UK self-employed numbers rise

Friday 13 November 2015

The number of self-employed people in the UK has risen for the first time in seven months, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Overall, the net number of self-employed people rose by 30,000 during the third quarter of 2015, representing a significant annual increase since the same period in 2014. This means that there are now five million self-employed people in the UK, reflecting the significant impact that they have on the national and international economy.

The rise is particularly welcome, as it follows seven months of falling self-employment across the country, along with concerns about how long the current economic recovery would last.

The self-employment figures are part of a wider trend of falling unemployment, as the proportion of people aged between 16 and 64 in work rose by 0.3 per cent over the quarter, and now stands at 73.3 per cent.

Simon McVicker, policy director at the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE), said: "The figures show the resilience of the self-employed sector in what is becoming an increasingly difficult regulatory environment. Make no mistake, independent professionals are a huge contributor to the flexibility and growth of our economy, they are here to stay.”

Employment minister Priti Patel also welcomed the news, noting that employment was now at record levels, and unemployment was approaching pre-recession lows. She claimed: “It is clear that this government is transforming lives for the better, and creating the higher wage, lower welfare society that British people want to see.”

Interestingly, the number of women in work has reached a record high of 69 per cent. This is partly because the state pension age for women has risen, meaning that fewer women are retiring early. However, it is also possible that self-employment, which is well-known for offering flexibility to working mothers, has played a role in the increase.

ONS statistician Nick Palmer said: “These figures continue the recent strengthening trend in the labour market, with a new record high in the employment rate and the unemployment rate still at its lowest level since spring 2008. Earnings continue to grow, albeit the rate for regular pay has fallen back a little from recent months.”

The wider economic improvement that has been seen over recent months is also believed to have had an impact on both the number of people in employment and those who have become self-employed. This is because more companies are looking to expand and take on new staff, at the same time that people feel there is sufficient demand for their expertise that they are ready to go it alone.

It was also revealed that the number of job vacancies over the quarter fell by 5,000 to 737,000, so this may be the perfect time for people looking to create their own opportunities to examine the possibilities of self-employment.

By Victoria McDonnell

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