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Saturday, 26 July 2014

Economy fuels boom in self-employment

The number of self-employed workers has jumped by 367,000 since the start of the recession in 2008, official figures show.

Lisa Coates photo
Lisa Coates

The increase – to 4.2 million – has mainly occurred since 2011, with a rise of 219,000 in the year to 2012, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The rise was spread across all parts of the UK, except Northern Ireland.

The study also revealed that the self-employed work longer hours, tend to be older and are more likely to be male, than other employees.

The average age of self-employed workers is 47, with 70 per cent being male, compared with an average age of 40 for the UK’s 25m employees.

The most popular occupations for self-employed workers are taxi driver, construction trades, carpenters, joiners and farmers.

Around 58 per cent of self-employed people use their home for work.

Lisa Coates, 32, from Penrith, set up Acorn Marketing in 2011 after she was made redundant as marketing manager of Liverpool’s BugWorld after just six weeks in the job.

She said: “It came as such a shock and I just didn’t know what to do with myself. After a lot of soul searching and tough decision-making, I decided that Cumbria had been calling me home.”

She started Acorn with no contacts and no money but now has 18 clients including Country Puddings, Penrith Building Society, Penrith Chamber of Trade and Elite Fitness.

Acorn was one of the winners of the News & Star’s Local Business Accelerators – fledgling businesses with outstanding growth potential – announced this week.

The Federation of Small Business sees the surge in self employment as predictable.

Chairman John Walker said: “Many people lost their jobs in the recession, and struggled to find another.

“However, it is good to see that a large proportion of the increase has come from over-50s.”

Not everyone has welcomed the increase in self-employment.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The fact that [self-employment] has been outstripping employee job growth shows that the UK labour market is far weaker than headlines suggest.

“The recent rise in job levels is being driven by self-employed, part-time and temporary jobs, rather than the full-time, permanent work that many people want and need.

“It would be naive to think that all these workers are really budding entre-preneurs. These figures suggest that many employee roles are being replaced by self-employed positions.

“Bogus self-employment is bad news for staff as they miss out on rights at work, such as paid holidays and employer pension contributions, without the advantage of being their own boss.”

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