Contractors responsible for substantial growth in self-employment, study finds

A new study carried out by the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) using data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has yielded some interesting findings.

According to the research, the UK’s self-employment sector has grown significantly over the past decade. Interestingly, however, the key driver behind this growth has been a sharp increase in the number of people turning towards highly-skilled contracting and freelancing roles, as opposed to increases in the number of small, entrepreneur-led businesses or ‘gig economy’ workers.

The figures reveal that an astonishing 4.4 million of all Britons who identify as ‘self-employed’ work completely alone and do not oversee any employees.

Meanwhile approximately half of these workers are freelancers and contractors who enjoy highly-skilled professional and technical occupations, the report reveals.

IPSE’s research suggests that the majority of the UK’s freelancers work in artistic, literary and media occupations, such as graphic design.

Meanwhile, 14 per cent work as either teaching or education professionals, or as functional managers and directors – while an additional five per cent work in IT and telecommunications.

In total, the figures reveal that the contracting and freelancing community has grown by 46 per cent since 2008 – outstripping the pace of growth in the wider self-employment sector as a whole, which has grown by 34 per cent in comparison.

Commenting on the good news, Chris Bryce, Chief Executive of IPSE, said: “The report goes a long way to dispelling the myth that activity in the self-employment sector is occurring mainly in the ‘platform’ or ‘gig’ economies, when the real growth is in highly-skilled freelancer occupations.

“People value flexibility, which is one reason why more people than ever before are moving into freelancing and taking the opportunity to fit their work around their lives,” he said.