Statistics don’t lie, and those depicting self-employment in the UK show a growing trend amongst our workforce towards ‘being your own boss’. Sole trader status in the UK has increased dramatically over the last decade or so, from 3.8 million in 2008 to 4.6 million in 2015, accelerating a trend which began in the early 2000s.
This increase has been split fairly equally between full-time and part-time workers, although the actual growth in part-time self-employment from its initial base has been much stronger, growing by 88% between 2001 and 2015, compared to 25% for the full-time component.
Most market research has suggested that the growth in self-employment in the UK has been experienced as a broadly positive phenomenon, with workers mostly satisfied with the opportunities and rewards self-employment presents, and seeing it as a positive choice for their future. Only a minority claim to have a negative attitude towards their self-employment status, although a sizeable minority of the self-employed, in recent research, do claim to be looking for alternative employment, and this attitude is reflected more strongly amongst the part-time, self-employed.
This can in part be explained by the increasing trend amongst many employers to class their employees as self-employed as a means of evading certain employment responsibilities such as pension liabilities, entitlements to sick leave and holiday pay.
This shift towards greater self-employment in the UK since the Millennium has happened for a number of reasons, key among them a challenging employment market with declining real wages and increasing pressures. A more educated workforce who are more committed to working within their specialist area is also a factor, as are advances in technology which makes setting up your own business a more attainable goal, and the greater demands amongst a younger demographic for greater work-life balance.
Since the Millennium there has been a shift across the British economy towards deregulation in the workplace, and many of the traditional benefits that kept people working for large companies, such as generous pensions and holidays, have diminished. Many employees have found that their assumptions about jobs for life and automatic career progression have been undermined, and as a result their loyalty towards these traditional employment systems has waned. At the same time, there has been a shrinkage of traditional middle-management positions and remunerative semi-skilled employment as automation has decreased the need for such skills sets, and it has become increasingly difficult for many educated people, university graduates among them, to find the sorts of rewarding careers they feel they deserve. For many, self-employment has filled this void.
If you set up a successful business of your own, the benefits can be significant. Often, the choice allows you to work within a field that relates to your university education, generally chosen because it was an area you were passionate about. You advertise for the sort of work that genuinely interests you, decide the jobs you want to take, the hours you are prepared to work, and any rewards earned go directly to you. You avoid the frustrations of office politics, succeeding or failing as a result of your own efforts.
There are myriad other benefits to self-employment, that many employees of large organisations never get to enjoy. You have the opportunity to work from home, and can combine your work with child care responsibilities, working around school hours and holidays. You can take annual leave when you choose. You have the opportunity to develop your skills and your business in the direction that you want to. Most importantly, you have the opportunity to develop complete working autonomy, something most people can only dream of.
For more information, visit our Be Your Own Boss course page.