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How many freelancers are there in the UK?

Kingston University and contractors’ group, PCG, have published some interesting findings from a comprehensive study of the UK’s freelance workforce.

The term ‘freelancer’ has come to be used to refer to a wide variety of workers, including IT contractors and business owners without employees across many industry sectors.

According to Labour Force Survey (LFS) data, the number of ‘freelancers’ has increased from 1.39 to 1.56 million since 2008 – a rise of 12%. This includes around 200,000 people who do freelance work in addition to a ‘normal’ job.

Freelancers make up around 5-6% of the entire workforce.

Around 575,000 freelancers work in ‘professional’ occupations, with a further 350,000 on managerial assignments.

According to the report, there are around 320,000 on professional, scientific and technical assignments, 167,000 undertaking ‘information and communication’ work, and just over 102,000 in financial and insurance-related roles.

Over the same time period, UK unemployment has increased by over half, from 1.67 to over 2.5 million people.

The economic downturn has clearly had a significant impact on flexible working over the past few years, with more people opting to work for themselves, or being forced to do so due to lack of permanent job opportunities.

Organisations are increasingly seeking to take on freelancers for a number of reasons – firms’ employment liabilities are lower (both legal and financial), the recruitment process is rapid, and the cost of using freelancers can often be taken from non-staffing budgets.

The number of freelancers in the UK looks set to increase for some time yet.

You can find out more about PCG, and the benefits of membership here.

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