The number of people in self-employment has grown by 46 percent since 2000 and today stands at 4.8 million, or 1 in 7 of the workforce. If this trend continues, the self-employed could outnumber the public sector workforce by the end of the decade.
Our report takes a closer look at how this growing band of workers have been supported by the government, and concludes that the policy efforts of recent years have too often been piecemeal and based on outdated business stereotypes. Corporation tax cuts and deregulation drives – which have formed the basis of a broader laissez faire agenda – have reached the limit of their effectiveness.
We argue that if the government is serious about improving the productivity, resilience and long-term financial success of the self-employed, then it must be more willing to intervene to set problems right – and to do so with a package of reforms stretching from taxation to welfare, through to pensions and late payments.
The report puts forward twenty ideas for how the self-employed could be better supported, including by reforming National Insurance contributions, ironing out the problems of Universal Credit, overhauling business rates, creating new rights for home-based workers, and introducing a form of Paternity Allowance and Adoption Allowance for self-employed parents.
The package of measures the report presents may not be easy wins, nor are they likely to enjoy universal support. But each proposal is presented with the long term interests of the self-employed in mind, not least those who live in more precarious circumstances.
We are grateful to Crunch for generously sponsoring this research.