ONS: 4.7 million Brits now self-employed

28th July 2016 | News

New data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggests that almost 15 per cent of people across the UK are now self-employed, amounting to 4.7 million professionals.

The number of freelance professionals pre-recession in 2008 stood at 3.8 million, with the growth influenced largely by an 88 per cent rise in the number of part-time self-employed; while the number of full-time self-employed professionals rose 25 per cent.

According to the new ONS report, titled ‘Trends in Self-Employment in the UK 2001-2015’, those that are self-employed are largely happy with their employment status, with those moving from employment to self-employment tending to have “somewhat higher pre-transition hourly earnings than workers moving to new employee positions: trends which are consistent with making a positive choice, rather than being forced to be self-employed”.

The ONS report states that the rise in self-employment is not due to the 2008 economic downturn, instead placings its roots in employment trends that go back to the turn of the Millennium.

The report adds: “While this strong performance is among the defining characteristics of the UK’s economic recovery, the recent rise in self-employment is the extension of a trend started in the early 2000s … self-employed workers are broadly content with their labour market status.

“Relatively few report negative reasons for becoming self-employed, few indicate that they are looking for alternative employment and among the part-timers, many respondents report that they would prefer not to work full-time.”

Interestingly, older people are choosing to enter part-time self-employment rather than retirement; and those already self-employed are part of an older group in the UK’s workforce.

“As groups, both the part-time and full-time self-employed have aged considerably over the last ten years and in excess of that indicated by simple demographics,” the report added.

Emma Jones, founder of small business support group, Enterprise Nation, says the uncovered trend is “unsurprising”.

“[Older professionals] are capitalising on a wealth of knowledge and experience they have acquired over their lifetime and still have a lot more to give,” said Jones.

“These people are not making this choice out of necessity through a lack of jobs, they are responding to new opportunities that technology brings and this will only increase.”