The growth of self-employment has become one of the stories of the recovery. While the share of total UK employment accounted for by self-employment has risen for decades, bucking the trend internationally, its pace has accelerated since 2008. And while the number of employee jobs has only recently regained its pre-recession level, the number of people who are self-employed has grown by 650,000 since 2008 to reach 4.5 million, or nearly 15 per cent of all employment.

More are becoming self employed

The scale of this increase—and what it means for the self-employed and the wider economy—has sparked much debate. For some, higher self-employment levels are an indication that the recovery is built on shaky ground. There are suspicions that many of the newly self-employed are there unwillingly, forced to go it alone due either to a lack of employee jobs or unscrupulous employers looking to minimise their liabilities. There are also claims that people who may previously have remained unemployed have been encouraged to register as self-employed to access tax credits, but without the skills or desire to do so. Seen through this lens, self-employment represents another kind of precarious work, in the same vein as zero-hours contracts, leaving many with little security and few employment rights.

For others, the uptick in self-employment is regarded in a much more positive light and is held up as one of the success stories of the past few years. Government support to help people become self-employed, through schemes like the New Enterprise Allowance, is seen as having complemented a long-term structural change in the UK labour market.

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Is the rise in self employment a long term trend? Or is it just a hangover from the recession? Share your thoughts on the in the comments below.

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