The number of self-employed workers in the UK today remains relatively unchanged from the year before. This is according to the latest report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Between March and May 2018, ONS recorded 4.79 million self-employed workers, which make up almost 15% of the UK workforce. This figure is consistent with that of the year before, indicating that the general rise in self-employed workers in recent years is a permanent rather than cyclical phenomenon.

Employment reaches all-time high

Overall, the number of people in employment in the UK rose to an all-time high in the three months to May. ONS reported that 32.4 million people were in work during the period – the highest figure since it began collecting such data in the 1970s. This represents an employment rate of 75.7%.

Employees increased by 408,000 to 27.44 million, making up almost 85% of all people in work.

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“We’ve had yet another record employment rate, while the number of job vacancies is also a new record,” ONS statistician Matt Hughes said. “From this, it’s clear that the labour market is still growing strongly.”

Self-employment trend here to stay

The rapid growth of self-employment has been a pronounced feature of the UK labour market in recent years. In a report earlier this year, ONS confirmed that the number of self-employed increased from 3.3 million people (12% of the labour force) in 2001 to 4.8 million (15% of the labour force) in 2017.

“These statistics show that the shift towards self-employment is truly here to stay,” Tom Purvis, economic and political advisor for The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE), said. “More people than ever are looking for flexibility in the way they work, and self-employment gives them just that.”

Government must support

However, it is also up to the government to ensure that self-employment is an accessible and positive option for workers.

“To do this, it must scrap its plans to extend changes to IR35 to the private sector,” Purvis added. “This would hurt self-employed people and businesses alike – not to mention reducing productivity and weakening growth across the economy.”

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