Across the U.K. More People are Going Solo and Working from Home - Here's the Where and the Why.

Heather Harper

Written by Heather Harper

Jul 5, 2018  - Last updated: Jul 6, 2018

The number of people in self-employment in the UK is at its highest since records began, increasing from 3.3 million people in 2001 (12.0% of the UK labour force) to 4.8 million people in 2017 (15.1% of the UK labour force).

Since the recession hit the UK in 2008, self employment rates have increased rapidly, with the Office For National Statistics reporting that between the years 2008 and 2012 the number of people who became self-employed increased by 367,000. It is possible that this rise in self-employment during the financial crisis was because of the prospect of lengthy periods of unemployment or irregular and temporary job contracts.

What is unquestionable about self-employmed individuals is that they keep our economy afloat. When there are more people in self-employment, this means that less people are competing for one job position in larger organisations. These small businesses set up by self-employed individuals will often grow to become larger businesses, and these businesses will inevitably need to hire more people, which provides more jobs. These small businesses will also become a consumers and purchase products from other companies. Finally, self-employment and that starting of small businesses will increase the number of businesses overall in a graphic location, improving our economy.

We explored reports from The Office of National Statistics,Parliaments Labour Market Statistics and reports by the Trades Union Congress and found four changes and themes to the way we're working in the UK.

Rates for Self-Employment Differ in UK Regions

An individuals prospect of becoming self-employed appears to be impacted by the UK region in which they live. The South of England has consistently been found to have the highest rate of self-employment, and the more northerly areas of England have been found to have the lowest rates of self-employment. In fact, statistics show that over half of the self-employed individuals in the UK are based in the southern parts of the country, specifically the South east, South west and London - which were shown by the Barclays 2011 UK Wealth Map to be the most affluent areas of UK.


Age Impacts Self-Employment

Rather surprisingly, statistics have shown that the age range with the highest amount of self-employed individuals in the UK is those who are over the age of 50. Interestingly, the number of self-employed individuals aged 65 is currently the highest and the amount of over 65's in self-employment has tripled since 2001. It has also been found that a staggering 84% of those who headed for self-employment during the 2008 recession were over the age of 50.

It is highly possible that these 'baby boomers' decided to become self-employmed because they faced poorer job prospects and had money to invest in starting their own businesses. These poor job prospects could potentially be due to the workplace discrimination that the older generation of the UK sometimes experience; a study by Anglia Ruskin University found that those over the age of 50 were 4.2 times less likely to be offered a job than a younger candidate. Also, because pensions are getting smaller and living costs are rising - investing 'spare cash' into a business idea provides older people with great ways to generate a consistent income.


People are Striking Out on Their Own

There has been an increase in self-employed individuals working by themselves, or with a partner but with no employees. Only 88,800 self-employed individuals were hiring employees in 2016, compared to 101,700 in 2001. Whereas 166,500 people were working solo or with partners in 2016, which has risen from 98,500 in 2001.

The striking question raised by this finding is: what is this doing for our economy? Self-employed individuals who start small business that grow into large ones are incredibly valuable to a countries economy because they provide more jobs, which in return, reduces the unemployment rates.

change in employment

More People are Working from Home

Interestingly, with the recent increase in self-employment rates, there has also been a rise in the number of people working from the comfort of their own homes, with nearly a quarter of a million more people in the UK working from home in 2015, compared to 2005. This increase in working from home could possibly be linked the increase in self-employment rates

These statistics also show a correlation between the regions with the highest self-employment rate, and the highest proportion of people working at home, with the southerly regions of the UK have the highest percentage of both. The statistics also both show that people over the age of 50 are more likely to work from home, with 414,000 people over the age of 50 working from the comfort of their home. All statistics also conclude that the highest professions of self-employment and working at home include construction and agriculture. So, this suggests that this working from home trend is related to the increase in levels of self-employment.


Overall, these statistics have shown a complete change in trend in the way we work. More people than ever are self-employed, more people are working completely solo, more people are working from home and the most surprising change in our working trends; people over the age of 50 are more likely to be self-employed than anyone else.

Share this

Heather Harper

About the author

Heather Harper is a psychology student from the University of Lincoln. She currently works as an intern for WorkStyle and is studying a Masters in Occupational Psychology at the University of Manchester.