The increase in the size of the UK workforce over the last year are almost entirely due to growth in self-employment, according to new figures released by the Office for National Statistics.
While the number of employees rose by a mere 9,000 in the year to September, the number of self-employed rose by 282,000 – an increase of more than nine percent.
The rise in self-employment was particularly marked in banking, finance and insurance, with 120,000 people deciding to work for themselves. The majority of these (114,000) were in real estate, renting and business activities, which includes tax, business and management consultancies, accountancy, auditing and others.
These include many staff who have lost their jobs and been rehired by their former employers as consultants. Self-employment is becoming more attractive in the growing climate of job insecurity.
Supporting the notion that many of those who lost City jobs are opting for self-employment, these increases were greatest in London and the South East (37,000 and 25,000 respectively).
The ONS Labour Market Trends survey also suggests that men account for most of the increase in full-time and women for part-time self-employment. Some 116,000 of the total come from the male 35-64 age group and 86,000 men came from the 35-49 age group.
In contrast, the number of full-time self-employed women grew by only 33,000 among those aged 35-59, while younger women had little impact on the figures.
While men in professional occupations such as IT strategy and planning, the law and accounting are traditionally viewed as the most likely to go it alone, it is skilled tradesmen who make up the largest proportion of the self-employed.
The construction industry is the sector with the largest number of self-employed - more than 700,000 - while almost a million people in skilled trades now work for themselves, a rise of almost 200,000 on the 2001 figure.