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Freelancers drive self-employment growth

Freelancers in highly-skilled occupations have driven growth in the UK self-employment sector over the past decade, according to a report.

Drawing on data from the Office for National Statistics, the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) found that 4.4 million of the 4.8 million people in the UK who are self-employed work completely alone, and do not have any employees.

Around 2 million of these workers are freelancers in highly-skilled managerial, professional and technical occupations.

This group has grown by 46% from 1.4 million in 2008, a greater increase than the self-employed sector as a whole, which grew by 34% over the same period of time.

The highest proportion of freelancers work in artistic, literary and media occupations (16%), but they are represented in a range of other roles, including:

  • managers and proprietors in other services (12%) 
  • functional managers and directors (7%) 
  • teaching and education professionals (7%)
  • information technology and telecommunications professionals (5%).

Chris Bryce, chief executive of IPSE, said:

"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.

"People value flexibility, which is one reason why more people than ever before are moving into freelancing and taking the opportunity to fit their work around their lives."

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