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Self-employment stabilises at 4.8 million

18 April 2018

Self-employment stabilises at 4.8 millionAfter many years of rapid growth, the number of self-employed people in the UK has reached a plateau, according to new Government figures.

The latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) for the quarter to February 2018 shows that the number of people that work for themselves has stayed stable at around 4.8 million. In fact, the self-employed population actually fell by 18,000.

However, the ONS statistics also show that there has been an increase of 85,000 among part-time self-employed. Julia Kermode, ceo of the Freelancer and Contractor Services Association (FCSA), has said that the rise in part-time freelancers is likely to be caused by people doing extra work on the side and by those seeking a portfolio of part-time roles.

The number of people in work overall has reached a record high of 32.2 million, a rise of 427,000 more people compared to the same time last year. Unemployment has fallen by 16,000 to reach 1.42 million - the lowest level since May 1975.

Tom Purvis, political and economic advisor at freelancer body IPSE, said: "Self-employment has grown rapidly since the financial crash, and although it hasn't increased this month, its stability shows it is here to stay. Taken alongside the news that employment levels have risen again, this paints an undeniably positive picture of the UK labour market right now.

"Self-employment is allowing many who might not otherwise be able to - from retirees to disabled people - to make a major contribution to the UK economy. In fact, overall, the self-employed contribute no less than £271 billion to the UK economy - money that can be spent on schools, the NHS and a whole host of other important areas."

Commenting on the statistics, Mike Cherry, national chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said: "It's concerning to see a drop off in the number of self-employed workers. We need to avoid an environment that's increasingly hostile to the genuinely self-employed, forcing them to take permanent contracts. Only this month they were promised an end to Class II National Contributions which hasn't manifested … The flexibility and ingenuity of the self-employed community has been vital to UK growth in recent years. It should be properly recognised."

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