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Why women are driving the rise in self-employment

28 January 2020

The latest government figures show that the number of self-employed workers in the UK has risen to over five million.

Over the past year the number of employees increased by 179,000 and the number of self-employed people increased by 145,000, according to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

It means that there are now a record five million self-employed people in the UK, representing 15.2% of all people in employment. And more women than men have chosen to work for themselves in the last quarter - with 16,000 more women joining the ranks of the self-employed than men between September and November 2019.

Since 2012, the annual increases for employees have generally been greater than for the self-employed, the ONS reports. However, in recent periods this had reversed as there has been a surge in self-employment. In the last quarter, that trend has reversed again, as the increase for employees was slightly greater than the increase for the self-employed.

"The figures show the freedom and flexibility of self-employment are very attractive to more and more people across the UK. Especially women," said Inna Yordanova, senior researcher at the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE).

"Female freelancers are at the forefront of the self-employed revolution. Although there are still more self-employed men, the number of women going into self-employment is rising at a faster rate."

IPSE research shows that the number of women in self-employment has grown by 57% in the past ten years compared to 25% among men. And there has been an even more significant 63% increase in the number of highly skilled female freelancers.

Yordanova added: "We have also found they are going into self-employment for overwhelmingly positive reasons like having more freedom to choose where they work (83% of freelancers said this was a factor), when they work (84%) and having a better work-life balance (73%).

"Freedom, flexibility and choice: these are the watchwords for the self-employed that are driving this revolution. Especially among female freelancers. Now it is up to the government to make sure this vital and growing sector has the support and freedom it needs."

Written by Rachel Miller.

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