The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE) has praised the UK’s contracting and freelancing workforce for their contribution to a major hike in productivity recorded in new Office for National Statistics data.

Britain’s economic productivity accelerated at its fastest rate in over six years in the three months leading to the end of September last year, the ONS figures show. In Q3 2017, output per hour worked climbed by 0.9% on the previous quarter. This represents the first productivity increase since the latter part of 2016 and the largest growth since Q2 2011.

The UK economy slowed in 2017, partly due to the fall in sterling occasioned by the aftermath of the decision to withdraw from the European Union. As a result, inflation climbed, denting both business confidence and consumer spending. Despite these drags on the economy, productivity still managed to rise, partly because of a fall in the number of people in work which meant that there were fewer people to divide the total productivity between.

The British Government has made numerous efforts to boost productivity and has attributed previous lacklustre performances to the country’s strong job creation, which has slashed unemployment to rates not seen in 40 years.

Strikingly, productivity in the public services, which had declined by 0.5% in Q2 2017, grew by 0.7% in the third quarter.

Commenting on the development, IPSE’s Political and Economic Adviser, Tom Purvis, acknowledged that productivity had remained a stubborn challenge for the British economy in the wake of the global financial crisis of 2008. Sluggish growth was the defining characteristic of one quarter after another, he noted, but the new figures may signal a turning point at last.

Slow growth in productivity, he observed, had hit living standards significantly as earnings were not expected to match their pre-recession levels until the 2020s. IPSE’s own survey of freelancing and contracting professionals revealed that they were experiencing a squeeze on their day rates. Productivity increases, he said, could help alleviate these concerns.

He added:

“The service sector drove the bulk of the productivity growth and the ever-increasing number of self-employed people deserve credit for the important role that they play in the UK economy. The service sector has provided many opportunities for self-employment – from cleaning positions to business consultants.

“The UK is now reaping the rewards of a flexible labour market and we hope that the Government takes note of the contribution the self-employed make to the economy – all £255 billion of it. Now is the time to get behind the self-employed workforce and continue to support them so that the UK can benefit from consistent productivity growth.”

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