Two fifths of jobs created in the UK since 2010 fall under the self-employed category, but the number of people actually running, directing or partnering in a business is down by 52,000, TUC research has revealed.
One in seven British workers are now self-employed. Whilst the majority of self-employed people work full time, the biggest leap is in part time work, with over a million people now defined as part time self-employed – a rise of 22%. Figures have escalated across all age groups, but most strikingly in the over-65s category, where the number of self-employed workers has increased by 29%.
With the vast majority (84%) of self-employed workers surveyed by the RSA saying that they are happier than they would be working for someone else, the rise in self-employment could signify a more contented workforce. But there’s a catch: whilst workers who actively chose to become self-employed are happy with their autonomy, those using it as a route to escape unemployment are less likely to agree. The TUC fears that, increasingly, self-employed workers fall into the latter category.
The figures would seem to support this claim. As the RSA has found, high levels of satisfaction amongst self-employed workers tends to be based on freedom and flexibility, a feeling of being in control, and the thrill of creating and building a new business from scratch. For those who feel cornered into making the choice to go it alone, and for the rising number of people who do so without setting up an actual business, these happiness indicators are less likely to apply. Add to this dramatically lower and less stable incomes, social isolation and a lack of employment benefits, and it starts to look like a rough deal for the not-by-choice self-employed.
“While some choose to be self-employed, many people are forced into it because there is no alternative work,” says TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady. “These newly self-employed workers are not the budding entrepreneurs ministers like to talk about. Only a tiny fraction run their own businesses, while the vast majority work for themselves or another employer – often with fewer rights, less pay and no job security.”