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Freelancers, a new category of workers on the UK market

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You have no doubt heard of the freelance gig economy. Estimates show that over one-third of US working population are self-employed, working as freelancers, as a part of the “gig” economy. In the UK too, we have similar stats – 4.8 million Britons or a sixth of the UK adult workforce are employed in the gig economy.

The GMB union has studied the gig economy in the UK very closely and it is not all too happy with the results of the survey. The Union’s research shows that those who work in the gig economy on a zero hour or short hours contractual basis are temporary workers, who are often underemployed. They are at risk of calling themselves self-employed when they are anything but that, and are completely dependent on the public welfare system for their day to day needs.

Over 3,500 working age people who work as self-employed individuals participated in the survey. The results were really disappointing as Tim Roache, the GMB’s general secretary, explains: “This paints a shocking picture of the modern world of work. Up to 10 million people go to work either not knowing what their hours are, if they’ll be able to pay the bills, or what their long-term prospects are.”

“That’s a sorry state of affairs in the 21st century and a product of government’s failure to tackle bogus self-employment, the use of agency contracts as a business model and point-blank refusal to ban zero-hours contracts,” Mr. Roache added.

The survey shows that 61 percent of those who worked as freelancers suffered from a lot of stress and anxiety as a result of their projects and were always fearful of not being paid or losing out on their current jobs. Over 75 percent of those who were surveyed said that they had in the past worked in regular jobs and were only forced into self-employment because of their failure to get into a proper 9 to 5 job.

However, it is not all bad news. Freelancers contributed £119billion to the UK economy in 2016, up by £10billion over the previous year, according to the industry body IPSE which represents the self-employed professionals throughout the UK. Freelancers are the fastest growing section of the British working population and they are “comparable to that of the entire motor sales industry”, according to the IPSE.

Chris Bryce, chief executive of IPSE, said: ‘At a vital time when the economy needs to be dynamic in the face of growing uncertainty, freelancers are providing on-demand resources to businesses, allowing them to be flexible in response to change. The majority of freelancers love what they do, so it’s no surprise that increasing numbers of people are turning to this way of working.”

Bryce explained: “It is exciting to see that the younger generation has been enlivened by the prospect of working for themselves. It’s important their choice is recognised and policy makers support this trend rather than maintaining a less flexible employment model.”

Female freelancers are up by 55 percent since 2008, while the number of moms working from home as freelancers in the UK has risen by 79 percent since 2008. Millennials are the fastest growing segment in the freelance economy.

Author: Raghav Hegde – India

sourcephoto: pinterest

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