Over-50s driving the rise in self-employment

By: Rachel Miller

Date: 12 November 2019

Woman at work

Many older workers are joining the ranks of the self-employed and are benefitting from that decision, according to new research.

A new report published by the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) has revealed that there are now almost two million (1,907,000) self-employed people over the age of 50 in the UK: a number that has increased by 58% in the past ten years.

The growth is even bigger among highly skilled freelancers. Today, there are almost a million (950,000) highly skilled freelancers in the UK: a number that has risen by 68% in the past ten years.

IPSE's investigation into the motivations of older freelancers has uncovered the key reasons that so many older people are turning to self-employment:

  • 89% say they wanted to be able to work more flexibly;
  • 89% said they wanted more control over their work;
  • 84% wanted more control over their hours;
  • And 83% wanted the freedom to choose where to work.

However, one in four older freelancers did reveal that losing their previous job was a key factor in their decision to become a freelance worker. Just 7% of 16-29-year-olds said the same.

IPSE's research indicates that older freelancers are overwhelmingly happy with their lot. Four out of five (81%) said they were happy with freelancing - compared with three out of five 16-29-year-olds. In fact, 100% of the over-50s polled said that freelancing suited their lifestyle - compared to 90% of those in other age groups.

Chloé Jepps, IPSE's head of research, said: "This research clearly shows that over-50s have played a crucial part in the growth of self-employment in the last ten years. And what's remarkable - aside from the sheer number of older people turning to freelancing - is how happy they seem to be with it.

"Over-50s are looking to freelancing for greater flexibility and control over how and when they work. For some, it is a way to move away from the confines of the 9-5; for others, it's a way to launch or develop a passion project.

"It is clear that freelancing is not just an economic good for this country: it is also a great social good and a liberating force for millions of older workers. It is vital the government gets behind this remarkable shift in our workforce."

Written by Rachel Miller.

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