Between the onset of the credit crunch in 2009 and the end of 2013, UK employment grew by just 2%; however, the numbers of self-employed ‒ including Umbrella Company Employees and others in the professional contracting community ‒ soared by 6.3%.

So says new research by Von Essen, a leading tax advisory service for international contractors, which reveals that self-employment in the UK is far stronger than in most of the top 15 EU economies; self-employment actually fell in these economies by an average 3.2% during the same interval.

Von Essen’s verdict is that the impressive increase in the ranks of self-employed consultants in the UK reflects the country’s improving economy and, as recovery replaces recession, a concomitant rise in popularity for contracting as a career path. Contracting has enabled highly-skilled professionals to command significantly higher pay rates than permanent employees and have more choice over where and when they work.

Von Essen partner Lydia Marref described the rise in the number of UK consultants as “a resounding success”, not least because their flexibility permits employers to draw on their expert skills for limited periods in response to fluctuating business demands.

Ms Marref continued: “Not only does the UK produce and use a lot of contractors – it also very successfully exports this skills base across the world in sectors like IT and oil and gas. We work with hundreds of consultants who cut their teeth in the UK but now enjoy the challenges and experience of working on overseas projects.”

EU countries with large numbers of contractors have tended to weather the eurozone crisis better, she added.

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