Numbers of older contractors surge

Wednesday 19 August 2015

Recent research from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE) has revealed that the number of freelancers over the age of 50 has increased by 46.5 per cent. This means that the over-50s now make up 72 per cent of all contractors in the UK.

However, the overall number of contractors fell by 95,000 between April and June 2015. This reduction was made up of 70,000 full-time freelancers, and 25,000 part-timers.

A reduced amount of contracts available over the summer period may partly account for this. According to IPSE, the number of freelancers who had an active contract fell from 86 per cent in the last quarter of 2014 to 80 per cent by the second quarter of this year.

Geraint Johnes, professor of economics at Lancaster University, told the Telegraph: “We are living longer than ever before, and as long as people remain fit and healthy, they want to be contributing.

It has also been suggested that older people, having paid off their mortgages and raised their children, are more likely to want to take a risk when it comes to their career, as well as looking for a more fulfilling work life. It may also be a more manageable option for older people looking for a career change.

The Telegraph also cited recent research that suggested older women in particular were having difficulty when it came to securing job interviews. For those in this position, freelancing can offer a welcome chance to take control of their career progression and boost their potential earnings.

In response to the findings, IPSE’s chief executive Chris Bryce said: “We need the government to look at ways to encourage people to become self-employed and support those already working in this way.

“Considering a large proportion of jobs created in the past five years came from the self-employed community, the government will be relying on this group to meet its ambition of an extra two million people in the labour market by the end of Parliament.”

He also reiterated his organisation’s condemnation of chancellor George Osborne’s summer Budget, which he claimed had had a disproportionate impact on contractors and small business owners, and called for more to be done to support the self-employed.

Given that contracting has been a major boost in the bid to tackle unemployment levels, and has played a significant role in the country’s economic recovery, it seems likely that the government will take steps to help increase the sector’s viability in the future, although details are vague at this point.

However, contracting can still be an enjoyable and lucrative career option, particularly for highly skilled professionals in industries where hiring pressures are substantial.
For example, contractor Eugene van Jaarveldt, who decided that the nine to five was not enough after he contracted colon cancer, told the Telegraph: " I know I can be making money on my terms still for years and years to come.”


By Victoria McDonnell

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