The number of self-employed individuals in the UK dropped by 154,000 in the three months to July compared to the previous quarter, representing the fifth consecutive month that the number of self-employed has contracted, according to official data.
Last month’s labour market statistics, published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), revealed a record quarterly drop in the number of self-employed workers of 237,000 in the three months to June.
The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) called the decline “alarming and avoidable”, and blamed the continuation of the falling numbers seen in previous months on gaps in the government’s coronavirus support schemes.
It has called on the government to prepare a “fair, flexible and focused” extension of the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) to support freelancers through any second wave of the pandemic. Chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak has so far been unequivocal in saying that the current coronavirus support schemes will not be extended.
“The labour market statistics this month reveal an alarming and avoidable drop in self-employment,” said Derek Cribb, chief executive of IPSE. “In a recession, we would usually expect self-employment to be flourishing as companies seek out flexible expertise. Instead, we are now seeing a drastic and continuing decline in the sector.
“This is almost certainly because of the glaring gaps in government support: next to nothing was done for limited company directors and the newly self-employed and now we are seeing the consequences.
“The self-employed are vital for economic recovery, but huge swathes of the sector have been undermined and left behind. As a second wave of coronavirus approaches, government must do more. We urge the government to prepare a fair, flexible and focused extension of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme – for the sake not only of the self-employed themselves, but also the economy.”
16th September 2020.