Increasing numbers of female managers turn to the benefits of being a contractor

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female contractor working in workshop

Contractor industry body The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employment (IPSE) has released new research indicating there has been a significant rise in the number of women working as temporary workers in senior-level positions over the last 10 years.

On the whole, the number of highly-skilled contract workers rose by 40 per cent between 2008 and 2018. An increase in female managerial contractors greater than the population of Nottingham has occurred over the time period measured – a rise of 334,000, or 63 per cent, taking the number of senior-level women in a contract position in the UK to 863,000.

The number of mothers opting to take advantage of contracting work also grew by 80 per cent over the same period.

Sectors that saw the highest gain were the arts & media, healthcare and functional directors within companies. However, the most solo contractors work in construction and building, but artistic, literary and media occupations are a close second.

IPSE is the largest organisation of independent professionals in the EU, representing over 74,000 freelancers, contractors and consultants from every private sector of the UK economy. It’s a not-for-profit organisation whose members both manage and own it. IPSE also works with various research agencies and advises its members on business planning.

Caroline Morgan, chair of IPSE, said: “This is brilliant news for the UK economy, with highly skilled women adding their knowledge and experience to a wide range of organisations and industries. Women are recognising that freelancing is a great career choice.

“The senior women I speak to chose to be their own boss for a wide range of reasons, from variety in their career to balancing family life. As a freelancer I have been able to find that balance outside the confines of a corporate structure.

“The country increasingly relies on highly skilled freelancers to innovate and share knowledge across a wide range of industries as our labour force modernises to compete around the world.

“More than ever, this shows that freelancing is a feminist issue, and that we urgently need the Government to modernise its tax and employment systems to support it.”

The research, carried out in partnership with Kingston University, also showed that the UK’s freelance sector has grown to account for approximately one in seven of the entire workforce – a rise from 3.2 million to 4.4 million. The research claims self-employed individuals contribute £275 billion to the economy, or enough to fund the NHS twice over.

Kingston University’s Professor John Kitching, who works at the university’s Small Business Research Centre, said: “The rise of solo self-employment in the last 10 years has become one of the key competitive advantages of the modern UK economy, with freelancers alone contributing no less than £130 billion to business turnover.

“In the context of Brexit-driven economic uncertainty, this report has shown just how important self-employment is for ensuring that the UK’s labour market provides opportunities for greater quality and quantity of work, as set out in the Government’s Good Work plan.”

Despite these large contract rate increases over the last decade, growth in temporary workers has slowed down in the last year with a gain of one per cent between 2017 and 2018.

These deductions in growth rate may be due to private sector firms holding back from risk and major hiring decisions in anticipation of Brexit liability. The Bank of England, however, has predicted that this may change and a raft of investment may be opened up when the Brexit “fog” clears. This would make being a contractor much more financially viable once Brexit has run its course.

4th June 2019.