It is no secret that the self-employed population of the UK has been growing steadily for more than a decade. There are now 4.6 million people in the UK who are self-employed – around 1 in 7 of the UK workforce – and on current trends, this growing group is set to outnumber the public sector workforce by 2020. What is driving this trend, and what it means, has been subject to a great deal of public debate. While it seems the economic downturn accentuated the rise in self-employment, the rise predates the downturn and is expected to continue into the recovery.
Going it Alone explores the policy implications of this shift. It argues that while many freelancers are attracted to the freedom and flexibility that self-employment can bring, individuals need the power to stand up for their own interests against government and against large companies. Public policy must therefore strike the right balance between heavy-handed interventions on the one hand, which can damage the flexibility that many of the self-employed value, and a laissez-faire approach on the other, which ignores power imbalances in the marketplace. With more people than ever going it alone, it is time to rethink policy on everything from tax and regulation, to skills, welfare and pension policy.