The Freelancer and Contractor Services Association (FCSA), the trade association representing Umbrella Companies and contractor accountancy providers, and the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) have added their views to the commentary on the latest Labour Market data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

ONS figures released earlier this week revealed a minor year-on-year dip in the number of temporary workers in the UK, which fell from 1,664,000 in June through August 2015 to 1,658,000 in the same interval this year. In percentage terms, this represent a slight fall from 6.3 per cent of the UK workforce to 6.2 per cent.

The number of temporary workers unable to find work fell more significantly, dropping from 35.1 per cent in June-August 2015 to 30.8 per cent in the same period this year.

At the same time, the UK’s continually growing army of self-employed workers surged year-on-year by 273,000 to reach a total of 4.79 million – 15.1 per cent of the total UK workforce. The ‘self-employed’ category is somewhat more heterogeneous that it may initially appear: subsumed within it is a growing pool of highly skilled contracting professionals working through Umbrella Companies or via their own personal service companies.

FCSA Chief Executive Julia Kermode noted that the overall expansion of the workforce by 106,000 included an increase of just 7,000 self-employed people (seven per cent of the total). However, this figure conceals the fact that there has been an increase of 23,000 full-time self-employed workers, a development that coincided with a 16,000-strong reduction in part-time roles. This, she said, is a strong indicator that more people are opting for full-time self-employment.

She added: “This is positive for the economy as there are more flexible workers able to support businesses as and when needed. This is borne out by the year on year figures that show 49% of the 560,000 increase in the UK workforce is due to self-employment.”

Meanwhile, IPSE’s Economic Adviser, Lorence Nye, said that the rise in self-employment is good news for people who have chosen this way of working and for the UK labour market. “Once people try self-employment, they rarely want to work any other way.” he added,

He continued: “The fastest growing group of self-employed workers are the highly-skilled, specialist experts – the technicians, engineers, and consultants. Studies have consistently shown the majority of those who work this way make a positive choice to do so.”

Mr Nye called on the Government to do more to help the rising numbers of people who have opted for self-employment, adding: “Extending tax-deductible training to the self-employed would make it easier to up skill and earn more for their work.”

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