Female entrepreneurs drive record self-employment levels in the UK

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed that there’s now a record 4.97 million self-employed workers in the UK and this is largely being driven by the rising number of female entrepreneurs.

In the second quarter of 2019 alone, the number of women in self-employment soared by 51,000 which according to the IPSE is an impressive 57% increase since 2008.

This is no mean feat considering it wasn’t until the first world war that women had the opportunity to enter the workplace. With a huge gap left by a generation of military men, more than a million women joined the workforce between 1914 and 1918 and less than 100 years later, we saw our first female CEO of a FTSE 100 company.

With 42% of all freelancers now being female, what exactly is it about self-employed life that’s drawing so many women in?

Why are more women choosing to work for themselves?

Self-employment is an attractive option for both genders but women in particular are citing the flexibility of arranging working hours around other responsibilities and better career prospects as their main reasons for choosing to be their own boss.

23% of women surveyed by the IPSE said they chose to go freelance to get a better income and 24% said it was to improve their work conditions.

Working for a company means that your job and salary are intrinsically linked to the success of your employer. Even if you work really hard, you don’t get the exact dividend at the end and if you want a promotion, you have to wait until an opportunity comes along.

Something that’s becoming increasingly important to families is being able to juggle both parents being in full-time employment with childcare responsibilities. This is when being self-employed really pays off – you can choose which hours to dedicate to your business and which to devote to family time. This is incredibly important when it comes to those unplanned sick days and school drop-offs.

There has in fact been a particularly strong growth in the number of self-employed mums since 2008. A report published by Kingston University and the IPSE last year revealed that more mothers than ever before are choosing to work for themselves and they now account for approximately one in seven self-employed people in the UK.

While self-employment does of course come with uncertainty, evidence suggests that the vast majority of self-employed people in the UK are happier than they would be if they were a full-time employee. 

61% of Federation of Small Businesses members said that working for themselves has helped them to achieve a much better work/life balance and 79% said they greatly value the independence they now have at work.

It’s not just freelancers and business owners who benefit from this way of working however. Deputy Director of Policy at the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed, Andy Chamberlain, commented:

“This rise in self-employment is great news for the UK economy and underlines how attractive this way of working is for millions of people. Access to freelancers is a key driver of innovation and productivity for business so we must do everything we can to help them flourish.”

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