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UK – Self-employment growth driven by highly-skilled freelancers, not the gig economy, study finds

20 March 2018

Growth in self-employment in the UK is being driven by highly skilled freelancers and not the gig economy, according to a report from IPSE, the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed and Kingston University.

The report found that the growth of highly skilled freelancers outstripped overall self-employment growth, which increased by 34% to 4.8 million since 2008. This means that the self-employed make up 14% of the total workforce. 

In 2017, highly skilled freelancers accounted for 46% of all solo self-employed people (those who work on their own account without employees).

Meanwhile, the contribution of freelancers and the solo self-employed to the UK economy increased in 2017 to £271 billion, which was up from £255 billion in 2016. Highly skilled freelancers contributed at least £125 billion in 2017 to the economy, which was up from £119 billion in 2016.

“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,” Chris Bryce, IPSE CEO, said.

Other key findings from the report showed that the number of female freelancers has grown by 67% since 2008, compared to 33% for male freelancers.

“The rise of self-employed working women, especially freelance mothers, demonstrates that self-employment is a viable way to increase workforce participation,” Bryce said.

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