David Rutley is the Member of Parliament for Macclesfield, Damian Green’s PPS, and a member of the Free Enterprise Group. Follow David on Twitter.
The growth in the number of self-employed is, perhaps, one of the major demographic shifts in Britain that is not fully appreciated politically. According to the Office for National Statistics' seasonal Labour Market data, of the latest 24,000 increase in the number of people in employment, 21,000 are self-employed. This rapidly growing constituency now accounts for 4 million people, some 14 per cent of all those in employment. For the Conservative Party, which is rightly backing peole who want to work hard and get on in life, it is a trend that can't go unmissed.
So, who are the self-employed, what motivates them and how can we gain greater support from their ranks?
The majority of the UK’s 4.8 million businesses – some 56 per cent – are sole proprietors with no employees. Here be few dragons! The reality is that most self-employed people are everyday entrepreneurs, street-level small businesses and office-share operators. Our high-flying, multinational entrepreneurs are, of course, to be congratulated and should be rewarded for their success. But we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the most prolific source of self-employment is driving a cab, followed by such professions as being a carpenter or other such skilled building tradesperson. At the moment, self-employment is more common for men and for older people. But the dynamics are changing.The number of women in self-employment is rising fast. In Macclesfield, the constituency I represent, the percentage of women in self-employment is the highest in the north-west. And the number of young people across the country who want to run their own business is high. One survey suggests that up to 70 per cent have at least the ambition to set up their own enterprise while the Prince’s Trust has found that up to thirty per cent of young people actively expect to be self-employed. A YouGov poll has found that 43 per cent of young people have already made money from entrepreneurial activity such as selling their own product or working on a freelance basis.