20 Years of UK Entrepreneurs: The Trends

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This month, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) released its data on self-employment across the UK. The statistics span 20 years and reveal a lot about how the UK’s entrepreneurial landscape has evolved, both over the decades and in recent years.

In this post, we’ve been crunching the ONS’s numbers and compared them with our own statistics taken from the 1,000 start-ups we have helped over the last two years.

It’s been well-documented over the last few years that self-employment is on the rise and that we are becoming a ‘Nation of Entrepreneurs’. But is this really what is happening? Yes, self-employment is on the rise on the whole, but what do these entrepreneurs look like? Here is what the facts show us:

  1. The increase in the number of self-employed is not down to the younger generation

Although it may be an easy assumption to come to that the growth in the number of self-employed is down to some sort of wave of an ‘entrepreneurial youth generation’ – the numbers show that this is not the case.

In fact, the fastest-growing age group becoming self-employed are those that are aged 70 or over. Additionally, as a proportion of total employment, almost one in ten people employed over 70 are self-employed – this is the highest rate of any age range.

Indeed, more than 40 per cent of the UK’s self-employed people are 50 and over. Our oldest loan recipient looking to start up their own business was 75 and was far from the only over 70 to receive a start-up loan from us.

  1. What are the most common self-employed jobs?

According to the ONS figures, the most common self-employed jobs are in Specialist Construction, Building Construction, Education, Retail and Transport.

Our 1,000 start-up statistics paint a similar picture, with the most common start-up sectors being: Retail, Web, Hospitality, Professional Services and Food & Drink.

The similarities and differences here show that although the most common jobs among the self-employed are the ones you might expect, self-employment is changing. The fastest sector increases are in high-skilled and creative groups. In fact, the ONS data as reported on by the Financial Times shows that your typical new self-employed person is likely to be a part-time management consultant in his or her 60’s.

  1. Rise of the part-time self employed

Although there has been growth across the board in the number of self-employed, the growth of the part-time self-employed has been much stronger. Illustrating this trend, the figures show that part-time self-employment grew by 88% between 2001 and 2015 – compared to 25% for the number of full-time self-employed.

The reasons behind this increase are thought to be two-fold. Not only has the ‘retirement generation’ been utilising the benefits of part-time self-employment to both work longer and ease themselves into a comfortable retirement, but the rest of the population has been able to be their own boss at the same time as having an employer or other balancing other commitments. This flexibility has undoubtedly been a driver behind the increase in the number of part-time self-employed.

In summary, self-employment continues to be on the rise and this is not restricted to one generation or age group, but represented consistently across almost all age groups. It is also represented across a huge range of industries, with traditional self-employment industries remaining popular but other specialist sectors also experiencing sharp increases.

If you are interested in starting up your own business, visit our registration page to apply for or register your interest in obtaining a start-up loan to get your business idea of the ground.

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