Byline: Niki Chesworth
FALLING unemployment was a welcome ray of sunshine on the economic front last week, however the good news hides a different story. Instead of the jobless finding secure, well-paid, full-time permanent work, they are increasingly scrabbling around to make ends meet with part-time positions or as part of the growing band of "odd jobbing" self-employed.
Some 84,000 people set up as selfemployed in the last quarter to bring the total to around 4.2 million and for the first time there are now more than 600,000 self-employed business people in London.
"Closer analysis of the figures finds a sharp rise in self-employment more than accounting for the small fall in unemployment," says Gerwyn Davies, labour market policy adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). "A rise in selfemployment may, in itself, be a good thing, however analysis from the CIPD found that the recent rise was less a sign of a resurgent enterprise culture, and more evidence of a growing army of part-time 'odd jobbers' desperate to avoid unemployment."
This has changed the profile of the typical self-employed person -- socalled "white van man". Although skilled trades-people still make up 30 per cent of the self-employed they are a group that has barely grown. In contrast those in administrative, secretarial and personnel services occupations setting up as self-employed traders have seen a large proportional increase in their numbers. There has also been a sharp rise in professional and managerial staff going it alone, with increasing numbers employing others as the business grows.
"We have also seen a sharp increase in earnings from self-employment," says Saif Bonar of Freelancer.co.uk. "In the first two months of 2012, earnings from the self-employed using our site rose by 64 per cent compared with the first two months of 2011. In addition, more than a third of those registering will start employing other people to work for them.
"The numbers of self-employed are swelling at record rates because of a combination of job insecurity, technological advances that reduce set-up costs and online sites like ours that provide thousands of jobs and clients in one marketplace."
However, the rise in self-employment is often less to do with entrepreneurial zeal and more to do with the lack of opportunities elsewhere -- most of those going it alone would rather be working for someone else.
Although freelancers and contractors have a growing number of competitors, those at the top of their game can often earn far more than if they were fulltime employees and last week it was revealed that the highest paid interim chiefs in the NHS earn more than [pounds sterling]1,000 per day. So, if self-employment seems to be the only option this is how to make it work for your career: Stick to what you know: If you are working freelance or as an interim use this experience to "keep your hand in", boost your skills and remain in contact with your industry. Every day you are out of work, the harder it is to find work. …