UK: unemployment falls as self-employment rises

People of all ages embracing self-employment

People of all ages embracing self-employment

The number of people out of work in the UK has dropped by 63,000 to 2.33 million in the three months up to January 2014. Employment numbers increased to a record 30.19 million people according to the Office for National Statistics.

The Government points to the rallying economy as the primary cause of the fall in unemployment.

The North East of England remained home of the country’s highest unemployment rate at 9.5%. In contrast, just 5.2% of people were out of work in the South East, the lowest rate nationally.

Self-employment: no fad

Barring the high proportion of young people continuing to find a job, what is particularly remarkable is the rising numbers of people trying their hand at self-employment, which has helped boost the latest employment figures.

Whether it is freelance, consultancy work or the start of a new business, self-employment seems to be no fad, as more and more workers look to take advantage of technology and the falling costs of working from home.
The employee tally actually fell by 60,000 in the quarter leading to the New Year, but was propped up by 211,000 more people who reported that they are self-employed.

Older generation set up on their own

Interestingly, some of the fastest growth has been recorded among older people. Currently around 330,000 of those that are self-employed in the UK are aged 65 or over.

A study by the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSAMC) predicts that the number of workers who are self-employed will outnumber those in the public sector by 2018. The report estimates that 5 million people will be in business on their own account in 2018, while the government’s workforce will fall to 4.9 million.

As the rate of those that become self-employed increases, there is a worry that many of these start-up businesses will be making little or no money – with a large majority of start-ups failing.

Additionally, often workers underestimate the value of the extra benefits of being an employee, from having a pension plan to getting childcare support.

Jermaine Haughton is a journalist and digital media professional.

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