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Meet the UK’s solo self-employed

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The solo self-employed contributed £271bn to the UK economy in 2017 – enough to fund the NHS twice over.

That’s according to a new report by freelancing body IPSE, which used its latest research to focus on this sub-group of the wider freelance / self-employed workforce.

What does solo self-employed mean?

Solo self-employed is the term used in the IPSE research to describe those within the self-employment sector who work entirely on their own account, without employees.

The report states:

The self-employed are essentially people in business on their own account, whether running their own limited company, operating as a sole trader or working through a partnership. And while self-employment as a whole may include people working both with and without employees, this report focuses just on those working on their own account, without workers: the solo self-employed.

How many people are flying solo?

Between 2008 and 2017 the number of the solo self-employed increased by 34% and now stands at around 4.4 million.

The group is said to constitute 14% of the entire UK workforce, with an average age of 46. Half of all those within the group are aged between 40 and 59.

Skill, industry and location profile

IPSE found that almost half of the UK’s solo self-employed (46%) work in the top three occupational categories, meaning they are skilled, well-qualified and have higher educational qualifications.

This includes occupations from managers and proprietors to science, engineering and production technicians.

While the solo self-employed can be found across all UK regions, the highest proportion work in South East England (22%) followed by Greater London (18%).

This map gives a full breakdown:

solo self-employed uk

Credit IPSE (the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed).

Find out more

Explaining why it decided to focus on solo self-employment in its research, IPSE said:

With self-employment at the centre of … numerous political debates, it’s more important than ever that we have a clear idea about the size and make-up of this vital sector.

Download the report IPSE report – Exploring the rise of self-employment in the modern economy.

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