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UK self-employment figures continue to grow

The number of self-employed professionals in the UK is showing no signs of slowing up with a rise of 257,000 more entrepreneurs to 4.79 million in Q2 2016.

The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE) responded positively to the figures, suggesting that the “strong growth in self-employment” was a trend that would continue.

Lorence Nye, economic adviser, IPSE, said: “This is mainly driven by long term structural shifts in the labour market and an increased desire among people to work flexibly and control their careers.

“These latest figures cover the period before and immediately following the EU referendum – a time of heightened uncertainty in the economy.

“A number of business surveys have indicated that confidence is low and the risk of taking on long term staff has become unattractive, despite skills shortages remaining in a number of industries.

“IPSE’s own research released in July revealed that freelancers are more in demand now than ever before. There is clearly an appetite for the flexibility the self-employed provide to businesses at this time; they are vital in this climate.

“It is important that the self-employed are able to provide flexibility to bolster the UK economy following the vote to leave the EU. Government should look to use the Autumn Statement as an opportunity to support the growing number of people who make the decision to work for themselves.”

The figures were published as Ofcom ordered BT to invest more in the UK’s broadband network, providing superfast broadband connectivity to self-employed professionals living in rural areas.

Simon McVicker, director of policy and external affairs, IPSE, said: “Of the UK’s 4.7 million self-employed workers, twice as many work in rural areas as in urban areas. Many still don’t have access to a superfast broadband connection and this is an issue which must be resolved.

“Research shows that as many as one in five self-employed workers in Scotland and Wales, for example, have cited problems running their business due to broadband issues – and the UK can’t afford the losses in productivity that this creates.

“In the post-Brexit landscape the flexible labour market is vital to the success of the UK economy. Superfast broadband for rural microbusinesses therefore cannot be overlooked on the grounds of cost.

“Fortunately the Government has taken a big step forward in its proposed Universal Service Obligation (USO), giving every home and business in the country the right to a 10Mbps broadband connection.

“Government now needs to ensure this is delivered quickly and universally, with fibre optic broadband a requirement for all new house building projects, so the UK remains competitive on the world stage.”

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