A report by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) found that the fall-out rate of those self-employed between 2009 and 2014 was 23 per cent - the lowest outflow for any period during the last 20 years.
The report therefore claims that the rise in self-employment can be accounted for by fewer people leaving self-employment than in the past. Some 886,000 people who were self-employed in 2009 had left by 2014, compared with 1.3 million who were self-employed in 2004 leaving by 2009.
ONS says its surveys do not ask why people are not leaving self-employment, but the fall in the outflow from self-employment could be the result of several economic and social factors which may include:
- More people (both self-employed and employees) continuing to work beyond the state pension age, with self-employment among those aged 65 and over doubling from 241,000 in 2009 to 428,000 in 2014
- Reduced opportunities to work as an employee at the onset of the economic downturn, limiting the opportunity for people to move from self-employment.
The rise in employment over the past six years has been predominantly among the self-employed. There were 1.1 million more workers in April-June 2014 compared with January-March 2008, among whom there were 732,000 more self-employed.
In total in April to June 2014 there were 4.6 million people who were self-employed, and the three top self-employment roles were in 2014 construction and building trades (167,000 people), taxi drivers and chauffeurs (166,000 people) and carpenters and joiners (144,000 people).
Self-employment is common within the construction industry, but the economic crisis hit this sector the hardest, to the extent that comparing 2014 to 2009 it had the slowest growth in self-employment compared with other major industry groups.
Over the same period the rise in self-employment was largest in professional, scientific and technical activities which include roles such as management consultancy, book-keepers, photographers and chartered accountants.
Looking at the different parts of the country, 17 per cent of Londoners in work were self-employed, followed closely marginallly higher rate. At a local level, the area with the highest rate of self-employment was the Isle of Scilly, at 33.2 per cent, followed by the Orkney Islands at 28 per cent.
The report also looks at hours worked by the self-employed compared with employees. Just over a third of self-employed workers normally work 45 hours or more per week in 2014, compared with just under a quarter of employees.
Additionally, 12 per cent of self-employed people usually work 60 hours or more per week compared with just five per cent of employees. However, self-employed people are also more likely than employees to work short hours – five per cent usually work less than eight hours per week, compared with two per cent for employees.
Across the European Union, at 15 per cent the UK had a similar proportion of its workforce in self-employment as the EU average. Greece had the highest (32 per cent) percentage of its workforce who were self-employed, a product of its large agricultural sector and the effects of tourism.
Comparing January-March 2014 with the same period in 2009, self-employment increased by around 19 per cent in the UK, equivalent to around 720,000 people. This percentage increase was the third highest in the EU, behind Slovenia and Estonia, although these countries are relatively small in comparison.
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Susie Hughes © Shout99 2014