The spat started after the TUC reacted to the latest employment figures which show that self-employment accounts for 44 per cent of the net rise in employment since mid-2010. The unions claimed that pensioners, part-time workers and 'odd-jobbers' were the fastest growing groups of Britian's new self-employed workforce.
The TUC analysis claimed that despite self-employment being a relatively small part of the UK jobs market – just one in seven workers are self-employed – it accounted for 44 per cent of all employment growth since the last election.
Workers aged 50 plus account for half the increase in self-employment, with self-employed workers aged 65 and over the fastest growing group in the labour market (increasing by 29 per cent since the end of 2010).
Over 40 per cent of all the self-employed jobs created since mid-2010 are also part-time. The TUC said it was concerned that many people are only taking this kind of work because they are unable to find 'good quality employee jobs which provide the stable employment they really want'.
The TUC’s analysis also showed that the number of people starting their own businesses has fallen in recent years, in spite of rising self-employment. The biggest growth areas of self-employment since mid-2010 have been people working for themselves (up 232,000), freelancing (up 69,000) or sub-contracting (up 67,000).
The number of self-employed people who either run a business, or are a partner or sole director in one has actually fallen by 52,000. The TUC claims that these figures show that rising self-employment is part of a 'wider shift towards insecure employment, rather than as a result of a growing number of people starting up new companies as Ministers like to claim'.
Self-employment has been going up steadily since early 2008, even when unemployment was rising sharply, and has increased even more in recent years.
The TUC has said it is concerned that the growth of self-employment is at the expense of more secure employee jobs. The unions body claimed that 'many newly self-employed workers do the same work as employees but with less job security, poorer working conditions and often less take-home pay'.
The TUC went on to paint a picture of the self-employed as a vulnerable part of the work-force, citing the lack of rights to
to paid sick, holiday, maternity or paternity leave, redundancy pay or protection against unfair dismissal and being poorly paid as 'insecure work' including self-employment, agency work and zero-hours contracts become a permanent feature of the labour market.
Not budding entrepreneurs
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Self-employment accounts for almost half of all the new jobs created under this Government.
“But these newly self-employed workers are not the budding entrepreneurs Ministers like to talk about. Only a tiny fraction run their own businesses, while the vast majority work for themselves or another employer – often with fewer rights, less pay and no job security.
“While some choose to be self-employed, many people are forced into it because there is no alternative work. The lack of a stable income and poor job security often associated with self-employment makes it hard for people to pay their bills, arrange childcare, plan holidays or even buy or rent a home.
“The economy is finally back in recovery yet people’s wages are still shrinking and many are unable to find stable employment. Until we see decent pay rises and better job security, working people will continue to feel that the recovery is passing them by.”
Freelancer trade group, the PCG, hit back relating to claims that the self-employment sector was about vulnerability and exploitation and said that the TUC's claims were 'misguided and unhelpful'
Chris Bryce, CEO of PCG said: “The rise in self-employment is a long term phenomenon that has continued steadily over a number of years through both positive and negative economic periods. It is a structural change in the way we approach the concept of work, not a cyclical occurrence based on an unhealthy jobs market, as the TUC claim.
“Not only do self-employed people actively stimulate economic growth, research shows their work also creates the permanent jobs which the TUC purports to be fighting for. The boom in self-employment is at the heart of the UK’s economic recovery and for the TUC to blame it for the problems experienced by vulnerable workers is misguided and unhelpful.
“The way we work is changing and it does not help our economy for backward-looking bodies like the TUC to fight against this change. Vulnerable workers need to be protected, but to tar all self-employed people with the same brush will do nothing for those who really need the support of a trade union.”
According to the freelancer group, far from being a sector where vulnerability and exploitation is the norm, self-employment is out-performing traditional work both financially and in terms of quality of life.
Mr Bryce said: “Research conducted by PCG shows that daily rates for independent professionals have increased since 2011 – a stark contrast to the declining salaries of employees during that time. What’s more, a recent poll of PCG members found that freelancers are optimistic about their rates in the year ahead.
“Even though 80 per cent of freelancers are happy with the amount they are paid, the benefits of being in business on your own account are not confined to your finances. Our research shows that 90 per cent of freelancers are happy with their choice to go it alone while 80 per cent are happy with the control they have over their working life and the amount of hours they work.”
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Susie Hughes © Shout99 2014