More than one million over 50s now work for themselves despite pandemic's impact on self-employed

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Tens of thousands more over 50s are now running their own businesses despite an overall decline in self-employment since 2020, new analysis of workforce statistics shows.

The analysis, published today by IPSE (the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed), found that the number of self-employed business owners aged 50 and over surged to 1.1 million in 2023 – 89,000 more than in 2020 – despite the total solo self-employed population falling by 154,000 in the same period.

Furthermore, of those aged 50 and over in self-employment, as many as one in six (15%) launched their businesses within the past three years.

Released annually, the IPSE Self-Employed Landscape report provides a snapshot of how the sector’s size, demographics and economic impact have changed in the past year.

The report also found that the sector’s economic contribution soared by more than £50bn in 2023, to a total of £331bn, after declining in 2022.

The sector continues to be predominantly male, with the gender distribution of the sector standing at 61 per cent male to 39 per cent female, with a one percentage point swing towards female in 2023. This continues a long-term trend towards more women in self-employment, which has grown by 63 per cent since 2008.

IPSE’s Director of Policy, Andy Chamberlain, said: “It’s clear that self-employment’s offer of independence and autonomy in work are particularly attractive to experienced professionals, especially if they have lost an employed role or have become disillusioned with the 9-to-5.

“Many harbour dreams of starting their own business, whether it’s to pursue a lifelong dream, increase their income or find a better work-life balance.

“But the over 50s, now in the prime of their careers and with decades of experience under their belt, likely have even more confidence in their ability to make a success of it.

“The UK is fortunate to have a vibrant self-employed sector that offers a fresh shot at success to people at any stage in their careers, and we should celebrate the fact that tens of thousands more people – especially those over 50 – are doing just that.”

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IPSE is the leading association for contractors, consultants, interims, freelancers and the self-employed. We strive to bring our members the most comprehensive and useful range of information and services and all the latest news about what affects your business.