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Professionals driving self-employment growth

20 March 2018

Professionals driving self-employment growthA new report reveals that the recent growth in self-employment has been driven by highly skilled freelancers not the gig economy.

The research by freelancer body IPSE and Kingston University has found that the number of highly skilled freelancers has risen by 46% since 2008 to two million. Overall self-employment growth has increased by 34% to 4.8 million since 2008.

In 2017, highly skilled freelancers accounted for 46% of all solo self-employed people (without employees). The contribution of freelancers and the solo self-employed to the UK economy increased in 2017 to £271bn - up from £255bn in 2016. Highly skilled freelancers contributed at least £125bn to the economy in 2017 - up from £119bn in 2016.

The key findings of the report are:

  • 14% of the total UK workforce is now self-employed (4.8 million);
  • 4.4 million of these have no employees;
  • The average age of freelancers is 47;
  • Freelancers are 43% female and 57% male (35% to 65% for the solo self-employed);
  • The number of female freelancers has grown by 67% since 2008, compared to 33% for male freelancers;
  • The highest proportion of freelancers (24%) are in South East England, followed by London (20%) and South West England (10%);
  • The largest number of freelancers (320,000) work in artistic, literary and media occupations, followed by managers and proprietors in other services (236,000), functional managers and directors (135,000) and teaching and education professionals (134,000).

Chris Bryce, IPSE ceo, said: "The report goes a long way to dispelling the myth that activity in the self-employment sector is occurring mainly in the platform or gig economies, when the real growth is in highly skilled freelancer occupations.

"The rise of self-employed working women - especially freelance mothers - demonstrates that self-employment is a viable way to increase workforce participation. People value flexibility, which is one reason why more people than ever before are moving into freelancing and taking the opportunity to fit their work around their lives. And right now, the Government must do all it can to enable and protect freelancers and the self-employed - both in the Brexit negotiations and beyond."

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