Figures released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that numbers of self-employed people in the UK have held more or less steady. While the overall number of people in self-employment did fall by 27,000 over the quarter, the number of full time self-employees actually rose, with the fall coming from 28,000 part-timers leaving self-employment. A leading contractor group has said that the stable figures show the value of flexibility in the UK’s workforce.

As the ONS observed in February the strong trends in self-employment over the past few years has been a major driving force behind the strength of the UK’s labour markets. Self-employment now accounts for over 15% of the labour force, up from 12% at the start of the century.

Andy Chamberlain, the deputy director of policy at IPSE, is proud of the contribution that self-employed people make to the economy: “There’s no doubt the extraordinary rise in self-employment over the past few years – with freelancers, for example, up 46 per cent since 2008 – is helping to keep unemployment at record lows,” he said. “The overall labour market picture revealed today is very positive. And the fact that the headline self-employment rate has remained stable at approximately 4.8 million compared to the same time last year, just confirms that the growth of this sector is here to stay.”

Mr Chamberlain also points to IPSE’s own research, which we reported on earlier this week, showing the value of freelancing to helping people return to work or work around personal circumstances. “Our research shows that people are overwhelmingly choosing to work for themselves because they prefer it,” he observed. “They like to be in control of their work and their hours. Self-employment isn’t right for everybody, but it’s a lifeline for a lot of people: a way to fit their work around other aspects of their lives. For example, 750,000 disabled people are self-employed, and this population is growing even faster than the overall self-employed.”

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