Self employment in the UK has risen by 18% since the start of the recession in 2008, adding 700,000 people to the ranks and bringing the total to 4.5 million. This works out at just under 15% of the working population – a substantial percentage.
This rise in the self employed has been the subject of much comment in the media in recent weeks, which can summed up as ‘glass half empty’ and ‘glass half full’ type arguments.
For the TUC, the glass is definitely half empty. The ranks of the self employed are older who people who only do this sort of stuff because they cannot get a job anywhere else and who are now on low wages with no holidays, or ’employment’ rights, etc.
For the Government, the glass is half full and the increase in self employment is a testament to the new entrepreneurial environment engendered by Government policy.
Of course the truth is that the glass is neither half empty, nor half full. Some people do seek self employment as an alternative when no other employment is available, but that can often lead to a thriving business that would not have existed otherwise.
This has been especially true in construction and civil engineering, which accounts for about 850,000 of the 4.5 million. That is, people seeking the self employed option as alternative when things were bad, but now set fair to create growing businesses now that construction is picking up again.
Another reason for the increase in self employment is that self employed people are not retiring so early now. Again this is a double headed affair. Is this because they can’t retire because of poor pension provision? Or is it because better late life health and longer life spans make working on a better prospect than staying at home gardening, or watching Jeremy Kyle all day?
Well the truth is that retirement is not really something you should be obliged to do unless you want to and if your health is good and the business is still there, why not carry on? Of course some people do work until they drop because of poor pension provision and perhaps that should be a warning to all self employed people at any stage on their business development.
Napoleon once said that England was a nation of shop keepers and that seems to be as true now as it probably was then. But perhaps Britain as a whole now is also becoming a nation of the self employed. And yes the TUC does have a point that self employment is in many ways a more precarious existence than employment. However, with self determination comes opportunity and the opportunities that self employment brings often kindles an entrepreneurial spirit that develops new growing businesses and increases more conventional employment.
The increase in the self employed is therefore something to be celebrated as a breeding ground for new businesses and, as a business broker, A2Z Business Brokers looks forward to helping as many people sell and buy these businesses in the coming years as possible.