The latest employment figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) conceal an important fact amidst the record-breaking growth in full-time employment: the rise in freelancing and other forms of work amongst people who are not on someone’s payroll was even bigger.
According to interim management recruitment expert Charles Russam, the ONS figures show that the number of people in the latter category, which include not only Umbrella Company Employees but also a raft of other self-employed people, is growing at a faster rate than full-time employment. This demographic now constitutes 47% of the UK’s 30 million-strong workforce.
The government, Mr Russam believes, should stop talking about jobs and start talking instead about work, because the nature of work in the UK has shifted massively toward flexible models of earning a living – models that frequently involve a good deal of entrepreneurial initiative. Mr Russam refers to people who have adopted these flexible models as “self-drive workers” because they depend on themselves for their livelihoods. Their ranks have grown by 1.7% since the last figures from the ONS were published.
Mr Russam thinks that the government remains largely unaware of the scale of growth in the number of people who have turned their backs on traditional forms of employment to work in a much more independent and flexible way. While the government has an obligation to help people who cannot help themselves, he said, “what the others want and need are level playing fields and to be left alone to get on with it”.