The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE) has just unveiled a new study showing that the number of contracting professionals and freelancers across the EU’s 28 Member States has expanded by a quarter (24 per cent) between 2008 and 2015. The number swelled from 7.7 million in 2008 to 9.6 million in 2015.

The release of the study coincided with National Freelancers Day (9th June) – the day that the UK celebrates its most enterprising individuals: contracting Umbrella Company Employees and other freelancers who have walked away from salaried employment in favour of the flexibility of freelancing.

The study shows that rising numbers of people in virtually every one of the EU’s 28 Member States are taking the plunge and launching out into a freelance career. The biggest increases in freelancer numbers were recorded in Western Europe, in particular the UK, France and the Netherlands, which collectively saw an additional 1.2 million people begin ”flying solo” as independent contracting professionals in the seven years leading to 2015.

However, the growth in freelancing, as the study also shows, is by no means limited to the largest Member States: it’s catching on rapidly in newer Member States as well. Latvia, for example, saw a 200 per cent rise in freelancers between 2088 and 2015, and Slovenia and Romania saw their numbers of freelancers more than double in that time frame.

Earlier research by IPSE has shown that freelancers contribute £109 billion to the UK economy each year, so there is little dispute that the rise in freelancing across the EU-28 is encouraging news for the global economy.

IPSE says that the trend toward freelancing swims against the general tide of a stagnating labour market in Europe: the EU workforce in total shrank in size from 223 million in 2008 to 218 million in 2015.

The latest study reveals that significant portions of new freelancers are older workers and women, a strong indication of a remarkable change in attitude amongst people who historically have been less drawn to independent working. Between 2008 and 2015, a million more women chose to work independently, overtaking the number of men who did the same (900,000).

IPSE’s CEO, Chris Bryce, said that the rise in freelancing by nearly a quarter in just seven years is making these freelance professionals “a force to be reckoned with.”

He added: “Independent professionals are usually highly educated and in highly skilled positions, and they’re vital to a booming economy. The biggest countries have the most established services sectors, so they’re naturally seeing the most new independent professionals. But the newer EU entrants are catching up fast. The trend towards working this way looks set to continue well into the future.”

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