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Are we becoming a nation of the self-employed?

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: August 13, 2014

By Tristan Cork

  • Esther McVey and Chuka Umunna

Comments (2)

Napoleon famously dismissed the British as nothing but a "nation of shopkeepers", but now Britain is a "nation of the self-employed".

Unemployment figures out today are expected to show another sharp drop, but a new survey of the world of work in Europe has revealed that much of those finding work this year have created the job for themselves.

The think-tank IPPR revealed that the UK is now the 'self-employment capital' of western Europe, which showed that the growth in self-employment in this country has been the fastest of all countries this side of Europe in the past year.

The proportion of workers who are self-employed has risen by a whole percentage point – that represents more than 400,000 people striking it out alone – in the past 12 months alone.

The IPPR said that the UK had internationally low levels of self-employment for many years but has caught up with the EU average and, if 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.

Between the start of 2013 and the start of this year, the number of people who are self-employed rose by 8 per cent, faster than any other country in western Europe.

"Around 2,000 people a month are moving off benefits into their own business," said Spencer Thompson, IPPR senior economic analyst.

"The Government's response to the rise in self-employment has been to praise the UK's entrepreneurial zeal, while increasingly promoting self-employment as an option to job-seekers.

"Some have seen it as a negative development, having legitimate concerns whether a lot of the new self-employed are actually employees by another name.

"The self-employed come in many shapes and sizes. Some are entrepreneurs, driven by high-growth ambitions, innovation and disruptive business models, but many are sole-traders bands simply looking to get by or small businesses happy to stay at their current level.

"Many older self-employed workers are simply working longer, due to a combination of rises in the pension age and recession-induced falls in the value of wealth stored up for retirement," he added.

Labour warned the rise in self-employment might not be such a good thing – particularly if the people registering as self-employed are actually people being forced to do so to do jobs traditionally done by people employed by a larger company, for instance as carers, cleaners or people on zero-hours contracts.

Often firms have made workers redundant, and then hired them back to do the same job but in a self-employed capacity.

"To start out on your own and become your own boss takes grit, determination and energy. Self-employment is increasingly becoming a route people choose to fulfil their dreams and aspirations, while it also offers flexibility for those who want to balance work against other commitments, such as childcare," said Labour's Chuka Umunna, who said that other figures showed self-employed people's average earnings had plummeted in the last five years.

But the Conservatives' Esther McVey hit back.

"Labour's Great Recession made people worse off. It was the longest and deepest recession since the war, making the whole country poorer, leaving people vulnerable and everyone financially less well off as a result," she said.

"That's why we are creating the jobs people need to be better off for the long-term by backing businesses with lower jobs taxes and training people to have the right skills to either set up in business or get a job.

"And it's working, with 1.8 million more people in work. It is the hard work of this government that is creating the right environment to allow businesses to flourish. The only way to secure a brighter future for Britain is to stick to our long-term plan."

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2 comments

  • Free2opine  |  August 13 2014, 10:08AM

    ps........the Labour party only encourages people to be reliant on the state, that way they can be assured of a term in government and can "control" the mass with propaganda via "union" owned employees, such as teachers and the likes. You can tell they don't encourage people to make anything of themselves, because, should they be lucky enough to make a profit thus enabling them to buy property, they will hammer them with taxes, left, right and centre!!!!

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  • Free2opine  |  August 13 2014, 10:01AM

    Once again in their attempt to denigrate our government and talk down our economy; always wanting to load any employers with ever-increasing burdens; the Labour Party have demonstrated their total incompetence and lack of any understanding of how a vibrant and growing economy functions. . Will they never get free from the corrosive influence of the totally useless Ed Balls and his wife???

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