By Rebecca Burn-Callander Wednesday, 06 February 2013

Self-employment is all the rage in a recession

The number of people taking the plunge and working for themselves has spiked 10% since the start of the economic crisis, says the ONS.

The UK is getting more entrepreneurial by the day, if the latest data from the Office for National Statistics is to be believed. According to its number crunchers, 367,000 more people were self-employed in 2012 compared with 2008 when the recession began.

And these aren’t people who are taking on some extra work on top of their day jobs. Over the same time period, the number employed by others has fallen, as many of these entrepreneurs begin to rely solely on the income from their fledgling businesses.

Of these new ranks of self-employed people, some 84% were also found to be over 50, proving that retirement ain’t what it used to be as pensions are supplemented by extra working hours.

The most common self-employed occupations are taxi drivers, farmers and construction workers. And the ONS has calculated that most of these self-employed workers are choosing to work longer hours than their pay-rolled counterparts. The average working week for a self-employed person was 38 hours, two hours more than the average for employees.

Geographically speaking, many of these newly self-employed folk hail from London, with 18% of the total number of people in employment being self- employed. This isn’t surprising, given the easy access to broadband, transport links and the kinds of work being done – there’s a lot of work for cabbies in the capital, after all. The North East had the lowest number of self-employed, making up just 11% of the work force.

Across the UK as a whole, self-employment now represents a 14% chunk of the 29.4 million in employment in the UK. But does this mean that initiatives like Startup Britain are finally bearing fruit? Frances O'Grady, secretary general of the TUC, is sceptical. ‘There may be perfectly good reasons for being self-employed, but it would be naive to think that all these workers are really budding entrepreneurs.’

Oh, lighten up Frances…

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