Stable self-employment rate shows strong flexible labour market is here to stay


IPSE has responded to today’s labour market statistics showing that the number of self-employed people in the UK is broadly stable at 4.8 million.

The new figures released by the ONS show that although self-employment is down by 22,000 on the same time last year, the overall number remains very close to the last count in January: 4.78 million. As a result, the self-employed currently make up 14.8 per cent of the UK workforce.

Overall employment, however, is now at 75.3 per cent, the joint highest level since comparable records began. Unemployment is down by 127,000 since the same time last year, putting the unemployment rate at 4.3 per cent – the joint lowest level since 1975. The remainder of the working age population is not seeking or not available for work.

Andy Chamberlain, IPSE’s Deputy Director of Policy, commented: “There’s no doubt the extraordinary rise in self-employment over the past few years – with freelancers, for example, up 46 per cent since 2008 – is helping to keep unemployment at record lows. The overall labour market picture revealed today is very positive. And the fact that the headline self-employment rate has remained stable at approximately 4.8 million compared to the same time last year, just confirms that the growth of this sector is here to stay.

“Our research shows that people are overwhelmingly choosing to work for themselves because they prefer it. They like to be in control of their work and their hours. Self-employment isn’t right for everybody, but it’s a lifeline for a lot of people: a way to fit their work around other aspects of their lives. For example, 750,000 disabled people are self-employed, and this population is growing even faster than the overall self-employed.

“Self-employment enables many more people to make an economic contribution to the UK. The Government must therefore support this vital part of the labour market. Reviewing the way Universal Credit works for self-employed claimants is one area that urgently needs to be reviewed.”

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