UK hailed as 'self-employment capital' of Western Europe

The growth in the number of people working for themselves is faster in the UK than in Western European countries, positioning it as the “self-employment capital” of the region.

Unveiling this bullish assessment, the IPPR said Britain had “caught up” with the EU average of 14 per cent of workers who are self-employed and, in doing so, overtook its closest rivals.

In fact, the UK’s army of self-employed people grew by 8 per cent over the last year, meaning it is now bigger than Germany’s, France’s, Belgium’s and Switzerland’s.

The think-tank’s full analysis, obtained by the Financial Times, reportedly shows that an average of 7,700 people in Britain became self-employed each week over the past year.

If its current growth continues, the UK will look more like Southern and Eastern European countries, which tend to have much larger shares of self-employed workers, the IPPR said.

In line with a study showing a link between joblessness and new self-employment, the think-tank found that 2,000 people a month are moving off benefits and into their own business.

This may suggest that the government’s response to the rise in self-employment of promoting it to job-seekers has worked. But freelancers’ trade body PCG thinks more could be done.

Reflecting yesterday upon official figures showing self-employment to have hit a record 4.59million, the body said there was a need for “tailored policies” to support one-man bands.

“These enterprising individuals have made the brave decision to go it alone and the economy is reaping the rewards,” said PCG’s Andrew Chamberlain.

“Let’s…make it easier for the growing army of self-employed professionals by implementing tailored policies to help this important sector flourish and reach their full potential.”

As to the identities of the people recently deciding to take the plunge, the IPPR’s Spencer Thompson said the self-employed continued to “come in many shapes and sizes.”

“Some are entrepreneurs”, he explained. “But many are sole-traders simply looking to get by or small businesses happy to stay at their current level. The UK is just as much a nation of shopkeepers as a vanguard of cutting-edge capitalism.”

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