Self-employment surge suggests 'sea-change'

Self-employment growing steadily since 2004 to a new record high on the eve of 2014 smacks of a structural shift in the labour market rather than a side-effect of a weak economy, the PCG has signalled.

Reflecting on new figures from the Office of National Statistics, the freelancers’ group said a 63% jump in self-employment over the last decade was a “sea-change”, for occurring through both “bad times” and “good times.”

It explained that the number of self-employed people increased by 172,000 (to reach 4.37m) in the last three months of 2013, meaning such independent traders now represent 14.5% of the total UK workforce.

“Freelancing is no longer the preserve of distinct professions or specific age groups,” reflected Georgios Nikolaidis, PCG’s economic policy adviser.

“The persistence of self-employment, growing uninterrupted from 2004 onwards, points towards a structural change in the labour market rather than a cyclical reaction to the financial crisis.”

The group’s reading appears to challenge claims that a recent series of new peaks in self-employment were “both a symptom of and a contributor to the UK’s economic malaise,” rather than an outbreak of entrepreneurialism.

“This latest sharp increase in self-employment is more proof that the way we work is changing,” insists PCG, which put the surge down to more people wanting to take charge of their own personal ‘brand.’

“The rise in those choosing to go into business on their own account is now outstripping the growth in traditional employment at a rate of almost three to one.”

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