How e-commerce is helping self-employment to thrive


Self-employment has grown rapidly in recent years as flexibility has become more and more valued in the UK labour market. Self-employed people now make up 15 per cent of the workforce and this is expected to grow further.

One of the reasons for this growth in self-employment is the increasing opportunities for people to set up a business. E-commerce is dominating the retail world and in a way mimics the changing labour market.

Just as self-employment is spearheading a major change in employment trends, e-commerce is also completely changing the way we shop. And there is also a crossover, because Platforms such as Etsy and Shopify are making it easier than ever for people to make the leap into self-employment.

E-commerce sales in the UK have grown from £503 billion to £511 billion from 2015 to 2016. This growth is expected to continue as more businesses enter the online world. Consumer sales represented £236 billion of this and business-to-business sales accounted for £274 billion.

The UK labour market is changing in favour of self-employment, so it is no surprise that we are seeing major growth in the e-commerce sector. The e-commerce sector is presenting opportunities for people that were not there before. People are opting to become self-employed because of the added flexibility it offers, and e-commerce is a great place to start.

It has never been easier to become self-employed in the UK, and this trend is expected to continue. More platforms will be created, and more opportunities will present themselves. It is now important that the Government supports those who decide to go down the self-employed route.

Only 5.8 per cent of businesses with less than 10 employees now have superfast broadband. This is a major barrier for people who want to enter the e-commerce market. It is important that the Government ensures that the rollout of superfast broadband continues, so the highly productive self-employed workforce 

Meet the author

Tom Purvis

Political and Economic Adviser