Women and younger people are transforming the UK’s freelance economy

The workforce is changing as more people swap the security of a 9-to-5 job for the flexibility of freelancing, with key demographics and industries leading the self-employed sector, according to a new study from Instant Offices. ‘Millennials’ and UK workers facing significant lifestyle changes, such as motherhood, or nearing retirement, and are looking for more flexible ways to work. According to the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE), the self-employed sector now includes approximately 4.8 million people, with freelancers comprising 42 percent of that population and 6 percent of the UK workforce as a whole. The IPSE reports that in 2016, freelancers contributed £119 billion to the national economy. This was up from £109 billion in 2015 and experts are predicting that this number will only continue to grow in the years to come.

The key demographics in the UK’s freelance population today:

  • Female dominated: The number of female freelancers has grown by 55 percent since 2008. New mothers choosing to take up freelance work rather than return to full-time office employment post-baby has shot up by 79 percent. Comparatively, the number of men freelancing has grown by 36 percent in the same time frame.
  • Millennials are driving growth: Young adults born in the 80s and 90s have driven significant growth in the freelance sector. The number of freelancers aged 26-29 has risen by 66 percent since 2008.
  • Baby boomers and Generation X make up almost half of the freelance industry: The average age of UK freelancers is still a good deal older than millennials. Most freelancers, 48 percent in fact, currently fall in the 40-49 or 50-59 age brackets.

The fastest-growing freelance occupations in the past 10 years have been:

  • Healthcare (191 percent growth)
  • Artistic, literary and media roles (103 percent growth)
  • Sports and fitness (103 percent growth)

The best-paying roles for freelancers are in the finance, change and IT sectors, with the most lucrative positions being:

  • Risk modelling (£760 daily rate)
  • Risk change (£730 daily rate)
  • Programme management (£640 daily rate)
  • Model validation (£610 daily rate)
  • Finance change (£570 daily rate)