The secret is out – contracting is a great way to earn a living, and workers in the IT sector have very much taken note.

Recent data from the Office of National Statistics and released by SJD Accountancy has found that the number of contractors working in IT over the past six years has risen by as much as 50%.

Though the number of people who work in IT has also grown over this period, the  exponential growth seen in the number of contractors is particularly noteworthy.

In 2010, just under 77,000 contractors were working in IT. By 2016 however, this figure was close to the 120,000 mark.

IT is evidently a stronghold for contractor workers. But the number of people working for themselves across the UK has also risen. A 20.7% rise across all sectors was noted in the research, with the number of self-employed workers in the UK, including contractors, now more than 4.5 million.

A significant leap in the number of female IT contractors was also identified as a contributory factor to the positive trends. 9.3% of IT contractors in 2010 were women – that figure’s now at13.9%.

Speaking about the statistics, Derek Kelly, CEO at SJD Accountancy, told Recruitment International: “The increase in the proportion of the IT workforce operating as contractors has been driven by demand from both IT professionals and organisations utilising IT skills. Contracting was traditionally seen as the riskier option but the erosion of employment rights since the financial crisis have changed that perception. Freelancing is increasingly both a career and a lifestyle choice. In high demand areas such as IT, contractors are often at no greater risk of being out of work than employees, and the higher take-home pay is usually sufficient to cover any gaps between contracts.”

Kelly added that current market uncertainty is playing into contractors hands.

“Hiring permanent staff involves a higher level of commitment and is something organisations are more likely to do when there is more certainty over future demand,” he said. “Economic uncertainty, which has been compounded by Brexit, has persuaded many organisations to defer hiring and look to contractors to plug skills gaps.”

Of the rise in female contractors in the IT sector, Kelly surmised that the statistics are indicative of greater levels equality beginning to emerge.

“There are more women in IT in both permanent and temporary roles, but the increasing proportion of contractors who are women is particularly significant as contractors tend to earn more than their permanent counterparts, which suggests that the pay gap between men and women in the IT sector is likely to be narrowing,” he said.