Surge in self-employment down to ‘odd-jobbers’, says CIPD

The rise in self-employment since the start of the recession is mostly due to part-time “odd-jobbers” who are desperate to avoid unemployment, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has claimed.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that self-employment hit a record high of 4.14 million in autumn 2011, 8% higher than in spring 2008. Over the same period, there was a 3% fall in the number of people in work.

According to the CIPD’s Work Audit Report, those who have turned to self-employment since 2008 are unlike self-employed workers as a whole in terms of gender, hours worked, occupation and sector of employment.

The report found that nine-tenths (89%) of the net rise in self-employment was driven by people who worked less than 30 hours per week, compared with two-thirds of the self-employed population as a whole.

Gender divides were also found to be different for those who had turned to self-employment since the recession, with women accounting for 60% of these but just one-third of all self-employed workers.

Additionally, while skilled tradespeople made up 30% of self-employed workers, they accounted for less than 1% of the net rise in self-employment since 2008.

Dr John Philpott, chief economic adviser at the CIPD, says that the rise in self-employed workers does not suggest a surge in entrepreneurship, with more than 20% of the rise accounted for by people in unskilled occupations.

“The typical self-employed person in Britain today remains a skilled tradesman, manager or professional working long hours on the job, but, since the start of the recession, the ranks of the self-employed have been swelled by people from a much wider array of backgrounds and occupations, including many ‘handymen’ without skills, picking up whatever bits and pieces of work are available,” Philpott commented.

“It’s good that these self-employed ‘odd-jobbers’ are helping to keep a lid on unemployment in a very weak labour market but their emergence hardly suggests a surge in genuine entrepreneurial zeal.”

He added that, while some of these newly self-employed may make a long-term commitment to being their own boss, it is likely that most would take a job with an employer if they could find one.

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