Over-fifties lead drive to increasing self-employment, survey finds

IPSE’s Head of Research Chloé Jepps

Millions of older workers are joining and benefiting from the freelance sector, new research from the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed has found.

IPSE’s research shows there are now almost two million (1,907,000) self-employed people over the age of 50 in the UK: a number that has increased by 58.5 per cent in the last ten years.

The growth is even bigger among highly skilled freelancers. Today, there are almost a million (950,000) highly skilled freelancers in the UK: a number that has risen by 68.2 per cent in the last ten years.

A new IPSE report on the motivations and challenges of the self-employed shows why so many older people are turning to self-employment. They said the four key factors are:

  • Being able to work more flexibly (89% agreed this was a factor).
  • Having more control over work (89%).
  • Having more control over hours (84%).
  • The freedom to choose where to work (83%).

One in four older freelancers did say, however, that losing their previous job was a factor in turning to freelancing. This is compared to just seven per cent of 16-29-year-olds.

The report does show, however, that older freelancers are overwhelmingly happy with their lot. Four out of five (81%) said they were happy with freelancing – compared with three out of five 16-29-year-olds. Remarkably, 0 per cent disagreed with the statement that freelancing suited their lifestyle – compared to an average of 10 per cent among other age groups.

IPSE’s Head of Research, Chloé Jepps, said: “This research clearly shows that over-fifties have played a crucial part in the growth of self-employment in the last ten years. And what’s remarkable – aside from the sheer number of older people turning to freelancing – is how happy they seem to be with it.

“Over-fifties are looking to freelancing for greater flexibility and control over how and when they work. For some, it is a way to move away from the confines of the 9-5; for others, it’s a way to launch or develop a passion project.

“It is clear that freelancing is not just an economic good for this country: it is also a great social good and a liberating force for millions of older workers. It is vital the government gets behind this remarkable shift in our workforce.”