestyle can help working parents to juggle the family and professional lives.

According to the research conducted by Kingston University, in 2011 there were around 210,000 working mums in the UK who had chosen to go freelance, making up more than an eighth of the total contracting population in the country. Interestingly, the figures also suggested that the number of freelance mums has shot up by 25 per cent since 2008 - twice as fast as the independent working sector as a whole. It appears that freelancing is becoming increasingly popular among female professionals with families, even though women do not yet account for two-fifths of the contractor population.

“Freelancing allows mothers, and fathers for that matter, the flexibility to spend time with family while continuing to operate professionally,” says Julie Stewart, PCG chairperson. “This isn’t a way to earn a few extra pounds on the side – it is a serious, credible way of working that contributes in a way that is vital to UK business.

“Going freelance can be daunting, especially if you’ve got a new family, but work life balance is important.”

PCG suggests that freelancing could be a viable option for other female professionals seeking to enjoy a work-life balance that affords them the family time they need. The contractor membership association points out that in one of its most recent reports, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported record numbers of working mothers following an overhaul of child benefit.

In its recent benchmarking survey, PCG says it found that women tended to be happier than men when they worked as freelancers, largely because of the control it affords them over their hours and projects. However, in its recent discussion at the Lib Dem party conference, business minister Jo Swinson highlighted the persistent problems women face in the flexible workforce, including childcare costs, protection from discrimination and equal compensation.

At the same event, Simon McVicker, PCG’s director of policy and public affairs, said that “the political and media agenda is highlighting employment issues affecting women on a daily basis. Women in freelancing are a key part of this agenda that cannot be ignored.”

Separate ONS figures showed that, overall, there were around 1.26 million women in self-employment during the second quarter of this year out of a total of 4.18 million. At the same time, the number of professionals of both genders working for themselves rose by 1.4 per cent overall. Significantly, women outnumbered men when it came to part-time working - 653,000 women were working limited hours compared to 518,000 men.

Still, it appears that men could be following where women lead on the question of part-time self-employment - the biggest rise was to be found among men, with 19 per cent more contractors working shorter weeks.


By Victoria McDonnell

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